The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research gets closer to a cure with Asana

The Michael J. Fox Foundation header image
  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation logo
  • Location
    • New York City
  • Marketing and Communications Projects
    • 180 projects consisting of 60,000+ work hours across 40 teammates

Asana Impact

  • Less duplicative work thanks to significantly improved cross-functional collaboration
  • Better resource & capacity planning across the team
  • Employees better understand the impact of their work on the organization’s goals

Established in 2000, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) has a single, urgent goal: eliminating Parkinson’s disease in our lifetime. As the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research, MJFF has funded more than $900 million in global research programs, partnering with scientists, industry, patients and philanthropists to accelerate breakthroughs on behalf of the 6 million people worldwide who live with the disease. When Joe Moran came in as Director of Content Operations, his priorities were to develop a project management office (PMO) and to create alignment across workflows within the Marketing and Communications departments.

And there were many workflows to orchestrate: teams typically juggle more than 180 projects totaling 60,000+ work hours across 40 teammates. Projects include producing annual reports, creating marketing plans for an educational event series, and developing guides for those recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, to name just a few.

Michael J Fox Grantee Lab

But projects were tracked with multiple methods, ranging from emails to sticky notes, software to paper notebooks. This often meant that work was done in silos with limited cross-team communication, resulting in:

  • Duplication of work
  • Little understanding of a team’s current workload and bandwidth
  • Stress and anxiety, as teams felt pressured to hit deadlines without clear prioritization

To address these issues, Joe and the PMO led the charge to move to a central work management platform.

“When work is decentralized and dependencies are unclear, everything feels like a top priority. It creates stress and anxiety.”- Joe Moran, Director of Content Operations

Determining needs before finding a solution

Joe and his team searched for a tool that could manage all projects and support cross-functional endeavors. They created a decision matrix with criteria such as effort tracking, timelines, dependencies, and custom fields.

Out of all the platforms they looked at, Asana checked the boxes. The team was impressed with its user-friendly interface, mobile app, integrations, and Portfolios feature, where teams can get a high-level overview of their projects.

“Asana’s features, like unicorns flying across the screen when you complete a task, make work less of a ‘have to’ and more like a fun experience.”

Speedy adoption and executive support

The PMO team developed two training sessions to facilitate the Asana roll-out. One was an advanced walkthrough for project managers on how to build out projects and workflows with dependencies. The second training was for other team members, focused on managing their personal to-do lists in My Tasks, and covering collaboration best practices, such as using Asana comments.

The VP of Communications supported the roll-out through executive sponsorship, and the PMO team designated an “Asana rep” to provide ongoing training as needed.

Consistency, efficiency, and getting the metrics right

Instead of starting from scratch, projects now begin with an Asana template—such as one for video production, one for webinars, another for events, etc—which saves time and keeps the structure, process, and final deliverables consistent. The team has also seen increased efficiency through Rules, which cuts manual steps from the inbound requests process (averaging five requests per day) by auto-assigning requests to teammates and followers.

“Asana is flexible to the methodology we use for different projects—we can do things in List view, Timeline, Calendars, and Boards.”

As they track their hours using Workload and compare their “actuals” to original estimations, the teams develop a clearer understanding of their own capacity. They can now identify resources for future work ahead of time and better measure a project’s ROI.

Asana helps form a more complete picture of each team’s impact and sets their work in the context of the Foundation’s strategic initiatives. And that’s a big win in the broader context of disconnect among knowledge workers—Asana’s Anatomy of Work Index found that more than half of global employees surveyed didn’t see how their work supported the wider goals of their organization. By knowing exactly how daily workloads ladder up to broader strategic goals, companies can better trace their day-to-day contributions. And for The Michael J. Fox Foundation, a nonprofit organization laser-focused on urgency and efficiency, having a tool that supports streamlined workflows and maximizes productivity is critical to help realize their mission of curing Parkinson’s disease.

“It’s super helpful to have a high-level view of the milestones on all projects so we can connect the dots.”

Read more Asana Success Stories