What comes to mind when you think about project management? Planning, organizing, budgets, constraints, deadlines, etc. are all typically taken into consideration to complete a project. Technology vendors such as Microsoft all seem to have the latest and greatest software to coordinate project management activities, but is there a simpler way?
Kevin Purdy wrote an article on Lifehacker, a website providing software and personal productivity recommendations, and discussed how the “good old” whiteboard helped him successfully plan a major conference. Purdy references that he unintentionally set himself up as the only person that really knew every task that had to be completed to put on the conference. The conference was rapidly approaching, and he had “110 nervous thoughts” that needed to be acted upon to make the conference a successful reality.
Purdy decided to gather the appropriate members that were helping to plan the conference, and they marched off to a room with nothing more than some desks and a whiteboard. He states that they accomplished more in that room than they had in their last 6 to 8 meetings combined, and he credits it all to the whiteboard. He indicated that the whiteboard reduced time in the overall decision making process. Purdy says in his article, “You write something, add a question mark, and people in the room can decide on it right then, instead of across days in an email thread.”
So how else can a whiteboard solve a project management dilemma? First and foremost, writing things down is always helpful, and whiteboards are big enough for everyone on the project management team to see. Whiteboards tend to make it feel less like you’re committing to something and more like you’re throwing out an idea for consideration. Whiteboards also inspire you to fill all of the space, and therefore expand and branch out your thoughts.
As Purdy also references, “Whiteboards are nearly impossible to lose inside your backpack.” This seems like somewhat of a sarcastic comment at first, but think about it some more. It actually makes perfect sense. It becomes very difficult to lose sight of your goals and objectives when they are as big as life on a board right in front of you. By putting everything on a whiteboard you can motivate others to complete tasks and you can really start to control your resources. The whiteboard becomes the project management plan.
Not every project is overseen by someone with a project management background either. For those people that aren’t very good at explaining what tasks need to be completed, the whiteboard may just be your savior. Software, risk analysis, implementation plans and other project management tools might be needed for more complex and sophisticated projects; however, the next time you’re stuck on a project, consider the simple, cheap whiteboard as an alternative.
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