A company was creating a 3-day product conference in Las Vegas for their customers. This involved marketing, conference facility coordination, customer logistics, creation and delivery of sessions by employees, outside keynote speakers, food, and entertainment.
In the past the company had managed this project with a kickoff meeting and weekly status update meetings with everyone involved in the planning to make sure they were on track and meeting milestones. Key documents were emailed to everyone on the team and comments were returned. After compiling the comments and changes, the documents were stored on a public drive. Discussions between meetings happened in email. The project manager received many questions, each multiple times in person and in email. This was almost a full-time job for this person during the months leading up to the event.
Completely revamping the way the project was done was not an easy task. The company’s tradition necessitated that the old, less efficient way be used. Coming in and running the project in a new, untested way was not only risky but culturally frowned upon. A lot of guidance was given to help members of the project team become comfortable and work in new ways.
The old ways were taken out and the new ways were implemented. If the new ways were subverted, they were quickly realigned to the new method. The team had similar tasks and milestones to accomplish as they had in years past, but I streamlined the organization and the planning of this conference.
We used collaborative software (which, at the time, was almost unheard of). As the project started, we got rid of time-sucking weekly meetings to give updates. Instead, we would assign tasks in the tool and when the task was completed the task owner checked it off. Each person could see all their tasks and had visibility into all other tasks. As outlines and documentation were created for the conference, others were asked to collaborate on the information. Rather than discussion about the information through email, it was done next to the information itself so it lived in one place. The meetings they had were held as needed and focused on the more complicated issues instead of logistics.
Questions were not asked via email, but instead they were asked of all team members through the discussions in the group. This way, each question was answered once. Surprising insights were made by team members who would never have seen the answer if it had been delivered in an email.
During this time, I, a project member, or executive could easily tell how far along the development of an individual session was, how much more planning the food and entertainment needed and if they were keeping within the budget, all by looking at the project’s documentation and discussions. If we had any questions on any of the information, we asked in the comments. Periodically, the project manager would write a blog post for all group members and management with an update on their overall progress.
- – Using this new method did not eliminate the need for meetings, but it did drastically reduce the number of meetings and increase their effectiveness.
- – It also reduced the number of emails.
- – We found that because of how the project was planned, tasks were accomplished more quickly. It was determined that next time planning would not be started as early.
- – Instead of this being a full-time job for months, I spent very little time managing the project and was able to spend more time on my regular duties.
- – In the end the company labeled this conference the best planned, attended and executed conference they had ever had.