When presenting our work to clients, project managers occupy a uniquely important role on the team. They must present how we work as a firm. As a design firm we love to dig in to a project’s design challenges and are eager to engage our clients in a vision for the future, but we don’t want to lose sight of the process in bringing those ideas to life. In a recent discussion among seasoned and emerging project managers, including Sarah Lindenfeld, Barry Shiel, Mark Careaga and Scott Parker, I heard some key takeaways that form my understanding of how to talk about our process.
1. communication and preparation are paramount
The Project Manager’s job is to help the team connect with the client, balancing the team’s aspirational design vision with a plausible picture of how the work will be executed. This is no small task, and really demands a custom-tailored approach for every job.
2. avoid generic information
Speaking too generally or following a script too rigidly can be a ready pitfall that misses an opportunity to connect with a client and demonstrate how we think creatively about problems.
3. show your understanding of the client’s needs
Give real thought and preparation to mapping out the project for your own understanding so that you can tap directly to the heart of what the client needs and what we (the architect) can provide.
4. eschew the buzzwords or selling points
Speak directly to how our process can address specific objectives of the project.
5. connect the dots
This point perhaps seems obvious, but a key aspect of the Project Manager’s job is to relate the design process back to specific design schemes in real terms. This is only possible when you tailor the information to the client and develop concurrently with the schemes.
6. process is progressive, not linear
The role of project management is to achieve balance between the design team, the owner, performance and costs. Project management is integrated into the design process.
7. project management is a jazz ensemble
We like to think that project management is this carefully orchestrated symphony with everyone playing from the same coordinated sheet of music, when in reality, project management is more akin to a tight jazz ensemble of people so attuned to each other’s ways of working that they can respond and anticipate one another and see improvisational opportunities ahead of them.