No running water, cheese sandwiches instead of gourmet cuisine, and hoodwinked festivalgoers fighting over the last remaining emergency storm shelters.
Fyre Festival took the headlines by storm in 2017, when an extraordinary viral marketing campaign teed up a failure of epic proportions.
As a parable about the trustworthiness of social media, Fyre works pretty well. And as a lesson in business, the doomed festival provides some strong pointers as to the pitfalls of bad project management.
So, how can you do good project management? Here’s three project management tips:
1. Manage by projects
If you asked Billy McFarland, the organizer of Fyre Festival, what went wrong, there’s a good chance he’d deny that anything went wrong.
But for those in attendance, it was a calamity from start to finish. At every stage, tasks like booking a venue, organizing accommodation, and even coordinating a bottled water delivery, fell by the wayside.
Martina Huemann is academic director of the Professional MBA in Project Management at WU Executive Academy. Effective project management, she says, is key to a company’s success.
To do so, she says tasks and goals need to be broken down and separated into processes—things that are repetitive—and projects which need closer attention.
In this sense, project management is perhaps better thought of as management by projects.
“This approach allows you to change your modus operandi, to create new products, and to create change within different projects. It is a completely different way of working in comparison to operating routine processes,” Martina explains.
At WU Executive Academy, the professional MBA in project management teaches students how to identify certain tasks as projects, in order to perfect their function and outcome.
Students undertake a practical, hands-on approach, where they can apply theories behind project management to the training projects which they bring to their group work.
One group, for example, played project manager for a retail bank’s electronic payment service. Over several months, the group had to launch the project from scratch, encountering and taking on real life challenges.
2. Think about your stakeholders
Stakeholder management—balancing the needs of all parties involved—is the bread and butter of any project.
From the disgruntled Fyre ticketholders, to the unpaid Bahamanian locals, catastrophe awaits those who don’t pay attention to their key stakeholders.
“The project manager needs to be able to talk and engage with the stakeholders, to find out and balance their interests,” Martina details.
The way that project managers are able to do this is advancing quickly through the use of technology, which is changing not only the efficiency at which managers can work, but also how stakeholders can view and judge progress.
State-of-the-art software solutions, like ProofHub or Scoro, are all tools up the sleeve of the modern project manager, running real time analysis, and easily variable data, into projects.
“Nowadays, those involved in a project can bring themselves up to speed on it at any time with the click of a mouse button,” Martina adds.
3. Be a leader
At the center of successful project management is leadership. Fyre Festival fell apart through a lack of leadership, or at least a lack of responsible leadership.
“The worst tendency I see is when a project manager sees the project only as a task, and sees themselves only as a coordinator,” Martina stresses. “In important projects, PMs need not only to manage but to lead.”
As with a traditional MBA program, the professional MBA at WU emphasizes leadership as the most important skill for any business professional or project manager.
Leadership comes through the core program which all MBA students must take in the first year of their program, while also coming into the group training projects which students must complete over the specialization year.
What does a well-managed project look like?
“Successful project completion depends more and more on how skilfully project managers deal with conflicts and divergent interests,” Martina underlines.
“It depends on whether they are capable of consistently pursuing their goals; even in the face of strong headwinds."