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The Secret to Project Success

September 11, 2012

By Nicole Nathan

Psst—here’s a secret: communication is key to a project being successful. Now I’m sure you’ve never heard that before! While not particularly groundbreaking or earth shattering, good communication is a vital aspect that I was reminded of before, during, and after a recent project—a complicated exhibition installation.

Words to live by: Communication is key!

Working with a diverse team in a new situation with two exhibits where scope creep is de rigueur can create the perfect storm of issues impacting the final product. Needless to say, it was more than a little stressful.

Progressing through this complicated project with many moving parts, it became clear that some sort of mechanism for communication was lacking. Creating this communication tool for you and your team can happen at any time, but sometimes will not manifest itself until the end of the project. For this particular project we employed a “tear-down” meeting where we talked about three important steps: Process — who needed to know what? Timing — when did they need to know? Fluidity — everything is moving toward one goal, but how best can we get there?

These types of meetings can instill fear—what went wrong?—but can also be empowering. It presents a great opportunity to re-learn some things that may have become routine. For example, what time is everyone expected to work ? Who is able to make decisions? What does the workflow map look like? What are we doing today? What standards do we use?

It was a great exercise and a timely reminder of how process works and how to make it better. Just because you’ve done this for a long time doesn’t mean your methods are clear to anyone else. What has worked in the past may not be the right mechanism in moving forward. Flexibility is key.

Words to live by, or at least subscribe to!

Nicole Nathan is the Curator of Collections and Registrar at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in Portland.

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