My digital media project – day 2

Summary

Well…it’s not just my project, but our project

There was far more problem solving today than yesterday, which caught me a little off guard. I was assuming we’d go running around Cambridge with a digital video camera or two, but getting up late and the heavy showers today all but killed off that. We also slightly overran yesterday on the script writing work, which leaves us with tomorrow morning to do the voice overs before meeting Jon Worth for lunch. Hence today being a longer working day and the final day being much shorter.

Screencasting

This for me has been the biggest step forward. There was a sense of “I could do this but I feel strangely anxious about doing this”, but the team were able to simply get on with it. The first challenge was finding a suitable programme with which to do so. We tried using free software on a standard laptop but found that saving the final product to a place where we could find it shot it out of the water. Using a crowd-sourced recommendation, I bought a licence for a cheap but more user-friendly version that seems to have worked wonders.

The work that the team has done today has been brilliant. While there were times where we stumbled across mental blocks and barriers – such as trying to find the right flow of words to make a substantive point, the final digital films are coming together beautifully. I’ve been really impressed with the screencasting that they did today – something that will hopefully save me a huge amount of time and hassle at future presentations.

Time pressures

I hoped to run a session on project management, but it became clear in the planning stage that formal project management was not appropriate for what we have been working on. I could have had it as a standalone part of the project, but the time pressure to get the digital videos completed before lunchtime on the final day has meant that I’ve had to drop this aspect from the project, to come back to it at a later date.

This is a pilot

Perhaps that’s what I should have remembered with this: It’s a pilot. All the planning in the world is not going to iron out all of the problems that may arise. The only way to find out what they are going to be is to get on and do them. Hence the extra time needed to overcome the bumps that we stumbled across.

At the same time, the project has been far more enjoyable than I thought it would ever be – testament to the team. It’s also unearthed a whole host of possible new projects limited only by the number of future paid commissions I get (which impacts on the number of people I can afford to take on) and…well, the size of the #PufflesMassiv network and our imagination. We’ve come up with a set of future digital video guides along with other ones that we want to take up and run with because…we want to.

This has stemmed from the piloting stage, because prior to that, we did not know what we were capable of. Having been through the screencasting and the filming, it’s much more clear to us how much further we can take this. What’s been interesting is the comments of other people who have shown interest in getting involved – it’s caught their imagination too. Hence in part the need to make clear on my part which are the ‘work specific’ ones for my professional website, and which ones are more campaigning ones done in our own time.

Working outside ‘normal’ circles

We’re all from different backgrounds & have all been challenged in different ways. Kate – who’s recently finished her A-levels said that this was the first time she had worked on a paid commission with people of different ages on a very focussed project. Alice commented that working with people who had an arts & media background had taught her a whole series of new skills that will be applicable to future projects and employment.

The group of us is a microcosm of my social media network – well, those that are under 30 anyway. The energy and good humour that they have all brought to this project has simply been a joy to be around. Unlike meeting up for lunch or a drinking session, this has been continuous over a series of days on a focused task. I think we’ve all learnt something new about ourselves and each other as a result. Combining this with using social media to first of all engage with, build up online friendships with, and then inviting people to take part, has been one of the big learning points too. In one regard I invited four complete strangers to work and stay over for most of the week. Yet in another, I invited four friends of whose personalities and interests I know in far more detail compared with reading application forms and doing formal interviews. Hence I’ve got a much stronger idea of who will work well in which teams and who won’t. If I was of the view – and end up of the view in future projects that certain people may not work together, there is an onus on me to have them working in separate project teams.

Taking ownership of their work – and managing these projects

This is a completely different way of project management compared to the very bureaucratic model I’ve been used to in the civil service – hence on this occasion doing away with the basic project management component. It’s also my first real experience of leading a project team where ultimately I’m the person at who the buck stops at. With all other projects that I’ve worked on, I’ve always been directly accountable to someone further up the line. With this one, the only ‘accountability’ I have is with the outside world. A completely different form of accountability? Yes – different even to the standard ‘commercial’ sector, because with the output I’m not selling something that a customer can ask for a refund. Yet at the same time the final clips will become an essential part of my ‘offer’.

The team has also been able to work with minimal supervision – only requiring my input when we’ve stumbled across a problem or where they’ve sought guidance or a steer on a particular issue. There have been times – in particular with solving the screencasting software problem where we had to work together to familiarise ourselves with how the software functioned. But once that was done, I did not need to micromanage the actual screencasting process once we had all worked out how to actually do what we needed to do. As a manager of young and talented people, you don’t need to micromanage them – that stifles their innovation, energy and creativity. What you do need to do is to give them a clear set of instructions and be ready to step in when necessary. Where they have made reasoned and sound recommendations, I’ve gone with them. (Which is on nearly all occasions). What’s really nice about not needing to micromanage them is they all now have real life experience of delivering on a project, the outputs of which will be used in a commercial environment.

While it doesn’t compare to the high power consultancies in London, it was never meant to. Projects like these can only be stepping stones. But to get to the big stepping stone in the middle of the river, and ultimately to get to the other side, you need to step on the smaller ones first. These projects are those small first stepping stones. I hope that from these small stepping stones, those that take part in this and my future digital video projects go a long way – to help make the world a better place.

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