When I was younger...and not a virtual assistant...I worked in project management. And, truth be told, I am kind of a geek for it. Project management is all about organization, and structure, and having a starting point, a middle, and an end. It contains a lot of “if this, then that” and all the answers (keyword: contingencies) to any problems you can think of when you start are already written down.
I love that. You know what’s going to happen. Sure, there might be a problem that you didn’t think about in the beginning, but, for the most part, everything is in place.
Without thinking about it, a lot of what you’re doing has that project management flow behind it. Example: Buy groceries at the grocery store. You make a list. You have a plan on how to get there. You figure out “if they don’t have X, I’ll have to get Y.” You have a budget.
See - cooooool!
Over the holiday break I was subject to the most chaotic, frustrating lack of project management. A logistical nightmare. Of course, I knew I had to share it with you.
A few days earlier I heard on the news that an organization that gets a large group of musicians together to play one song was having a function in Detroit. (Yeah, I’m keeping this generic, but you can Google it all and find out more on your own.) My son is a guitarist, and so I mentioned it to him. He decided to sign up.
Thus, the nightmare begins.
I had, luckily, planned to take that day off already, to have some relaxation time. (Ha!) Unfortunately, there was no relaxing. Upon receiving the schedule, we learned that this would be from 9am to 7pm. That is a long, long day. We were told that they were going to film it for “an award winning TV show.” Okay, sure. We had already seen the videos of the previous events that were held, so we already knew it would be filmed.
My husband took the day off. Because this wasn’t something I could do on my own with our son. Not with all the equipment, the location, the length of time.
Let me break down how things progressed.
Poor Planning Point #1 (lack of proper communication)
A day or two before the event, we luckily logged into the website to find that the location was changed. It’s a good thing we checked.
Poor Planning Point #2 (lack of organization and scheduling)
Upon arrival to the location, we’re told that 9am check-in just got switched to 9:30. We, along with a line-up of musicians, all wait. At 9:30, standing in front of check-in, we’re told that it’ll be a little longer. They were still setting up.
Poor Planning Point #3 (lack of timetable understanding)
I think check-in finally began at 9:45. This was for all guitarists, bassists, drummers, horns, etc. Now, if you don’t know any musicians, let me tell you how long it takes for a guitarist or bassist to set up. It’s about 2 minutes. Plug in amp. Plug in guitar. Plug in pedal if needed. Tune. That’s about it. Horns? Open case. The drummers have the hardest job, but they’re pros, and they probably set up in about 15 minutes.
According to the schedule, set up was going to take three hours. Even if there had been three times as many musicians (there were probably 100), three hours is overkill. And this was the problem with the whole project. They initially planned for hundreds and hundreds of musicians to show up, but they knew how many they had two days beforehand. They should have had an alternate schedule for a smaller crowd.
Poor Planning Point #4 (timing)
Just to throw this in, this event was the day before 4th of July. The invitation was announced to the public a week before. The organizers (European for the music, and Californian for the TV show), apparently had no idea that we Midwestern types take vacation, and go up to our cabins and campgrounds for the holiday. (It’s a pretty big holiday, you know?)
Let’s continue with the terrible schedule. At 12:30, the singers were to show up and check-in. I’m not sure why they came in last. They didn’t even have to bring microphones. They just had to show up.
At 1pm, it was lunch time. That means for four hours, you’ve had a group of musicians sitting in blazing hot sun (it was about 90 degrees that day) for absolutely NO REASON. This brings us to the next point.
Poor Planning Point #5 (wasting resources)
If this was a real project, people would be getting paid. And there isn’t a company out there that wants to pay workers to sit around and do nothing.
At 2pm rehearsals were supposed to start - and go for three hours. They actually didn’t. It was a few short rehearsals. (These were all pretty seasoned musicians playing an easy song.) And then more waiting in the hot sun.
(One positive point: The organizers were nice enough to provide snacks, lunch and all the water and Gatorade people could drink, along with sunscreen, though if you’re keeping people all day, you should really provide three meals for them.)
Somewhere around 4pm we finally figured out why we were sitting around waiting instead of just getting on with the filming. The TV Show was a reality TV show, and they were waiting on the contestants to show up (which they figured would be 5pm, so filming would be 5-7pm).
No, I’m not telling you which show it is. I love me some reality TV and I refuse to say anything about it, or who the contestants were, or what they had to do, or why they were there, or anything. I HATE SPOILERS, and I refuse to divulge any info.
5pm comes and goes. Somewhere around 5:20? 5:30? Some contestants show up. That’s when the musicians have to start playing. And playing. And playing. The same song, over and over and over and over and… (and if I had any love for that song before, it has been played out of me completely).
Some more contestants show up. And the band played on…. But then stopped, because everyone was burned out, literally and physically. And then started back up again, and played and played…
Poor Planning Point #6 (environment)
If you are going to keep people outside in blazing hot weather in a city all day, you need to provide them with shade, at the very least. Provide a comfortable environment.
Poor Planning Point #7 (explain the project)
The musicians were there to play a song to be filmed as a fun group thing. No one was informed that they were going to be playing the song 20 or 30 or 40 times for the TV show. When the project is kept secret from the team, the team cannot do the project well. Honestly, I think if the people in charge had divulged this, they may not have had too many people show up. These musicians thought they’d play the song a couple of times, have fun and go home.
Poor Planning Point #8 (circle back to the lack of communication)
Around 6:50pm the head of this chaos walked away. Left. Where? Who knows? After the song ended for the nth time (who knows what # that was), he stepped down from the podium and went somewhere. No announcement. No instructions. Nothing. He disappeared. After 10 minutes of the disappearing act, several musicians started packing up (along with us) and left. It was 7pm, and was definitely time to go.
What happened after we left? Not sure. Based on some news reports I saw, we’re speculating that it could have been another couple of hours. For the sake of all the musicians, especially the drummers, who I think had it the worst, I hope things ended after the first group of musicians fled. I guess we’ll see how it all panned out when the show finally airs.
The moral of this story? Plan. Plan. And then plan again. Big or small, every project needs a plan. Every project needs to have those “what happens if” contingencies built in. Otherwise you’re just going to be mired in chaos.
28+ years of business experience. 15+ years of virtual experience.