Joe Cowan joined Haughton Design around seven years ago as Product Design and Development Engineer and for the past two years as Operations Manager.
If Joe had to be drawn into picking out the top 6 project management skills and tools that he could not do without, it would be the following. Joe reports:
Developing good relationships with all our stakeholders, as well as understanding their needs, wants and motivations is key. From being able to understand the client’s brief and relay this to the team and our dedicated partners to keeping all communication lines open with status, feedback and issues is all important to developing trust and confidence – and ensuring a timely delivery.
At HD we have weekly team Pow Wows and Huddles.
Pow Wows occur twice a week and last for 30 mins, enabling us to discuss project statuses and issues.
Huddles are a reduced version of the Pow Wows that last around 15 minutes and take place between the twice-weekly Pow Wows.
Holding such regular internal meetings keeps the communication lines open within the team, and aids the development and integration of the management skills and tools detailed below.
2. Knowing the Product Development Process
I have an advantage here as my history is a design engineer. Understanding the process, the varying length of time different tasks can take, helps with planning the project and its timing, as well as being realistic to the customer. Knowing the product development process will also help with anticipation of the when and how of whatever needs to be done.
3. Project Management Software
However organised I am, I could not work effectively without our project management software, where I can track conversations, stages, quotes and much, much more. Investing in a good system will remove many headaches and keep you organised and ahead of the game.
4. Understanding the team
Understanding the design team, their specialist skills and motivations is critical. How can I give timings to projects without understanding the complexities? How can I ensure that I keep all the team feeling involved, motivated and empowered by a new project?
Our designers are involved in every step and brief. Once a job has been won the client has direct contact with the designer and is involved in meetings and conversations, while I keep up to date with what’s going on, inputting ideas and solutions where appropriate, through our Pow Wows and Huddles.
5. Understanding Client Briefs
HD works in many sectors and disciplines – that’s why there’s a lot of fresh and innovative thinking that we can bring to each and every project.
All of our clients are fundamentally the same in one respect – they want their brief to be understood first time! That’s the only way to ensure that our timings, costs and outcomes are correct.
I spend time to research companies and products before meeting the client. I ensure I ask all the questions I need to – repeatedly if necessary. And I am not scared to ask the obvious, as it is often this that hasn’t been considered.
6. Common sense
Either you have it or don’t! I always take the time to reflect and think before actioning or replying too quickly. I would rather wait a little longer to give a definitive answer to a client or colleague than offer up a rushed guess which almost certainly backfire further down the line.