MasterClass' Project Launcher
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MasterClass' Project Launcher
A project management template based on MasterClass' process for launching classes with task dependencies.
RW
Rachel Williams
MasterClass allows anyone to learn from the best in the world. Step into Anna Wintour’s office, Timbaland’s recording studio, and Neil Gaiman’s writing retreat. Improve your serve with Serena Williams, perfect your pitch with Shonda Rhimes, and leave the atmosphere with Chris Hadfield. Launching new classes impacts all aspects of the business and every team is involved in some shape or form.

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In 2018, a small team was created to investigate the “state of class launch” with the aim of simplifying and centralizing the launch process.

[All MasterClass data, including instructor and employee names, timelines, and launch dates, have been fictionalized to protect the sensitive nature of such data.]

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The MasterClass team using their class launch Coda doc

During the fact-gathering phase, the team discovered they used over fifteen trackers across Google Sheets, Smartsheets, Trello, Asana, and various other platforms teams to manage tasks and launch dates. These silos often created duplicate information and unclear progress. To reduce duplication of efforts and establish a source of truth, the team turned to Coda to build their own custom class launch doc.

Investigating class launches at MasterClass

As the head of Class Launch and Content Programming, I was tasked with investigating the class launch process. I interviewed teams involved in every stage of class launch to understand the launch strategy, including how the target launch date for a class was set and the day-to-day handover of deliverables from one team to another. I discovered a number of things:
No dependencies:
Documentation of interdependencies
between
teams was limited.
The need for a single tracker:
There was no single place to check the overall health of a class launch.
Duplicate information led to inconsistencies:
Information (e.g., the class launch date!) was not always kept up-to-date across each tracker.
Roles and ownership:
There was no way to know who to contact when there was a question throughout the process.

Ultimately, I saw a need for a more integrated approach that would eliminate duplicate work and streamline communication.

Building an integrated launch tracker

With a list of cross-functional requirements in hand, I worked with the Coda team to develop an integrated launch tracker that would adapt to MasterClass’s unique process.

With Coda’s ability to blend text and database-like features, the doc:
Allows for defined timelines and lag times
Dynamically shifts if there was a delay in another step higher up in the process
Improves communication between teams through updates over e-mail or Slack when tasks are finished
Is the one place to search for documentation about owners, task descriptions, and more

Start with a list of tasks

The MasterClass Project Launcher template starts with a standard set of tasks associated with a task predecessor, team, and owner. See
for this list. [Again, MasterClass data in this example is fictionalized for privacy.]

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Since Coda’s tables act like databases, changes to the
Task Name
are reflected everywhere else in the doc. The same applies for
—if a
Team
changes, it would change everywhere else in the doc:

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Connect tasks to their owners

In the
table, the
Add Tasks
button creates a standard list of tasks for an instructor that act as a “template” for each class launch, eliminating any ambiguity about who owns what task for each class.

The list of standard tasks along with the
Predecessor
,
Owner
, and
Team
then shows up in the
page:

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Thanks to Coda’s ability to “lookup” values from the table you’re working in, the team can see if the task can be worked on as the Predecessor’s status is clearly shown in the same row. For instance, “Complete class trailer” depends on “Class editing.” Since “Class editing” is not complete yet (it’s In progress), the
Predecessor Complete?
column for “Complete class trailer” shows
NO
:

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Give teams space to do their work

The Master Launcher also breaks down into
so that each team at MasterClass can focus on their priorities (see
).

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Because the filtered views and Master Launcher are connected, tasks updated in the views will also update in the master. No more having to worry about making an update in one tracker and the same update in another tracker!

Increase cross-team communication

To increase transparency around decisions from meetings, meeting notes can be tracked directly in the
page:

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The doc is also connected with Coda’s
, so that a team member using the doc can request an update on a specific task (via Slack) by clicking a button in any row that contains a task:

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The Owner of that task would then get a private message with data about the task and owner:

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Create high-level reports

As teams work in their own sections and updating tasks, management can view the overall status of classes. Using formulas that dynamically change as tasks are updated, the Launch Summary shows the percent completion for each instructor’s classes.

A separate view called
uses Lookup formulas to calculate overall completion percentages of classes, and then renders this as a bar chart.

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What MasterClass was able to achieve with Coda

The MasterClass team has been operating class launches in Coda since fall 2018, and we’ve been building on it ever since. Here’s a few ways Coda has helped our team since:
Overall, the Class Launch process has become a streamlined and ‘well-oiled’ machines.
Teams are able to identify blockers or inefficient processes faster and adjust.
The team has “regular” and “expedited” timelines that can be implemented depending on the launch strategy and overall timeline of the class.
Automated updates in Slack enable the Class Launch manager to check in with teams’ progress at a click of a button.

Most teams saw the benefits of working in Coda and moved their team-specific docs into the platform as well. These teams were also able to take advantage of Coda’s cross-doc functionality to ensure that teams can build
off
of the information in the central tracker so they don’t duplicate details or need to worry that the information could be out of date.

Make MasterClass’ doc your own.

Streamline task management and create a source of truth for your team—start by
Copying this doc
. Then:
Setup your teams in
and the various tasks (and their predecessors) for your project in
.
Add new instructors to
(this could also be re-purposed to “Projects”) and add tasks for every new Instructor (or Project).
Invite your team to the doc, and start tracking the status of tasks in
,
, and individual
.

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