Project-based work comes naturally to me, courtesy of my PhD training. Breaking the work down into manageable hunks, chunks and bites, and fitting them on a timeline is only one part of the job, of course: as an experienced instructor and conference participant, I know that projects with a research component and/or involving humans (that is: all projects) have a life of their own and you need to adjust timelines, budgets, or expectations and goals, depending on the situation. I work out a nimble, responsive design of the original project with buffer zones ("pockets"), and keep an overview of the many moving components.

One project that required many ad hoc adjustments to complete was the textbook China's Magical Creatures. For the soon-to-be-released third edition, we worked with 7 teams of students, each responsible for one specific but interdependent component of the revised edition, and 19 different complex lives were entangled in our 15-week semester. Clarity of communication about the project's goals was key to maintaining the students' motivation. Another aspect was building trust between the student teams, and between the students and me as the project leader/editor/instructor. I created a positive atmosphere for students to share their ideas and participate in the co-creation of this project, by keeping a close eye on the relationship between remaining time and the amount of work still required, and where necessary suggesting a less ambitious but more realistic approach. Finally, I created many opportunities to check in with teams and spot bottlenecks and help solve problems, to keep momentum. As project leader and final editor, I took responsibility for the published version.

This exemplifies my approach to project management:

  • ambitious but realistic
  • nimble, agile, adaptable
  • clear communication
  • trust within the team and between teams on the same project
  • clear responsibilities and roles

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