Under the Big Top: Why project management is the greatest show on earth

If creating a building is like a circus, a finely balanced show of art, design, and logistics, then project managers are the ringmasters. In many ways, building a building is like a circus. Both are expertly tuned productions that require a leader, someone to keep the show running smoothly. And if done well, both end with a delighted, awestruck crowd that can’t wait until the circus comes back to town.

Enter William Schooley, Baskervill’s newest Project Success Facilitator and ringmaster.

Here, William divulges a few tricks he’s picked up, all of which fit right into Baskervill’s existing project management philosophy. The sources are often untraditional, but the focus is always successful teams and happy clients.

Always be on the lookout for new acts to keep the show fresh and exciting.
“The landscape of how we deliver professional services is changing. Clients are always going to want the best from us, and they are hands down always going to get it. What project facilitation can do is make sure we are working efficiently internally, which in turn helps the client.”

For a truly captivating show, think outside the tent.
One of the first decisions William Schooley made as Baskervill’s newest Project Manager was to change his title to Project Success Facilitator.

“Everyone has a preconceived notion of what a project manager does. But me, I’m walking into an architecture firm that’s existed successfully for 117 years without someone solely focused on project management. That’s why I look at what I do as facilitating project success, not managing people. I wanted to give it a different name to help readjust those preconceived notions. With this title people generally ask me what I do instead of assuming.”

An amazing show needs a leader, someone to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
“When I was first approached to be a Project Manager years ago, my first thought was, ‘I don’t like the Project Managers I work with now. Why would I want to become one?’ So I’ve created my own style as a Project Facilitator. I based it off of what I did like and what I thought was missing. I’m not a micromanager, and I hate being a babysitter. I want to be a leader. I want to keep all of the people involved—the architect, the engineer, the interior designer, the consultants, and especially the client—totally engaged throughout a project’s duration.”

It’s no surprise the circus is full of jugglers, plate spinners, and tight-rope walkers. A great show needs balance—and lots of it.
“A lot of Project Managers focus solely on a project’s scope, schedule, and budget. But it’s important to understand how those elements get broken down and interact with each other. As a Project Facilitator, I have to know that architects are the head of the dog—they have to do their thing first. Those decisions have to be made before someone like an electrical engineer, the tail of the dog, comes in and works. But I also have to recognize that the head and the tail are equally important. They are both required to make a complete dog.

“That’s what many Project Managers miss—the importance of adding people and relationships to the mix. Most project tasks will fall under that scope/schedule/budget umbrella, but relationships must fit in there somewhere too. If you only focus on the first three and forget about the people, you might make a profit. But you might not get the next job with the same client, and that’s a difficult way to do business.”

For the show to be a hit, all of your stars—the lion tamer, the knife thrower, the flame eater—must support each other.
“I coached three- and four-year-olds in soccer for five seasons. What I learned was that there are only two things that matter as a leader: 1.) Make sure everyone on the team is kicking the ball toward the same goal, and 2.) Make sure your players don’t take the ball away from each other. That’s basically what my project management philosophy boils down to. If you can achieve those two things, it’s pretty easy to win.”

The crowd always loves to see your trapeze artists go above and beyond.
“There’s a great lesson I’ve picked up from a book my kids love, Amelia Bedelia. She goes to work as a maid and is left a list of tasks to finish. Draw the curtains. Dress the bird. Put out the lights. She then proceeds to finish all of those tasks—literally. She sketches a picture of the curtains. She puts clothes on a chicken. She hangs the lights on the clothesline.

“But she also does something else not on the list. She bakes a lemon pie, and it’s that gesture that saves her in the end. Her boss loves the pie so much, she doesn’t fire Amelia Bedelia. There’s a lot in that message that is applicable to my role as a Project Success Facilitator. My goal isn’t perfection. My goal is to create such a great relationship with our clients that those relationships can survive the inevitable hiccups along the way.”

The show must go on, even if the clown car gets lost.
“Mistakes will happen. Occasionally we’ll be on a track from Point A to Point C and find ourselves off course at Point B. It doesn’t benefit anyone to waste time assigning blame. We’re all on the same team, and we’re all off track together. What we need to do is find a way to get the entire team from Point B to Point C.”

A great show always ends with an unforgettable performance.
“Hands down, my favorite part of project facilitation is seeing the end result, not only the finished building or space, but how happy we’ve made a client by turning their vision into a reality.”

Help us welcome William to Baskervill! Reach him through email at wschooley@baskervill.com or call 804-343-1010.