The Future Church - A Church Communications Podcast
Church Media + Communications

E017 - Project Timelines & Scheduling

James: Timelines and scheduling Joanna. How as church communicators how do we do that well?

Joanna: Today we're gonna talk about how to actually break down big projects into meaningful chunks so that we can be on time make everybody happy and finish projects well.

James: Often Joanna we have a lot of projects that are long-term projects that can take weeks and can span months and involve lots of different people and even third party companies. So what are some tips and tricks you have for just setting out these priorities in these timelines?

Joanna: I think we always want to work backwards from the end goal and this is where more experience helps you. When I was beginning in communications for church this was not something at all that came naturally to me. I'm more leaning to the creative side than the administrative side and so not being good with timelines and scheduling can be like a big frustration to a lot of other people. But like a major stress and burnout source for a lot of people doing communications and media work so all to say when I've tried to do this better now is you begin with the end in mind what are we trying to accomplish and then work backwards with if these are all the things that we're going to deliver we're gonna. It's Easter right we're gonna make a video and we're going to have this big display in the lobby of the church and we're gonna have print mailers out to the community we're doing billboards and we're in doing all that kind of stuff. You know you got to say OK for each of those items how long backwards from that end goal. Do we need to start working? And for most of those things it's at least six weeks. It could even be six months that you're working backwards to accomplish that goal.

James: So I like that line of thinking in how you're approaching it but I also learn by failing. So let's talk a bit about how have you failed doing this. And then we can work backwards from that failure and order to learn how to do it better so share a story of how you failed.

Joanna: One of the best examples of what I learned not to do in time timelines and scheduling is that I was trying to save a ton of money back in the day by working with a really discounted printer. It was an online printer company and actually I they don't even exist anymore. That's kind of how in the end how sketchy they became. And basically we didn't ever really know when the project would be ready for pickup or delivery. And so we would try to save money by getting them to print a postcard or a brochure or something for us. But then if they said it was gonna be due on Wednesday either we were like hounding them every day wasting our time making sure it was going to be done and ready for pickup or it would suddenly disappear in their system and it wouldn't be ready again for like another week which made us really lose trust with people on our team because we said it was gonna be ready Wednesday the printer didn't deliver and now we're scrambling trying to get it ready for that Sunday deadline and it's Saturday and I'm literally at the printer Saturday afternoon on my day off trying to get them to give me something. It was just in order to save money. It made a mess of schedules and timelines it wasn't worth it.

James: And because of those issues how did it affect your relationships with other people on staff as well?

Joanna: Well later this week I want to talk more about how to build trust with our teams through good project management. But basically it meant that people if we said to people we would have it on Wednesday because that's what we really believed in good faith was coming from the printer. And then it wouldn't come in on time. It made us look like idiots. It made my team look like we didn't know what we were doing. And in the end we had to fire that printer. We never we don't ever work with people like that if they can't deliver with good timelines with good margin for what we need to do for the kids ministry the youth ministry the Sunday programming. We can't work with them because it makes us look bad with our teams ultimately.

James: So bringing it back to planning and timelines. What do you do now that's different when working with other people and it was some of these projects to keep yourself on track so you don't end up in a situation that you said where it's a Saturday night and you're at a printer hoping everything gets done for Sunday morning and its just a total scramble.

Joanna: Yeah. Well one of the things that really had to force us to change sometimes you don't change till you have to and one of the things that happened for us is we became a multi-site church so suddenly the timelines went way back because you couldn't be doing something Saturday night for Sunday because it had to be delivered to multiple locations. So it wasn't just like I'll pick it up Saturday and bring it to church with me Sunday. It's like how is it gonna get to all these other places. I can't do all of that. So it forced us to push timelines back. I mean if we're on a if we're on a good track some there's no perfection in this but generally we're trying to have everything in by Wednesday. That's our deadline that Wednesday's deadline delivery of all of our content so that it's whether it's video production or print items or whatever it's all ready to go Wednesday so that we have we have a little bit of buffer between Wednesday and Sunday.

James: Now can it go the other way?. Can you be trying to plan way too far in advance because there are people coming using let's have this done three months in advance. What are some of the negatives even to try like there I know there's some people that get really aggressive you'll see people even on online and then some of the Facebook groups like you know it's November they're like started planning for Easter already you you're like what? Like How are you doing this? Is there some what are some potential drawbacks even like trying to work too far ahead. Of course you're afraid of procrastinating and leaving it to the end because there's some stress that goes with that but there's also it can go the other way. You can be working way too far in advance so what are some of the drawbacks?

Joanna: I mean the most tangible example of that is something James you and I have done together which is news videos. So we try to film them in chunks and batches but sometimes when the news that you're talking about is four weeks away five weeks away some of that information isn't yet fully available and so or something comes up. I mean we try to be as organized as we can but sometimes things come up in the course of a month that we couldn't have predicted. And we need to respond to it with news in the video. And now we have to re-film it because we tried to be efficient and have good scheduling of that and do it all in advance but every once in a while it just doesn't work and information comes in later and you have to redo the whole thing.

James: Yeah we've had events change we've had staff changes yeah. And all of a sudden we're going back and redoing work which is you know very inefficient and very frustrating right. Like if we thought we were ahead and now something has changed. Variables change in the situation and it's a lot of work for everybody involved to have to go back and do that. And it cost more money at the end of the day even even staff time is money because it's now other projects you're not going to work.

Joanna: So we've learned for us for example I think about three weeks out is feels like the most accurate amount of news filming for example that we do. Once you get into that fourth week the fifth week the six week the news becomes a little less clear. And so it's harder to predict not because we aren't organized but because actually sometimes things change even if it's just as simple as you're communicating something in the room or that is happening in has moved from one side of the building to the other. You have to change the lower thirds things like that. So obviously scheduling is an ongoing thing we're gonna continue to talk about on podcast want to keep giving you some practical tools along the way as we keep having these conversations. But this is the beginning of many more conversations about how to be better at time management.

James: Absolutely. And on the next episode we're going to talk about managing and receiving requests like how you handle it what kind of processes you have when another ministry area comes to you with a communications need.