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Is Your Agency Facing Chaotic Project Management? How to Finally Fix It

Jakub "Kuba" Grajcar is the Content Marketing Manager at ZenPilot. His obsessions include interviewing smart people; productivity methods; project management; and playing bass in a progressive metal band.

If you run a marketing or creative agency, you’re probably all too familiar with chaotic project management.

Missed deadlines, frustrated clients, tasks falling through the cracks, no visibility into workloads or profitability...sound familiar?

It’s an all-too-common problem at agencies. But it doesn’t have to stay that way!

I recently went live with Jeff Cypher, ZenPilot’s Productivity Professor, to chat about taming the chaos through better agency project management.

Jeff brought great tips for agency owners ready to implement an effective PM system.

How Do You Know if Your Agency Has Chaotic Project Management?

During our chat, Jeff painted a clear picture of what chaotic project management looks like day-to-day:

“A lot of times people don't have any set clear structure with spaces, folders, lists or tasks. It leads to complete chaos because if you don't have that structure, people don't know where to put a task.”

No structure means no visibility. And when tasks get dumped randomly into your PM system, that’s a recipe for chaos.

Jeff also warned about:

“Not having standardization when it comes to things like statuses or custom fields. I've seen workspaces with a hundred different statuses because they're different everywhere.”

Inconsistent statuses make reporting useless. Without standards, your data loses meaning.

“People start relying on statuses to show task progress instead of breaking things into subtasks. That's how things slip through the cracks.”

Don’t rely on statuses alone. You need a detailed task structure.

And one of the biggest red flags according to Jeff:

“Having multiple assignees on a task leads to failure. Each person gets nervous about who's really accountable. Things slip through the cracks.”

Read: Biggest Mistakes Agencies Make in ClickUp (And How to Avoid Them)

I’ve been there before. Never fun!

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What Causes the Chaos in the First Place?

When asked what’s behind chaotic PM, Jeff emphasized it often starts with lack of strategy:

"People think technology will solve all their problems. That's not the case. You need a strategy before any PM tool."

He’s so right. I’ve been guilty of jumping into tools without mapping things out. Bad idea!

Jeff also warned against common mistakes like:

“Thinking your workload view will magically populate. But if you don't have time estimates and due dates, it'll be blank!”

You have to put in real thought to get value out of your PM setup. No shortcuts.

Ultimately, chaotic PM stems from lack of:

  • Structure
  • Standards
  • Detailed tasks
  • Accountability
  • Processes
  • Strategy

But with the right approach to agency project management, you can correct course and steer clear of chaos.

How Do You Design a PM System That Avoids Chaos?

Luckily Jeff provided a crystal clear blueprint for designing a solid PM system:

1. Set your goals.

Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve in terms of productivity, profitability, client satisfaction, etc. Have specific benchmarks to know if you’re successful.

2. Map out the structure.

Jeff advised:

"Build out a technical blueprint of custom fields, views, statuses. Do this before diving into your PM platform."

You need the big picture first!

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3. Focus on your team.

Jeff emphasized:

"Always be thinking of your team. Train them consistently and keep open communication channels."

A team-focused approach is critical for driving adoption. Make sure your team sees the benefit!

Read: The 6 Most Important Steps to Effective Agency Change Management

4. Standardize everything.

Consistency is key according to Jeff:

"You need standardization for tasks, workflows, statuses, custom fields. It gives structure and meaning to your data."

Standards are the glue that holds your PM system together.


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5. Centralize communication.

Jeff warned about scattered communication:

"You need a central source of truth so communication and task progress isn't all over the place."

Consolidate client communication to keep context in one place.

Read: How Agencies Need to Communicate Inside of ClickUp to Deliver Stellar Client Results

6. Build detailed tasks.

Jeff advised avoiding chaotic statuses:

"Break projects into subtasks instead of relying on statuses alone."

Detailed tasks provide clarity on progress.

7. Assign single owners.

Jeff pointed out the risk of multiple assignees:

"It causes confusion on who's accountable. Things will slip through the cracks."

One assignee per task prevents diffusion of responsibility.

8. Develop processes.

Per Jeff:

"You can't expect the tool alone to solve problems. You need processes and standardization."

Documented processes enable smooth workflows.

Read: How to Document Agency Processes

9. Keep improving.

Jeff noted:

"No process stays the same. Continuously optimize and add details like videos and checklists."

Regularly iterate to maximize efficiency over time.

Why Work with a Consultant to Implement PM?

Jeff made a strong case for working with consultants like ZenPilot:

"It's helpful to work with agency operation consultants and/or ClickUp consultants doing this day in and day out. You need that experience and expertise."

When I first adopted project management tools at my previous company, we definitely could have benefited from an expert perspective!

Jeff emphasized that project management is:

"Something you can't afford to fail on. Consultants increase your chances of success."

After multiple failed attempts, your team loses faith. Consultants prevent that scenario.

They also provide:

  • Process templates to use immediately
  • ClickUp expertise you’d spend months developing internally
  • An objective outside perspective
  • Best practices honed over years of experience

Personally, I see huge value in leveraging that expertise rather than reinventing the wheel.

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What Does the Future Look Like with Effective PM?

Once you implement an effective PM system, what changes?

According to Jeff, the benefits are massive:

"With everything documented, you can hire less experienced people and train them up."

Detailed documentation lets you scale your team.

Jeff also revealed:

"Owners can finally take time off! The team can handle things because everything is documented."

Putting systems in place grants you freedom.

He also advised:

"Build your PM system to scale from the start. That allows your agency to grow."

A scalable system supports long-term business growth.

Ultimately, effective project management leads to:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Happier clients
  • Smoother workflows
  • Better work/life balance
  • Ability to scale your business
  • Improved profitability
  • Less stress!

That future is possible. With the right roadmap, you can get your agency there and finally fix chaotic project management for good.

Ready to End Agency Chaos Once and For All?

Does chaotic project management sound painfully familiar?

The good news is you don’t have to live with it any longer.

With Jeff’s advice, you have a clear blueprint to follow.

Now it’s your turn to take action!

If you need help getting your PM system on track, get in touch with ZenPilot.

We’ve helped over 2700 agencies tame project chaos. We’d love to do the same for you!

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