organization

Organization: Tools for Teams

How to Collaborate: Try MoSCoW or the RACI matrix.

I like learning productivity strategies. I don’t mind if they’re borrowed from business. Some artists are allergic to productivity. It reminds them of work.

There’s a time to be creative—to experiment, play, brainstorm. Then, after you’ve chosen a direction, there’s a time to make tangible progress towards the shared goal.

I love clear communication around goals, roles, tasks, and timelines. I think this helps people have appropriate expectations and minimize the unpleasant surprises that lead to bad feelings. Here are some strategies I’ve learned.


MoSCoW

Simply put, this just means prioritizing aspects of your project by:

  • Must have
  • Should have
  • Could have
  • Won’t have (this time)

Which parts are the heart of your project, that you must do?
Which parts are non-critical but important, that you should do?
Which parts are optional, that you could do?
Which parts can you let go of now?

In collaborations, MoSCOW could identify shared priorities so you can shed lower-priority tasks. For example, sometimes I’m afraid to ask a partner about eliminating one of their contributions, because I don’t want them to take it personally. But asking them to rate it on the MoSCow scale gives more nuance than choosing between doing or not doing it.

MoSCow could also help you manage your time on your own projects. If you have limited time, start with your must-do’s, then do your should-do’s. Don’t worry about could-do’s unless there’s time leftover.

This could help people avoid procrastinating on more difficult must-do items.

 


RACI Chart

In 2015, I did a survey project at Harvester Arts about creative collaborations. Many respondents expressed frustration around lack of clear roles and responsibilities.

Spread from Co-laboration zine about the most successful or most challenging creative collaborations you've participated in, and what made them that way, and why,

Spread from my 2015 CO-LABORATION zine. Download it at http://christinewongyap.com/work/2015/allthesteps.html.

I’ve also recently reflected on how, when criticism feels arbitrary—chaotic in its target or timing—it’s frustrating. Does everyone need to be consulted about every task? Can collaborators (including myself) be informed of something, withholding criticism for other areas?

M told me to look this matrix up. It’s typically presented in a different format, but for  newbs like me this version seems easiest to digest:

For each task in a project, the RACI Matrix ensures you assign individuals who:

  • are Responsible
  • are Accountable
  • need to be Consulted
  • need to be Informed

I haven’t used it yet, but the RACI Chart looks like a great tool for larger teams with hierarchies.

For example, if you’re making a publication, different people are contributing art, photographs, or text. Who’s copyediting? Art directing? Designing? Is there an organizational partner that wants to have input? At what stage do you involve them? Too early and you don’t have anything to show them. Too late and you’ll risk wasting time and having to ask people to re-do things they thought were approved.

For collaborating artists or non-hierarchical collectives, it can be hard to differentiate who should be consulted and who should be informed. For example, I once tried making decisions with 10+ collective members. Everyone consulted on everything. Individuals largely held themselves responsible or accountable. Only people who felt confident taking on complicated tasks did. It might have helped if there were smaller work-groups, where non-work-group members were informed, not consulted.

Another nice thing about RACI is it makes transparent who’s doing what. This could help make the distributions of labor and criticism more equal.


How Long to Spend on this? Is it a 1 or a 10?

BB, a chief preparator (basically a foreman {fore-person?} for art handlers), once explained a neat communication method for conveying how long to spend on a task.

Explain the level of finish of a task on a scale of 1–10.

10 means, “Take your time, and do the best possible job.”

1 means, “Just get it done, don’t sweat the details.”

In an ideal world, everyone does their tasks to a 10. But if you’re short on time, this helps you quickly express which tasks are worth a higher level of finish.

For example, if you’re patching a seam that falls under the artwork, where visitors will be looking closely, you would want a 10. Or, before someone puts three coats of paint on the underside of a shelf no one’s going to see, sanding in between coats, you could explain that it’s a 2.

 

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organization

Organization: Nerd Game Strong

How I organize my projects is itself a constant project-in-progress.

Sometimes I surprise myself with the levels of nerdiness I reach.

Since I wrote my one-year goals two weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about organization, especially:

  • Useful past strategies.
    • Like hand-drawn tables of studio production phases in my sketchbook.
  • Strategies for collaborations.
    • Should I try Asana, Trello, or Google Sheets for collaborative task management? I experimented and I still don’t know. (Sometimes apps are too much, with the upgrades, gamifying, notifications.)
  • The simplest way to decide what to do next.
    • My one-year goals and weekly checklists are in Evernote, but every few days I hand-write a simplified checklist on a scratchpad. It’s great. Better than an app.
    • I try to use the urgent/important matrix, and the bias for the urgent but not important rings true for me: “Why Your Brain Tricks You Into Doing Less Important Tasks” by Tim Herrera (NY Times, July 9, 2018).
  • How to maximize your focus.
    • If you can, reserve your most productive hours in the day for your creativity- and focus-intensive art tasks (thanks Creative Capital and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi).
    • I’m still struggling with how to minimize distractions (and how not to get slot-machine-addiction on mobile devices).
    • I’m also trying to get better at resetting when my focus nosedives.
  • How to strategize longterm, ambitious projects with lots of contingencies.

I’ll share photos and screen shots of these periodically, in a new blog category, Organization.

 


 

Today’s Organization Moment: A Custom 13-month Calendar

weekly-cal

Sometimes you just need a 13-month calendar that shows the months flowing into each other.

Doing graphic design is sometimes a curse, because it makes me more intolerant about how information is presented. Calendars that break months into discrete chunks don’t make any sense to me. Time doesn’t work that way.

For project management, I like to think in terms of weeks. For example, it helps me to plan if I know an exhibition opens in 10 weeks, but I’ll be traveling three weeks, leaving seven weeks to production. So I prefer to see months as a continuous flow.

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Art Competition Odds

Eleven Months in Art Competitions, 2017-2018

Stats on my art competition applications from August 2017 through June 2018.*

In the past, I have set a goal of applying to 18 competitions. Eleven months ago, I decided to set more quantifiable and focused goals, specifying how many art competitions I’d apply to across different categories. My goals this past ‘goal-year’ included applying to:

  1. Six residency or studio programs in NYC
  2. Three public art open calls/registries
  3. Six exhibitions in NYC
  4. Three grants ($3k minimum)

…for a total of 18 competitions.

I also wrote in a lower-priority option of applying to residencies elsewhere. I decided not to specifically pursue:

  • fellowships
  • professional development programs

In the past twelve months, I actually applied to:

  1. Two residencies + two studio programs 4/6
  2. Three public art open calls/registries = 3/3
  3. Four exhibitions + (one fellowship + one professional development program due to the solo show opportunities involved) = 6/6
  4. One grant = 1/3

I also applied to two residencies outside of NYC, bringing the total up to 16 out of 18 applications.

Applications submitted:
RRRR   SS   PPP   EEEE    F   D   G

Awards received (highlighted in color):
RRRR   S?   PP?   EEEE   F   D   G

I was a finalist, but not recipient, of one residency. One exhibition application is leading towards inclusion in a show. One public art registry has not responded, as is the nature of these things. One studio program is delaying their program and subsequent announcement of recipients.

Of the 16 total entries, my overall success rate was 1/16, or 6%. Of the 14 entries that have responded to date, my success rate was 1/14, or 7%.*

I paid $45 for two application fees ($10 and $35 respectively). The other 14 applications were free.

000$   00   000   0$00   0   0   0

See my stats from 2015-2016, 2014, and 2013.


*I can do what I want. 🙂 It was just a good time for me to revisit my goals today. I’m excited and energized to start fresh right now. Some resources that were helpful for me to review:

**These odds align with a 1:15 rule of thumb I learned in a Creative Capital professional development workshop. I’m pleasantly surprised, since I believe that focusing on NYC competitions means worse odds due to larger applicant pools. As I found in 2011, “seven of the nine New York programs ranked among the top 11 most competitive” in an analysis of 26 competitions on Temporary Art Review.

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Art Competition Odds

Twelve Months in Art Competitions, 2016-2017

Stats on my art competition applications from the ‘goal-year’ before last: August 2016 through July 2017.*

At the end of July in 2016, I set a goal of applying to 18 competitions. In a modest effort to be strategic, I decided to focus on:

  1. Three “major” grants
  2. Solo exhibition opportunities
  3. Fellowships or residencies in places I wanted to travel to
  4. Supportive studio programs with funding

I actually applied to:

  1. Two grants = 2/3
  2. One exhibition open call = 1/?
  3. Two fellowships and six residencies  = 8/?
  4. One studio programs = 1/?

For a total of 12 applications out of the goal of 18.

Applications submitted:
GG   E   FF    RRRRRR   S   

Awards received (highlighted in color):
GG   E   FF   RRRRRR   S

I was awarded two residencies.

Of the 12 entries, my overall success rate was 2/12, or 16%.

I paid $50 for two application fees ($15 and $35 respectively). The other 10 applications were free.

$0   0   $0   000000   0

See my stats from 2015-2016, 2014, and 2013.


*Better late than never. 😉

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Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: NYSCA/NYFA’s 2018 Fellowship Program

The New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA)/New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) 2018 Fellowship program received 3,071 applications for 89 grants.

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Selected artists comprise about 1:34.5, or 2.8% of applicants.

These odds are over 1% better than in 2017.

See the 2014 NYFA Odds.

See all Art Competition Odds.

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Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: Elimination Tournaments

What would happen if you visualize an art competition as a tournament?

Though the tournament model differs from how artists’ submissions are usually juried, it seemed worth experimenting with it for understanding art competition odds.

In Unsolicited Artists’ Advice: Updated Tips from a Juror, I shared this data visualization:

The distribution of points, on a scale from 0 to 17 possible points, of 116 applications. The organization requested that I submit my top five picks.

The distribution of points, on a scale from 0 to 17 possible points, of 116 applications.

In this open call, only the top five of 116 submissions were awarded residencies. The points distribution reveals how even submissions that received pretty good scores of 12 or 13 still fell short. It also shows how receiving an average score of 9 or 10 is not even close to being competitive.

Here’s a visualization of a single-elimination tournament with 116 competitors. Every competitor has a chance to become the champion. But the champ will be the only one who wins seven increasingly competitive, head-to-head matches.

116 tournament2

A model of single-elimination tournament bracket with 116 competitors. The highlighted area is shown in detail below. // Source: Challonge.com

116 tournament detail

Detail. Note the two stacked grey bars represent two competitors in a match. The match at the right is a quarter-final. 

If this tournament represented the residency call cited above, in order to rank in the top five and receive a residency, a competitor must:

  • beat four increasingly tough opponents,
  • get to the fifth elimination round—the quarter-finals,
  • advance to the semifinals or have the best score among four losing quarter-finalists.

If you think about these two models together, you can imagine that about half of the applicants—including those who received 10 points and under—never made it out of the first elimination round:

chart2

Speculative visualization of competitors eliminated in first round.

Then, all but the top five competitors were eliminated in the second, third, or fourth elimination rounds:

chart3

Speculative visualization of competitors eliminated in later rounds.

So to visualize it another way, the top five competitors’ advancements through the tournament might look something like this:

116 tournament2

Speculative tournament showing the top five competitors’ journeys through the brackets. All grey boxes represent eliminated competitors.

Artists’ submissions are practically never judged head-to-head as in an elimination tournament. But perhaps this model is useful as another way for seeing how competitive an applicant must be in order to see rewards.

What makes athletic tournaments so scary is the live performance—fear of failure, embarrassment, and disappointment. At the same time, even losing athletes gain experience that can’t be replicated. Eliminated artists, on the other hand, are cut out of that part of the process. Spared the anxiety of performance, we lose opportunities for evaluation. Artists scoring 3 or 13 points may receive the same rejection letter and generic encouragement to re-apply next year. When a staffer informs the applicant they were a finalist, or shares even a tiny amount of feedback, it is meaningful.

What can artists do? Espouse deliberate practice. Ask for feedback. If you can’t get feedback from juries, ask trusted colleagues to review your application. Make the most of professional development courses.

What can jurors do? Note remarkable artists. Ask for studio visits. Keep them in mind for exhibitions. Invite them to stay in touch.

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Art & Development

art competition odds: CUE Art Foundation’s 2018 Open Call for Solo Exhibitions

CUE Art Foundation received over 500 applications for its 2018 Open Call for Solo Exhibitions. Only two artists were awarded solo exhibitions.

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or 1:250, or 0.04%

The call has gotten more than twice as competitive since the program was inaugurated in 2011. That year, they received 120 applications and awarded one applicant, or odds of 1:120, or 0.8%.

See all Art Competition Odds.

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