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Rethinking to adapt to a shortened timeline

Client’s Challenge

Projects that come back year after year are great for the client and great for us because of the trust and comfort that grow in the relationship over time. But this year, one annual project took an unexpected turn.

For 18 years, Hollister has produced education materials that are the centerpiece of the Ford Freedom Award Program sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund in collaboration with Detroit Newspapers, the Michigan K.I.D.S. education nonprofit and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

The project includes a 16-page student learning guide on an African-American history theme, a companion teacher guide and a classroom poster. The materials are printed and distributed to schools in April, just ahead of the Ford Freedom Awards Gala, which honors African Americans from the past and present each May.

That was again the plan for this year’s project, which focused on “Men of Courage: Advancing the Narrative of African-American Men.” We started planning in November for the usual April delivery. Then in January, the client asked for the student learning guide to be delivered in February, for Black History Month.

Our Solution

In January, the client was still adding and removing names from the list of exemplary people to be profiled in the guide. So we were still researching and writing new content. We had not begun the text approval process or the design work. There just wasn’t enough time to complete the full 16-page piece, get it printed and distribute it to classrooms in February. We had to rethink what we were doing.

Responding to this unexpected turn, we crafted a plan that leveraged Detroit Newspapers’ ability to deliver digital materials online. We proposed releasing an 8-page ebook of the learning guide early in Black History Month, using only the profiles already completed. We would follow that up with an expanded 12-page ebook in late February and the full 16-page print version in mid-March.

The client was delighted that we found a way to achieve the dual purpose of getting teachers fresh materials for Black History Month and advancing the Ford Freedom Gala.

Client Comment

The Hollister team is unflappable. Our project put Hollister through its paces and they met the challenge and aced it. The digital solution was a huge hit with teachers in February, allowing them to use our product in a timely way, and staggering the production gave us the time we needed to complete it. Hollister even completed a last-minute interview and profile with less than a week to go and it turned out wonderfully. We’re grateful for their partnership on this annual project and wouldn’t dream of working with anyone else.
– Debora Scola, Community Engagement Director, Detroit Newspapers in Education and Michigan K.I.D.S.

Three Quick Tips

If you are suddenly challenged to deliver a project way ahead of schedule, here are three tips that may help you stay sane and effective:

  1. Think positive. If you react with “This is unreasonable” or “This can’t be done,” you are unlikely to find a solution. If you start from the mindset of “How can we do this,” you can assess the situation strategically: What has been completed, what is within reach, what will need more time?
  2. Focus on the real goal. Despite appearances, the goal is not to torture you. The client wants to achieve something new. When you focus on the goal, you open your mind to different ways you might be able to achieve it. What tools or approaches are available that you hadn’t planned to use – or hadn’t used this way before? Brainstorm with colleagues. Solutions may be closer than you think.
  3. Propose what is possible. Doing something is not only better than doing nothing, it is often enough to achieve the goal and satisfy the client. Assuming that everything in the original scope of work can’t be done in the shortened timeframe, make concrete suggestions for what can be done and how. Don’t be afraid to propose a partial or staggered schedule of deliverables.