We all work with repeated patterns across our projects, clients, and communications.
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Issue #10

Patterns in Project Management

The book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell begins with an anecdote that demonstrates the power of our "backstage processes"—our intuition. It talks about a rare, ancient Greek statue purchased by a museum, having had 14 months of authenticity testing done before the purchase went through and the statue was put on display. After all of that, an art historian visited the status and immediately dismissed it as fake (and several more historians followed suit). In the end, more tests were done and it was found that it was, indeed, a (well-crafted) fake—it had fooled all initial tests but not experts' knee-jerk reactions.

This idea of intuitive, backstage judgement totally applies to what we do in project management—whether that's identifying red flags on a project, having a feeling about the right communication style with a client, or knowing exactly when something is an "oh shit!" moment or "ah-ha!" moment. We deal with similar patterns of problems and successes in every project. Regardless of how unique a project might be, we still utilize patterns from past project situations to aid our decision-making.

Project Management Patterns

Working freelance exposes me to tons of different companies, processes, and people—with the main emphasis being on people. People drive the companies, projects, communications, and clients we work with—and people, as a whole, can react in similar patterns when presented with the typical digital projects we work in. Because of this, I've found in my experience that most companies and projects all have the same patterns of communication, pitfalls, red flags, and successes regardless of the industry or project deliverable being worked on. This creates a set of mental patterns I can start to recognize across projects and pull from when I need to make decisions.

I think we all know that most projects come up against the same issues and it’s just the context of the project that changes. We tend to use this knowledge in our daily process anyway, recognizing patterns between projects we're currently working on and projects we've worked on in the past. Applying this historical knowledge across different situations really gives us the opportunity to fine-tune our project management approaches and understanding and continually build more recognizable project patterns for ourselves.


Anti-patterns are a commonly occurring solution to a problem that creates notably negative consequences. A well-known version of anti-patterns in web is the UX idea of dark patterns—tricks used in websites and apps that make you buy or sign up for things against your knowledge. Project management anti-patterns are fascinating to read about, plentiful, and completely relatable. I had not heard of these until recently but I can say that anti-patterns like death march projects and analysis paralysis are relieving to put a name to.

Other Links
  • This tweet reminding us that superachievers and calm, relaxed people are not mutually exclusive is great to read through.
  • Bench created an employee mental health guide and it's actually pretty awesome—and publicly available.  
  • These remote work culture points could apply to any office situation.

Cheers to the weekend! 🎉
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Copyright © 2017 Natalie Semczuk, All rights reserved.

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