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The Virginia Festival of the Book Case Study

A real-life example on how project planning and management was used in this annual festival. Watch Professor Yael Grushka-Cockayne explain more.
The Virginia festival of The Book celebrates books, writing, and literacy. Each year the festival welcomes over 20,000 attendees to Charlottesville Virginia. In the next video, you’re going to hear from Jane Colo, the festival’s director. She will tell us how she used project planning and management to plan and manage the programs. The program participants, the venues, and the attendees involved in this year’s festival.
Our project is the Virginia Festival of the Book. We’re celebrating our 21st annual festival in March 2015. We are bringing more than 400 authors to town. We’ll present more than 200 events over five days in March. The project, the festival typically takes somewhere around ten and a half to eleven months. I came on board as the new program director nine months before takeoff. Determining the scope that our project involves, writing down each and every task and looking at what it’s connected to. Either at the beginning or what it’s connecting to at the end is eye opening.
And it was not only eye opening for the staff, but it was really great for our administration and for our board to see. This is a huge project, and it has hundreds if not thousands of tasks involved. The thing that they learned the most from was the critical path. These are the elements that must be done in a timely fashion for us to hit our mark. And with a project like the festival we know it is going to happen on March 18th, 2015. We have a number of known milestones with the festival. We have the date by which authors need to submit, if they want to present.
We have the date by which we need to get back to them to say yes, we’d love to have you or we’re sorry, it won’t work this year. We have other dates like that all through our project. And knowing that those are important is one thing, but when you look at the critical path, you see the trickle-down effect of what happens when you miss a deadline. The festival needed to get those decisions out in October, as soon as we could. But sometimes things slip, and then we find that in December, that’s really having a horrible effect on our planning, because we haven’t put ourselves in the best position. We were a week late in getting our schedule published.
And we we’re still able to get our mailings out to our author’s and do everything we needed to do. But we gave one of our staff members, three days to get that done, instead of the 10 days that we’d actually allowed. So, we’re all professionals. We’ll all do what we need to do in order to get the job done. But I know going into this for next year, just what sort of effect it has, if I mess with that critical path. With a project like the festival, it’s really not done until it begins.
So, even though we say, we’ll make our decisions by such and such a date and we can’t accept any more authors after such and such a date. And we publish our schedule, we never know, there may be an author that is a incredible gift to the festival that just drops into our lap. We’ve learned so much this year about what can happen when we have roughly six months of slowish time, and then six months of crazy time. So, we’ll do everything we can to front load tasks from the crazy time to the slow time, just to make our lives better.
We really do focus on continual improvement and we’ll take a look at the plan and say, those things that require only maybe the date of next year’s festival, that don’t require specific details about programs, specific details about authors, anything that just promotes the festival dates. What can we do to push that promotion schedule into the summer? We learned from project management. It sounds very simple, but that correlation between scope and time and budget and how they interrelate with such a great concept for us to hold on to. [SOUND]
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Fundamentals of Project Planning and Management

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