How to Deal with Client Demands that Mess Up Your Workflow

Your clients are the reason that your project management is flowing.

They are the bloodline of your business. But, more often than you want to, they get into your nerves. They demand stuff that is out of the contract, unreasonable, or simply out of this world!

Thankfully, you don’t have to lose your sanity to keep your clients. You don’t have to do all of their requests either. In the end, the client will thank you for not giving-in into their crazy requests. Just look at this design disaster which happened to a Japanese noodle company when the designer said yes to all of the client’s demands.

This was the designer’s first draft.

But apparently, the client pretends to be an expert in design so more demands are made.

Until the demands went out of control…

Presenting, the final product- this is how your project will turn out if you say yes to the client all the time even if they’re completely cracked.

You can get through these chaotic client requests with win-win solutions through effective project management. Here are some tips to keep you sane while addressing your beloved but not so likable clients.

1. Technically set yourself up
Make sure your ship is in tip-top shape before the storm hits! Do I hear an aye aye captain? You’re setting yourself up for a disaster if your company is already in chaos before more craziness comes in.

If you have all your systems in place, it’ll be easier to regain composure no matter how crazy the demand of your client will be. You have two things to set up; the system and the person.

Your system is like a conveyor belt, every step ensures that a perfect product will come out. The person you assign will serve as the account manager. Choose someone who can be calm (or pretend to be) even during surprise requests from clients. She or he has to be credible because every request will be funneled to him or her.

2. Categorize the request
You have to clarify if the request makes sense. Because, sometimes, we don’t know what kind of sorcery comes into clients’ minds that they make insane wishes. Just look at the advertisement of the cup noodle above!

Next, if you have decided that the request makes sense, ensure that it is part of your scope. This is one of the reasons why project managers lose profit. They end up doing stuff that they aren’t supposed to be doing in the first place!

If the request is not in your contract, you have to decide if you want to do it just because you want to impress your client. If not, talk to your client to modify the scope and adjust the budget accordingly.

3. Watch your timeline
Be realistic about your team’s capacity. Don’t forget that you only have twenty-four hours, and those hours are not made for work alone. You, your teammates, and your employees are not superheroes.
Be outright in telling your client if deadlines are unrealistic. Most deadlines are flexible, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

4. Speak straightforwardly
No need for sugar coating here honey. You’ve already gained your client, so stop the sweet talk. What you need is to be able to communicate honestly and effectively so that you can help your client reach their goals.

Some of the client’s request may not be helping them to reach their goals. Whatever their reason is for making outlandish wishes, it is your job to make them see the bigger picture. Insist on what you know. They hired you for your expertise because you know better. So hold your ground, they’ll thank you for it in the end.

Conclusion:
Clients are not always right. If they are, they wouldn’t need your help! Be kind but firm when a client tries to mess up with your project management workflow. Your client is not trying to make you crazy. He or she may just be misguided or overwhelmed. You both want the same thing, a successful project, so work together to make it happen.
 

The next time a client makes an out of this world request, remember the following:
Ø Technically set yourself up
Ø Categorize the request
Ø Watch your timeline
Ø Speak straightforwardly

You Can’t Project Manage Chaos

So, your business is ready to scale.

You have all your superheroes with you and you’re ready to win the battle. But you look around and all you see is chaos! Maybe you need one more hero, a process ninja disguised as a project management consultant.

Project management skill is often overlooked in startups. You wonder why things are falling through the cracks when you have squeezed all your creative juices into your company. Stop bathing in secret sauces, please, you already had enough. You just need to hack the system and stop chaos from ruining your business.

In this webinar, ScaleTime founder, Juliana Marulanda talks (and laughs) about project management. She shares the dramas she and her clients experienced with project management and how to deal with them.

Here are the key takeaways from the webinar:

Juliana compares project management to a conveyor belt. Along the line, different persons add up to a product until it comes out of the conveyor belt perfectly. Without someone supervising the process, things may get stocked or the product may come out with defects.

One of the signs of a glitchy project management is missed deadlines. These missed deadlines have detrimental side effects such as: 

  • Loss of profitability
  • Unhappy clients
  • Project delays
  • Account manager overwhelm
  • Poorly behaved clients
  • Complacent employees

If you meet your deadlines, there is a better client and employee retention. Of course, it also means more profit.

How to stop things falling through the cracks:

  1.       Have due dates

I know, they might seem so painfully simple, but due dates work! Your timeline will keep your progress smooth even if other stuff comes in. It’s hard to prioritize if you don’t have due dates.

  1.       Milestones for check-ins

Check in between before the whole project is complete. This way, corrections can be made before it’s too late.

  1.       New tasks quick check-in

If there are new tasks, check-in right away so you can course correct early.

  1.       Backlog management

Make sure all of your data are still relevant. Overflowing backlog results to a messy system. One client of Juliana still had data from the Renaissance area! Not really, but still, it was ages ago.

  1.       Status updates

Status updates ensure that everyone is working on their parts at the correct timeline.

How Super Scaletimers Handle PM:

  1.       Create repeatable workflows

A workflow is a checklist of tasks. You can create templates for this workflow to save time.

Workflows can either be project specific or recurring. Automate recurring workflows to maximize efficiency.

  1.       Assign People and Milestones

Create task ownership to ensure accountability. You should know what people are working on and how they’re performing. Accountability also prevents anyone from burning out.

  1.       Review

Without consistent reviews, things get stocked or products come out imperfect. Juliana gives away hacks to handle reviews even if you hate them. Because love them or hate them, they’re crucial for project management.

  1.       Re-prioritize

Your reviews allow you to re-prioritize. New clients and new business goals also mean that you have to alter your priorities.

Who is a super project manager?

Even if the conveyor belt is going smooth, if the supervisor isn’t doing his or her job, the product will still come out with flaws. You need a super project manager, the hero of heroes.

A super project manager is a taskmaster. In the webinar, Juliana mentions the qualities of a great taskmaster. If you think creativity is the number one quality, I hate to break it to you but it’s not.

As a project manager, one of your most important tools is your knowledge base. Your knowledge base will be the foundation for your instructions. You need to give “dummy-proof instructions” to make sure that a chicken will come out of the conveyor belt if you want chicken and not an egg, or a duck.

Clarity in giving instructions is another winner skill of a project manager. Every word you say must be understood and executed by your team. One unclear instruction can alter every part of the project.

Your ability to track the system is another quality you should practice. There are different online tools you can use to track progress depending on the size of your team. In the webinar, Juliana suggests different apps that are fit with the size and goals of your team.

The tools you use should be parallel to your profitability. You don’t need to spend on tools right away. Yes, some of the project management hacks don’t cost a single centavo!

Project Management Hacks

  1.       Condition responses and answer questions only in your tool.
  2.       Find your workarounds app extensions.
  3.       Client requests
  4.       Make your business a client with different divisions

The Q&A portion of the webinar is also gold. Someone says that he is having a difficulty letting go of a wonderful app but it’s only working for solopreneur, it’s not ideal for a team. Juliana answered, “You should never marry your systems”. It’s okay to be unfaithful when it comes to applications!

Conclusion:

This article is just the tip of the iceberg, dig deeper by watching the webinar here. Juggling hundreds of tasks indicates good news. It means your business is growing, but it doesn’t have to be chaotic. Work with a project management consultant at ScaleTime to decide on the right project management model for your specific business needs

Spankin’ New Workflows – Because you can’t track a document

“I don´t wanna!” I would rather eat my vegetables than create a workflow.

 I would like to say workflows allow you to be more efficient, optimized and automated.

What is a workflow? Webster states (so you know it’s true):

But, the actual beauty of creating a workflow from what I have witnessed is that going through thousands  of these is not that it is a structured process … it’s a creative process, it is where the ideas and brainstorming for customer service, upgrading your quality and innovation come to life. It’s what allows you to get out of working in the business and love it again.

It’s actually quite romantic.

You may have instructions and documentation for the business that you may or may not update from time to time so why need a workflow?

Shakespeare aside, you can’t track a document!!!!

So when you are out and about, on sales meetings or god forbid a vacation – you need to know where in the process your actual team is on client work.

A part of not wanting to create a workflow is the where do I start?

What goes in a workflow:

Make sure you can create a template!

  • A home for all your workflow assets (templates, videos, and documentation) – this can be a database, dropbox, google drive   
  • Assets which include templates and resources to complete task – always provide links where possible and keep a running tab of the templates that need to be created 
  • The steps/tasks in the process
  • The medium – how is the step being completed ie phone call, tweet, email, document shared
  • Instructions for what needs to be done to complete each task – Highlight the big priority for those team members that already know how to get things done but might need a little reminder every once in awhile
  • Time line – how much time is in between steps, what does the follow up look like for communication, reviews and approvals and what to do when other stakeholders do not respond
  • Who’s responsible for each step
  • Centralize your communication with team and clients –  get out of your inbox and identify exactly what piece of the project needs attention
  • Success criteria, deliverable or output — how do you know is this workflow working? When is it complete?

Reminder: the workflow is meant to be an ACTIONABLE, ITERATIVE process

This means that it’s a living document and will grow with your business, technology changes and industry fluctuations

The best part of the workflow is that you get to delegate — wooohooo. Not only that, but you can train newbies with the same standards of excellence. Everyone that touches that workflow can iterate and make it better.

The second best part is that you will never have to do this again because you can just copy the template per client — like this (most project managers copy who is responsible for the tasks, so every time you get a new client your team knows what they are expected to do)

 

Bonus Tip: Workflows allow you to centralize your communication.

  • Stay out of your inbox
  • Contextualize conversations within tasks
  • First, it’s a training tool, then it becomes a tracking tool #FTW
  • Reduces hand-holding as you move towards making things stupid proof
  • Removes “common sense” syndrome