We (myself included) often get caught up in software when we talk about project management tools. Perhaps this is rightly so as the right software - one that matches your organizations objectives and needs - implemented correctly can be very effective. However, there are a number of non-software "tools" that we can also use effectively.
Here are four non-software tools that we sometimes overlook that can also be very effective in the right circumstances.
1. Command Center
This only works when the team is in the same geographic location (which is less and less the case these days). Try designating a room as the "planning room" or "command center." Perhaps it is not a room, but a central thoroughfare. In this location you could hang a whiteboard, display reports or lists, and post announcements. For example, you could prominently display the current goal with progress towards the goal. You could display awards (who has gone above and beyond), what has been accomplished, or the objectives for the week. You could be creative with this and use it as a fun communication tool.
The word "meetings" invites feelings of angst and discomfort. We hate meetings. However, meetings can be very effective, provided they are run correctly. I love meetings where they are short, on topic, and effective. If I can attend a meeting, get decisions made, share relevant communication quickly, and get a lot accomplished in a short time, I love that. If it would otherwise take hours to track down decision makers, get them to make decisions, find information, etc. then I would much rather have a meeting.
However, as we all know, you have to proactively make sure this is the case. You can search for all kinds of meeting advice on the web, but I would suggest the following:
- Keep your meetings short and hold to it. You may want to consider a standing meeting (some organizations, such as agile software development teams, hold something like a daily 10 minute standing-only meeting).
- Make sure decision makers are there and that they will make decisions. Otherwise it is fruitless.
- Follow a format. Make it routine so that people know what to expect and you don't sit down and simply "let things happen."
- Expect people to be prepared. They should come prepared to share information that is relevant to the meeting.
- Don't allow rabbit trails. There are lots and lots of topics that could be discussed, but that tends to waste everyone's time. Deal with the subject and objective of the meeting and get out.
3. The Telephone
In this age of online collaboration, email, documents, etc. we sometimes fail to use the telephone. There are times when you simply need to pick up the phone and talk with someone, listening to the inflection of their voice. Do not always depend on email. Use the telephone at times to get the information you need.
Ah, something with food in it. You just can't beat that. How is lunch a project management tool? Simple. Do you know what can be accomplished by simply going out to lunch with someone? If you are trying to establish a rapport and relationship with someone or want to drill down into something further with someone, going out to lunch can be a great thing. There is just something about being informal, sincerely wanting to learn about another person, and being away from the office. Things can be accomplished that are more difficult in the formal office setting.
Try these "non-software" tools and share others that you have found to be effective.