Chris: I don’t… Yeah… Anyway. Hello!
Matt: There you go, sort it out in the edit, Chris.
Chris: Yeah, it’ll be fine! Hey there. It’s another Monkey Monday.
Matt: It is, it is. And what are we talking about today, Chris?
Chris: We’re talking about how you can work with your team on creative projects. Because we - excitingly - have started our new website.
Matt: Yeah, it’s one of these things, isn’t it… I think there are a few things we wanna talk about today. I think one is like ‘the dip’ and how you can use agile management or sprint or whatever you wanna call it - but basically focusing, getting all the distractions away from you and focusing on getting yourself out of a dip or focusing on a project that just needs addressing over here, and I guess the challenges of it really. And, especially I think as well the challenges of doing it remotely.
Chris: Yeah sure, it’s a really difficult challenge to try and get - we’ve got 14 people on our team - to try and get them to work on a single project all remotely and yeah it’s thrown up quite a few issues. But we’ve done pretty well, I would think. Would you say?
Matt: Yeah, I mean, so, we could talk about our experience really couldn’t we. I mean we did one years ago, didn’t we, before this agile management stuff came out and this was all a popular thing, and even the cultural marketing side of this really, we did an ambitious ‘Can we build from scratch our whole website in 48 hours?’ So we filmed it and, man we look really young as well.
Chris: Yeah, I wonder if I can find a clip...
Matt: I don’t think we should put a link to it because it’s just too embarrassing. Right?
Chris: Maybe I can put clips of everyone bar me, and that’ll be fine.
Matt: Oh fine, yeah why not. I can be out of that as well, right? I can opt in or out of that.
Chris: Mmm, we’ll see. We’ll see what happens in the edit.
Matt: But it was a really interesting project for us and we managed to do it - I mean, it was some late nights, wasn’t it.
Chris: Yeah, it was. And it was - I think it was around 2005… maybe I’m dreaming. 2005 to 2008… And it was a really interesting way of creating a new website. And it sort of just highlights to me how websites have changed. Because in 2005, say, we were designing for one sort of screen size, and we managed to get the project out in 48 hours - just about. There or thereabouts. And now we do something - we build a bespoke website with 14 people in the team all working hard, on very tricky bits of code and interesting features, and how far through would you say we got in 48 hours?
Matt: Oh man, what as a percentage?
Matt: I dunno… maybe 25%?
Chris: That’s optimistic as well, isn’t it?
Matt: It probably is, yeah. I mean I guess the challenges back then were really like browsers. You know, it was very fiddly rubbish browsers that would slow down your web development, and having to deal with old versions of Internet Explorer, whereas today the browsers are pretty good - even the Microsoft-based ones, they’re loads better than they used to be. Now the complicated part of it really is all those devices, screen sizes, different browsers, and making responsive design work really well. So if you’re building something from the ground up, that’s kind of where some of the challenges now lie.
Chris: And the two similarities between the two projects were that we thought we were getting nowhere with the project - and maybe you have this in your business - that is the project that always gets pushed to the side because there’s always something more important. So the thing we did, and the thing you can do, is just stop everything else because we’re never going to get round to it. Just shut the doors and just focus on this one project. And that worked really well.
Matt: Yeah, whether you’re doing your own marketing; whether you’re part of a wider team; whether you’re a team and you have other partners as well, a creative agency, just siloing a dedicated amount of time to achieve a certain goal is a really great way of making some ground on it. So I’ve got a handful of tips actually, Chris, off the top of my head.
Chris: Ooh, here we go!
Matt: I know! To try and help make this work well for you - he says, with a project where we only really got 25% of the way through - but the first thing really is to set a goal for that - you can call it a sprint, whatever you wanna call it - but a goal for the two days off, if you like. Or however long the thing’s going to be. What do you want to try and achieve in that time? Sharing those goals with the team is really important, and don’t just jump in. Plan everything you can to as much detail as you can beforehand, because you don’t wanna spend the first, you know, half of the first day setting things up, setting up tasks. And use a good project management system, as well. And I think especially now, with a lot of people working remotely, the project management system’s going to be your saviour here in a way. Or at least if you don’t have a project management system at least a well-structured spreadsheet, something like that. Something that says, ‘Hey look, here’s where we’re gonna put all of the issues and tasks that are gonna come in, and people can opt in and pull those - almost like a ticket system - pull those tasks into their workflow. So that’s what I would say. Definitely plan beforehand, brief the team, and have some central place so that people understand who’s doing what.
Chris: Yeah, and what I would add to that is try and make sure you never have a team of one working on part of the area of the project, because it’s very easy for a single person - especially now while everyone’s working remotely - to just get lost in a problem and think that they’ve got to solve it themselves. So if people have got other members of the team that they can lean on and just get advice from, I think that really helps.
Matt: I really like that advice, Chris. In fact, that’s something we’ve found recently across not just doing a sprint project like this, but we found that across everything we’re doing really, working remotely. This idea that some people are kinda left in isolation doing one thing - the team of one. It’s something we’re really trying to break down. So again it might be worth looking at your team, your marketing team, and see if you’ve got sort of one person solely responsible for one thing, and they’re not able to lean on anyone, communicate back to you - I think that’s where some issues can raise their heads in this remote working environment.
Chris: Yeah and I think also when you’re doing creative projects especially, just having input from multiple sources is really good. So what we did is we started our design of the website with one person and a second person had a look at different elements, and then - which was me - and then Matt took over, and we had Mel putting her input in - and it was really great to be able to amalgamate some of those creative ideas from all those different sources.
Matt: Yeah, and I think the product has come out really well, and we’re really happy with how it’s going to look. I had to be careful with my wording there.
Matt: How it’s *going* to look. So yeah, I think that sort of collaboration has worked really well for us. So I guess another bit of advice as well is when you’re looking at doing this, set some rules for the sprint days up, so our rules were switch off all external communication, set up autoresponders - we had one of our lead project account managers - we fielded everything over to him so that none of our customers were left not being serviced, so on our autoresponder we just sent everybody for him to look after. Now this can be challenging, though, right? Because we still need to communicate with the team, and some of the team may still be working on a few other little bits over here, and that can be distracting. So what we did, we have a chat thing we use - there are loads of different chat stuff out there, I’m sure you guys are using something. So what we did is we switched off our emails, we set up the autoresponder, and then we just silenced all of those other channels apart from the ones dedicated to this sprint. And it gives you a real focus and a goal and lets you just try and get out of the dip or get that project done, or reach to where you need to reach.
Chris: Yeah, it’s really surprising how quickly you can get knocked off the path that you’re walking down, and how long it takes you to pick up that bit of the project and focus again. It’s like if someone sends you an email and you respond to it, you sort of lose half an hour just getting back to where you were, that state of mind.
Matt: Yeah, and I think for creatives and developers alike that’s really hard, because you kind of need to get in that zone, right? You need to get that focus. And I think it’s the same for all of you guys out there, if you’re working in a marketing team. Sometimes you just really need that headspace and that focus and that goal, and if you’re being pulled left, right and centre and wearing a hundred different hats, your day can be fragmented and it can be really challenging. In fact, I tried to do something a little while ago, just for my normal day’s work actually. Which was I thought, ‘Hey, I’m just gonna start checking my emails just twice a day, and focus on getting a load of these tasks done.’ And so I switched off my email, I switched off my chat window, and I was kinda like, ‘Okay, here we go, I’m now gonna go through my handful of tasks I need to achieve today.’ My first task was, ‘Here’s a couple of people that are sort of interested in working with us - I need to get in touch with them.’ So the first thing I did was open up my email, my email opens up, and then there's like three or four emails in there, so I think, ‘Well, I’m just gonna quickly check those emails,’ and one of those is a question and I kinda go, ‘Hmm, I could do with asking my team member about this,’ so I open up my chat window, have a chat with that one, before I know it I’m straight off-piste again. So normal working days can be challenging like that, but definitely for this-- these dedicated days towards achieving something, that’s when you have to be really strict.
Chris: So there you go. Here’s your challenge for this week. Try and choose something that you’ve been putting off for ages, turn off all distractions, and give it a go.
Matt: Yeah, we’d love to hear how it works for you guys.
Chris: Alright, we’ll see you next week on another Monkey Monday.
Matt: Bye everyone!