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How Would Secret Agent Jack Bauer Manage a Project?
By Chris LeCompte

Note: This article is about Project Management for Web Designers.

Jack Bauer is a man who knows no boundaries. He’ll do whatever it takes to achieve an objective, from disobeying the higher-ups to working past internal conflicts, and although he’s merely a fictional character, there are some lessons we can learn from Agent Bauer’s unique approach to problem-solving.

So if Jack Bauer was finally able to settle down without being dragged into another day-long chaotic adventure, and if he got a job at a web design agency, what would be some of the guiding principles he’d use to execute his first project?

Know when to question upper management

Sometimes management or some other superior or partner will give you an assignment that just doesn’t make sense. Instead of nodding your head in false acknowledgment of understanding, seek more information. Figure out the goals of the assignment and then offer recommendations if you see holes in the plan.

Go for the kill shot

Clients tend to poke sticks in the gears of our creative processes. However, their critiques are often useful and the web project can be improved from their input. But in those instances were the client’s feedback will hamper the project, gently warn them of the damage it will do. If they don’t listen, go for the kill and invoke your creative expertise to quell any doubts the client may have.

Move on after a defeat

Web design is a nerve-wracking business. You could spend hours on a design, attach it to an email, and then click send, not knowing what the next few hours will bring. The client could like your work or they could hate it. It never gets easy, and unfortunately, criticism is part of the game – even harsh criticism. If you do get unsavory feedback, spend a couple of minutes having a pity party if you must, and then get up, evaluate the feedback, learn, and apply.

Stand by your principles

Through the course of designing and creating sites, you’ve undoubtedly developed a core set of principles that you apply project after project. These principles enable you to stay true to the vision of the project, and they may include design conventions, project management methodologies, and relationship tactics. You should never compromise these principles or else you risk sacrificing the quality of your work. Of course you can and should evaluate your principles from time to time, but real principles rarely change.

Become a resource

In all of your projects, you should strive to maintain a reputation of getting things done. Clients will remember you for it – and they’ll reward you with repeat business and referrals. You’ll become a resource – a valuable one at that – and when there’s a critical assignment, you’ll be the first one called.

Never give up

You may have a fair bit of mud slung toward you during the web design process. Clients, vendors, bosses, and co-workers all like to throw it at times. And when you’re dripping from head to toe in the grime of criticism and negative feedback, it seems like the easiest way out is to quit the project. That’s why you can’t quit. Nothing is easy, especially quitting. You have to dust yourself off, grit your teeth, and keep pushing on. In most cases there is light at the end of the sometimes very dark tunnel.

Always have the right tools

You’ve probably noticed Jack Bauer tends to haul around a worn satchel, even during the most dangerous missions. Although it’s not really known what’s in this bag, you can surmise that Jack is carrying only the most essential tools to get the job done. Pick your tools with the same precision and discrimination. You should have a trusted toolset with you at all times while working that you can quickly turn to. These tools will become assets that the project wouldn’t be successful without.

Think creatively

Web design is obviously a creative line of work. You’re paid to think creatively. But sometimes you need to think beyond the norms of the creativity you’re used to. A problem might not have a good solution, and it may require that you seek out untapped sources of innovation. Always exercise your mind to search for many answers instead of just one.

So okay — maybe Jack Bauer is a bit of an exaggeration when it comes to describing web design and project management. But if you remove the Bauer element, these principles still stand on their own, and they’re principles worth defending.

Chris LeCompte is a web designer and Project Manager based out of Northern Virginia working at his own company. Chris runs his own blog: http://www.clecompte.com/.

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