Applying project management techniques - Marketing Strategy

The ability to manage a project is a skill in its own right.Such skills are ‘transferable’ and can be applied to any situation. Therefore,they adhere to general principles which can be learned by the marketing strategist.

Essentially, project management involves achieving unity of purpose and setting achievable goals within given resource and timescale parameters. Efforts tend to focus on integrating activity, building teamwork and monitoring progress. Marketing projects are rarely simple and often have to be achieved while overcoming unforeseen problems and barriers. Effective project management deals with such problems as and when they arise.

Project management

Project management

Objective setting

An overall strategic objective will be broken down into a series of subobjectives.It is important that these are clear, concise, understood and accepted by team members. A useful acronym is to develop SMART objectives. These add focus and relate to the task(s) required.

S Specific : They should be clear and task orientated.
M Measurable :Objectives must be measured in order to establish progress.
A Action :They should be task related and promote activity.
R Resource :A realistic resource base has to be allocated to enable progress.
T Time :There is a need to make the objective time focused. How long will it take?

Planning

Having established what is to be achieved, planning breaks an activity into a series of structured manageable tasks, co-ordinates these tasks and monitors progress.Task can happen in series or in parallel. So-called ‘parallel processing’– running several tasks simultaneously – has several advantages. It can reduce the overall timescale for the project and reduce the risk of a delay in one task delaying the entire project.

Serial vs parallel processing.

Serial vs parallel processing.

Increasingly there is an awareness of being time focused. Business is now adopting a time-to-market (T-t-M) philosophy. This T-t-M approach advocates the importance of reducing the overall time taken to implement a project. Consider the potential benefits of reducing implementation time. Firstly, a commercial return is produced sooner. Secondly, by being early into the market the opportunity exists to gain a price premium and/or market share. The T-t-M focus is achieved by parallel processing and, conversely, spending more time developing a robust planning specification.

Delegation

Effective managers realize they cannot do everything themselves– they know that management is the art of delegation. The art is often to balance the degree of delegation with the appropriate span of control.The manager needs to understand the strengths, weaknesses and group dynamics of the team members.

Many managers have a problem with letting go and need to remember that delegation extends the capacity to manage and frees the leader from the mundane. Additionally, if staff are encouraged to take decisions, overall decision making can be improved. The people ‘on the spot’ are more likely to have a fuller grasp of the situation and be able to make effective decisions.

Key principles of delegation include:

  • Focus on the objective. Be crystal clear about what has to be achieved but flexible in how it is to be achieved.
  • Delegate authority not just responsibility. Empower people to make decisions and manage resources.
  • Test people on smaller and less important tasks and gradually give the more able employee greater scope.
  • Explain how tasks are monitored and define circumstances in which they should refer back to senior management.
  • Refrain from undue interference but be watchful.

Team building

Clearly there is a need to use the skills and capacity of the team to the optimum level. It is important to have a core goal as this gives the team a focal point. Each team member must understand their contribution to this collective goal. As Wickens (1997) states, teamwork does not depend on people working together but upon working to obtain the same objective. A winning team has the right combination of skills. These should blend and complement each other. The environment should be positive and supportive but not complacent or overly relaxed.

Basic team-building principles which can be applied to a marketing project are:

  • Encourage a positive supportive environment. It is acceptable to make mistakes but ensure the team learns from them.
  • Show and encourage respect for each other. Encourage constructive criticism as opposed to personal attack.
  • Link individual reward to group performance.
  • Disagreement and discussion should not be suppressed and ideas should be listened to. However, this should not detract from effective decision making.

Crisis management

There will be times when things go dramatically wrong and a crisis point is reached. The basic premise of crisis management is to take urgent action in response to unexpected events. By definition, the process is reactive in nature and invariably is a turning point. However, it does not negate prior planning. Management can develop a series of scenarios and have appropriate responses available as a contingency.This scenario planning allows a crisis management approach to be developed in advance.

Additionally, we may be given prior warning of a pendingproblem. Often there is a gradual worsening of events until the point of crisis is attained. If these signals are picked up early enough decisive action can be taken before the problem becomes a crisis.

A key idea is to maintain confidence and for management to be clearly in control. Basic techniques include:

  • Assess the situation coolly and establish the facts before taking any rash action.
  • Draw up a plan of action and establish a management structure.
  • Set up a communications system to receive and disseminate information.
  • Separate the trivial from the important and prioritize tasks.
  • Be decisive and take responsibility.

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