Money & Business

Lunchtime Links: 3 Essential Project Management Skills

By / Dec 10, 2013 (iStock/Thinkstock)

How to keep important projects moving forward. Plus: the challenges of attendee and customer feedback.

Faced with the emergence of new technologies, it’s only natural that we seek out tools and resources to help us work smarter. But technology is only useful if we first have a plan in place to get us where we intend to go. The essentials of effective project management, and more, in today’s Lunchtime Links.

Stay on task: Technology is a wonderful thing. But, as Laura Dallas Burford, owner of technology consultancy LAD Enterprizes writes in a recent post on the Nonprofit Technology Network, there’s a huge difference between using applications designed to help you manage complex projects and actual project management. Before your organization invests in complex software to help manage its projects, it should take a step back and consider where it’s going, writes Buford. She suggests that “anyone embarking on planning and managing a project for the first time” focus on “three critical activities.” Start by defining your outcome. Focus on your content and what you plan to deliver. Then plot a path to get there. “[I]t does take time to create a realistic plan that outlines the project work (scope), determines the schedule (time), and budget (cost),” she writes. Once you’ve mapped out your project, it’s time to work the plan: “Working the plan means focusing on the work required for a particular task and striving to complete the task by the planned date (on-time) at the planned cost (on-budget).” How does your organization approach project planning?

Tell us how you really feel: When planning conferences and other programs, event professionals know it’s impossible to make everyone happy all the time. So they work to satisfy as many people as possible. Customer and attendee feedback plays an important role. But, as association consultant Jeff Hurt explains in a post on Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections blog, not all customer feedback is relevant or useful. While disgruntled customers are apt to complain and satisfied ones often have no problem handing out compliments, few make suggestions for new or different experiences that you could offer, says Hurt. He writes, “Their feedback rarely helps you identify and demonstrate your unique benefits not found in other conference experiences.” Rather, Hurt encourages firms to seek feedback that is specific and unique. Watch out for comments that compare your events to your competitors’, he says; the last thing your organization needs is to get into an arms race. Finally, keep in mind that many attendees lack the experience necessary to truly understand your event. “One of the mistakes of relying on the customer voice is assuming it has all the answers,” writes Hurt. Instead, think of all those comments you collect like a chunk of marble: “Just as a sculptor sees shapes and pictures in stone, you have to see big ideas in the feedback.”

Show them what they’ve done: Volunteers are an essential component of almost any association’s work, and you’re probably always looking for new ways to encourage their participation. Writing for Wild Apricot, marketing professional Lori Halley cites a recent report from Volunteer Canada and offers a few ideas based on that research to improve volunteer recognition and retention. For instance, 80 percent of the survey respondents said they prefer to be thanked by being told how their contributions have made a difference. Next time you send out thank-you notes to a group of volunteers, consider including a few stats that show how their work has benefited your cause. And here’s a tip: If you really want to encourage volunteers to come back, scrap the cards and reach out in person. Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they’d like to be thanked in an ongoing, informal basis. Oh, and you can skip the fancy banquets and awards ceremonies. According to the research, 60 percent said formal gatherings were among their least favorite form of outreach. To learn more, check out the rest of the report.

What are you reading today? Tell us in the comments.

Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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