As concepts, project management and workflow are similar and related concepts, but they’re not interchangeable. They’re not the same thing.
When I discuss workflow, I’m discussing the order or tasks required to reach a goal such as recording a song. Usually a workflow is short and general enough that it can be applied over and over again. For example, a workflow for a recording song might be used ten or twelve times for an album. It’s often a repeatable series of steps that has worked in the past and is likely to work in the future.
Workflow is extremely useful because it provides a degree of measurability and predictability to the production process. It allows you to determine how long it’ll take to complete a piece of work. It will help you schedule the work so that you have a high degree of confidence that it’ll be complete within the expected timeframe.
Project management, on the other hand, is about taking care of the bigger picture. I see it as two sets of activities:
- Planning and coordinating. This includes balancing cost and time requirements for different components of the project, recruiting and coordinating people, negotiating arrangements with partner businesses and tracking progress against the plan. Planning and coordinating needs to be done in full knowledge of the time and resource constraints of the project. This is the easy part.
- Responding to changes. All projects have hiccups. Humans are beautiful and messy and often unpredictable. Responding to changes can include activities that are primarily ‘mechanical’ – such as rebalancing resources, readjusting schedules and even changing the scope and outcomes of the project. It’s important to understand, however, that responding to changes often requires a human component too. Your artists and collaborators and partners are human beings and have feelings and desires and fears and you need to be mindful of this at all times. When plans change, people can feel hurt or disappointed. They might feel responsible (whether real or imagined). They probably have a different impression of you than you do of yourself – and the less you communicate the greater that difference will be.