Monthly Archives: April 2009

Eight Jays

Spring has definitely arrived in The New Forest. Two days a go I heard the first cuckoo of the year (two, actually). Today I saw the first swallow. One swallow may not make a summer but if definitely points in the right direction.

This morning I took Lucy for an early morning walk up to Stagbury Hill, in The New Forest. Stagbury is surrounded by gorse covered open countryside dotted with trees and even though it has a trig point at the top, it is not terribly high. It is, though, high enough to look down on to the tops of the trees. As I looked out across the sea of yellow flowered gorse I noticed a pair of Jays fly in front and below me, landing in a nearby tree. Then a saw another flying to the same tree from a different direction, then another and another. In all, eight Jays flew to the same tree. Jays are very distinctive birds and are easily recognisable. Seen from above, they are very distinguishable by a white lower back which is not normally seen when in flight as the watcher is normally looking up at the flying bird, not down.

Seeing eight Jays together is quite a sight. Seeing them from above was very unusual and made me think about the way we view other aspects of our lives.

At work, how often do we get lost in the detail of what we’re doing and don’t take the time to stand outside of the project and view it from a more objective viewpoint? How would a third party observe our work? What would they see in ten seconds that we’ve missed, because we’re too close to it? (both figuratively and actually).

Do you take the time to take the ‘helicopter view’ of your work or are you continually fighting to hit the next deadline? Do you review your work from the standpoint of anything other than ‘did it meet its objectives?’ You may well have hit your objectives (or not … ) but was it the right piece of work to be doing in the first place? Could your time have been better spent elsewhere?

Make an effort to stand back and look at your work (and your home life) from a different angle – you might be surprised what you see!


Rob Horlock specialises in helping the commercial side of businesses with part time project management, review and map processes and improve individual and team working efficiencies. If you would like to find out more, see or email:



Marketing Projects

Many pieces of work carried out in a typical marketing dept can be classified as projects.

·         A new product launch

·         A sales promotion

·         A new ad campaign

·         A brand extension

·         A packaging update

All are discrete pieces of work which could be defined as ‘projects’. Except that in a typical marketing department, they aren’t classified as projects. They are pieces of work which need to be done as part of the marketing manager’s job description – it’s just the day job.

That’s fine, but perhaps this leads to a less rigorous approach to the piece of work than would be the case if it was managed as a formal project.

One view that is commonly held by marketers is that ‘a project management approach will stifle my creativity and spontaneity’.  That may or may not be true, depending on your definition of project management. A ‘project’ is a piece of work with a discrete start and a discrete end and this can obviously vary in size. At one end of the scale, a project might be ‘build a new Football Stadium’. At the other end a small project might consist of a departmental reorganisation.  Both have beginnings and ends, so are both projects but the approach to each will be markedly different. There is much that marketers can learn from the world of project management, without stifling their creative juices.

·         Write a Project Plan – this doesn’t need to be overcomplicated, an excel spreadsheet is fine with tasks and responsibilities down the side and a timeline along the top. This gives a view of the tasks which need to be done, who is responsible for doing them and by when.

o   TOP TIP 1: Share the plan with everyone who is involved with the project tasks. Sounds obvious, but doesn’t always happen.

o   TOP TIP 2: Keep the plan up to date. When something changes, update the plan and re-circulate it. You don’t need to become a slave to the plan, just spend a few minutes every week reviewing it to keep it current

·         Monitor the project:

o   Understand the Risks involved in running the project. What changes will it involve? Who will be affected? How likely is it that the identified risks will actually occur? How serious is each risk? Have a proactive plan to deal with each risk (even if the plan says ‘we see x as a risk but will take the chance that it doesn’t happen’. This is an acceptable risk response, providing everyone involved understands that this is the decision that has been made).

o   Monitor the budget. Keep on top of cost, particularly costs incurred by third parties.

o   Measure progress against the plan

o   Update the plan when necessary, but don’t become a slave to it!

·         When the project reaches its end, have a ‘wrap up’ review. What went well, what lessons were learned?

o   TOP TIP 1: Document these learnings and save them in a central repository which is accessible to anyone who may run a similar project in the future.

None of this is rocket science but much of it is ignored by marketing execs who are keen ‘to get things moving’. Time spent thinking about the piece of work up front, planning and anticipating the potential issues, will free up time later on – guaranteed!


I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap. 
– Bob Hope 
We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress. 
– Will Rogers 
Don’t worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you. 
– Winston Churchill 
Maybe it’s true that life begins at fifty .. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. 
– Phyllis Diller 
By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere. 
– Billy Crystal 

Rob Horlock specialises in part time project management and helping the commercial side of organisations to manage projects. If you would like to find out more about documenting processes or project management, see or email: