Project management for hackers

Hack the Festival is Australia’s first art hack. Part of Perth Festival, this exciting event invites teams of artists, coders and entrepreneurs to create a digitally interactive art work, within an incredibly tight timeframe. Being a mentor at Hack the Festival is fun, since all the project are so diverse. But amongst this diversity some common questions are emerging. One is around how to use this one precious week most effectively.

When you’re working at a fast pace and to tight deadlines it can be tempting to just get on with things and hope for the best.  But adding in some basic project management can help you get your project delivered on time and as stress free as possible. Here are five tips for applying project management to creative hack projects:

1. Manage expectations
Have a quick check in with your team members why they are joining your project.  How much time are they willing to give, and what do they need to work at their best? What skills are they hoping to contribute? One team at Art Hack even discussed what they would do if they won the cash price of $5k. “Better to get that all out upfront and then get on with the work,” said their team leader.

2. Take regular breaks
A short walk outside will shift your attention from the nitty detail and give you more energy for the rest of your project. It is also a chance to check that you’re on track and that everyone in your team is happy.  Mentor and creative industries lawyer Michael Tucak notes that it is often when we most need a break that we are least aware that we need it, so practice checking in with yourself.

3. Set milestones
As far as hack events go, Hack the Festival is unique. In addition to the intensive one day event, teams have an additional week to fine tune their project. Before the end of your first day (and before brains get too tired) plan the rest of the week. Ask your team what they can realistically commit to and set deadlines. Write them down and then check in with them throughout the week.

4. Think outcome
You may think your project is about building the very first interactive, holographic digital wonder-widget. But the outcome is more likely to be a sense of wonderment and appreciation for modern collaborative art. Or, perhaps you want to initiate an action that improves the environment in your local community.  When you’re head down bum up working on the technology, remember to come up for air occasionally to check that you are still connected with the heart of what your project is about. This is what will draw an audience to you, and ultimately allow more people to experience what you have to offer.

5. Let go of perfection
Geoffrey Drake-Brockman, well-known artist and another mentor for Hack the Festival, reminds teams that if you aim for perfection you’ll never complete on time. He recommends aiming for “the minimum appreciable artwork” that will let the judges know your intention and prove that you can do what you say you will do.  

Project management is about managing time, budget and resources.  You don’t need a complex Gantt chart to get organised, just a couple of well-placed conversation and some notes to help you and your team stay on track.

Published by rachaelwest

Strategic Speaker Coach | Founder | Engineer

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