Program Management: A Creative Endeavor

Although program management is often ascribed as a left-brain dominant activity, it is equally a right-brain creative process. In addition to being a Program Director, I am also an abstract figurative painter. I find that aspects of each world bring insights to the other. We often think the best program and project managers are analytical […]

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Program Management: A Creative Endeavor

Although program management is often ascribed as a left-brain dominant activity, it is equally a right-brain creative process.

In addition to being a Program Director, I am also an abstract figurative painter. I find that aspects of each world bring insights to the other.

We often think the best program and project managers are analytical and quantitative. While they do in fact possess those left-brain attributes, truly great managers also understand the power and effectiveness of right-brain traits, such as creativity and expression.

CREATIVITY

Brainstorming.

The creative industry is familiar with ‘charrettes’ – brainstorming workshops to come up with ideas at the inception of a project. We do the same thing in project and total program management here at nFusion.

Program and project management is very much about identifying and mitigating risks – problem solving. The only way out is through. Look at the word cloud of questions to answer. Identify challenges to address and start to create a framework of responses and potential solutions in all three facets of the project management crucible: time, schedule and budget.

Whiteboarding issues, solutions, and workplans is incredibly exciting and fruitful when done with key strategic people. Once the framework is in place, we can then envision and develop the roadmap.

Communication.

Once the roadmap is in place, it’s about conveying these ideas to the client and the project team. Working predominantly with international clients, we rely heavily on visual presentations to convey ideas and strategies.

Storytelling is not just for the creatives in this industry, but for the program managers as well! Presentations produced in a storytelling format give clients a few footholds on what is likely the unfamiliar territory of industry jargon and processes. More images, fewer words.

Simple, clear graphics with only the essential words make the most memorable impressions and help communicate concepts. Everyone knows pictures are worth a thousand (often flat, uninteresting and translated) words.

Once you know the outline of the story you want to tell – be it strategy, process, resources, workplan – you can weave these subplots together to support the overall arc of the story of how to deliver a project.

EXPRESSION

Making something from nothing.

One of the most creative pursuits of program management is where once there was nothing, we create something tangible. We help clients and project teams to envision something that cannot be seen.

In the early formative and defining stages of a project, it’s important to paint a picture for everyone involved. At nFusion, we develop a series of guiding principles (Program Book), strategies and roadmaps (Delivery Plan) and playbooks (Implementation Manual) to direct the team towards the planning and design of the project.

If we’re lucky and the stars have aligned, the ultimate ‘making something from nothing’ is the physical realization of the project you’ve revolved your life around for the last several years.

No such thing as lightning in a bottle.


Artwork: Repose 40×26 mixed media
Artist: Gina Yu
Instagram: @ginascyu

I used to think great ideas for a painting would strike like lightning in a bottle or waiting for a muse to show itself. The truth is, it’s just showing up and doing the hard work, as so eloquently stated by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Seth Godin’s The Practice.

It’s all in the doing that things are revealed to you. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become skilled and successful, an idea popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers and summarized by John Ballard.

The same goes for project management. It is committing and showing up for your team and your client and bringing the day-to-day drive and determination to lead and guide the project. We can do difficult things.

THE STRENGTH OF A DIVERSE PROGRAM MANAGEMENT TEAM

A successful endeavor in any field will take time, effort, and some combination of traits and skills deemed ‘left-brain’ and ‘right-brain’ attributes.

While most people associate effective project management with a talent to successfully ‘herd cats’, in reality, the process is highly creative. It requires the ability to imagine and conceptualize things that are not there, and tell a story in a visual and captivating way.

At nFusion, we are a team of diversely talented professionals – those who lean more ‘left-brained,’ those who lean more ‘right-brained,’ and those who fall right in between – who leverage our strengths to develop delivery strategies and the roadmaps needed to bring them to life for our clients.

About the Author
Gina Yu
Program Director

Gina Yu is a Program Director at nFusion, leading the Design Management efforts. For more than 20 years, she has led and managed the creation of themed environments in the entertainment, leisure and mixed-use sectors. Gina's portfolio includes projects such as Universal Studios Hollywood, Disney’s California Adventure, LEGOLAND Parks and Recreation, Doha Oasis Theme Park, and Fort Edmonton Park. She is formally educated as an architect and is able to lead in multiple roles: from project definition, to design management and overall project oversight. She fosters a collaborative environment and process that drives design integration and excellence. She brings together talents from storytellers to implementers to seamlessly deliver across project phases, and has worked on theme parks, attractions, and educational and cultural centers globally.

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