The Evolution project was the largest and most highly integrated educational outreach project WGBH had ever undertaken. The project focused more on electronic formats than had been attempted previously, stretching the experience and resources of staff and facilities. WGBH learned that projects of the scale and complexity of Evolution are not just bigger than other projects; they are significantly different, requiring new strategies for organizing and managing staff and resources.
Among the lessons learned (most of which were unavoidable given the uniqueness of the project and only clear in hindsight):
- There was insufficient time devoted to strategic planning and the establishment of standards and procedures prior to beginning production. Even if deadlines feel tight, taking the time to really plan complex projects beforehand will actually save time and money in the long run.
- Interdependencies between project components (such as the broadcast series, Evolution Library, project Web site, and student videos) can result in rich end products but difficult working conditions.
- An overall project director with strong project management skills, a clear directive, overt support from the executive producer, and preferably deep content knowledge is essential to projects of this size.
- As advisors play a critical role on integrated educational outreach projects, it is crucial to be clear about expectations and workload up front. One key content advisor should review all components (including the series), and each educational outreach component should identify and work closely with a small number of core advisors from the project's shared advisory board who have the appropriate time and expertise. Communication among component departments about who is using which advisors for what is key to avoiding advisor burnout.
- Be prepared to launch early. PBS scheduled the premiere of Evolution earlier than anticipated, creating many late nights and busy weekends.