To the War-room!

I’m currently studying for an MSc in Project Management. This is making my head pop at times so I’ll blog the bits that don’t make it into my academic submissions from time to time.

Man in front of a wall of writingIt strikes me that in the various projects I’ve worked on, I’ve found myself struggling to move between projects at a moment’s notice, flipping my consciousness in the process. In my head, I am mentally trying to compartmentalise my project work to ensure I don’t get confused as a result of any “leakage”. Meanwhile, my desk gets messier.

What if we could reflect this set of mental compartments in the real world, in the office? By separating project activities from each other in the office, it might just make it easier to flip between projects. Robert Wysocki mentions the “War Room”, which is a room dedicated to the project. This room will probably just be a meeting room “commandeered” by the project team for their collaboration and requires little more than usual office stationery and equipment during the course of the project.

The War Room should contain:

  • A whiteboard
  • A computer and projector
  • Ample water
  • Flipchart
  • Plenty of wallspace and blu-tac

The room is the “meeting point” for the project team both as part of formal meeting times and collaboration times, perhaps as a way to get away from the usual team and concentrate on the job in hand without distractions. The act of removing yourself from your usual position in the office will be an immediate benefit to reducing distractions and when you’re headed to the project War Room, it’s clear to your colleagues what you are working on.

It might be messy, with scrawling across the whiteboards, papers hanging from the wall, textbooks left open and memos littering the desks. It is however a workspace, dedicated to a particular purpose. When individuals enter that room, they join the project either as a collaborative member, a manager or an observer. It’s a physical boundary between the hum-drum taking-care-of-business work and transformative, collaborative work.

Of course, not every office is able to facilitate such luxuries. It might be due to physical constraints (not enough rooms/space) or political (“why should they get their own room?”). Unfortunately, the argument against productivity and office design has long since been lost and we’re doomed to cubicles spread across noisy, windowless offices so making the case for a dedicated collaborative space is going to be difficult.

Then again, if the business can’t give you a dedicated project collaboration space, what value do they really have on the project?

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