The Paper Plane to

Posted by Charlotte Whitman

Working as a project manager in a digital agency is a privileged position; it’s given me the opportunity to work across a multitude of creative projects to deliver fascinating work and be part of a close knit team to achieve these goals. However, one of the main challenges that project managers’ face is ensuring that project teams are communicating at an understandable and constructive level.

Our team recently played a unique exercise, which demonstrates how a lack of communication and individual perception can affect the outcome of a project; and why it’s important that everyone in the whole team is always on the same page. It’s called the ‘Paper Folding Game’ and here’s how you play:

Everyone in the studio’s given a rectangular piece of paper, asked to close their eyes and follow these simple instructions:

  1. ‘Fold the left corner in a bit’
  2. ‘Fold the paper in half’
  3. ‘Rip a small circle out of the middle’
  4. ‘Fold the right corner inwards’

While this seems simple at first, the result for each person varied due to several points:

  • Each person may start holding the piece of paper in a different way, so from the start they were working from a different foundation.
  • Some of the instructions are open to interpretation; how each person considers ‘a bit’ or ‘small’ will vary and affect the outcome.
  • Making everyone close their eyes not only means that they can’t see what others are doing, but also takes away validation from team members around them, therefore making sometimes bolder or more tentative choices.

Despite the fact that the team was determined to find a winner from this game, the lesson shows how we all interpret instructions differently and how this can drastically change the outcome of a business project.

It also highlights some of the pitfalls to avoid when managing a client project:

  • Varied understanding of objectives and goals: different teams, stakeholders and resources will work to achieve different outcomes.
  • Missed actions: responsibilities, risks and issues will cause scope creep, project slip and misaligned expectations.
  • Runaway work: if an error occurs at the early stages of the project, the work can run in the wrong direction and can be built on the wrong foundations.
  • Miss-communication: the communication of incorrect information or the misinterpretation of information.
  • Poor communication protocol: communication at the wrong time or wrong stage of the product.

If you can encourage your team to communicate with each other then there will be more ways to avoid these project management pitfalls. Opening the gates of communication in an open, but structured way, gives clients and internal teams confidence in each other, which results in the production of great work.

To find out more about how Hi Mum! Said Dad can help your business feel free to drop us a line, or head over to our Case Studies page to see some of the great work we’ve done!

Originally published at