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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

PM Tools I Use: Whiteboard

Whiteboard drawing

This is another posting about project management tools I use triggered by feedback I gathered from you. You won’t find here any fancy software reviews I post from time to time. You should rather expect tools like sticky notes or whiteboards.

And when we are at it: if I could name only one tool I’d be left with to manage a project it would be a whiteboard with a set of markers.

I guess it must be a hidden artist in me trying to get his moments when he can show his talent off. Except the fact he must be hidden very well along with his talent because my drawings are ugly. I mean really ugly.

Why I love whiteboard so much then?

  • Quickest sketch drawing. Take any diagram you have in your mind and try to describe. Try talking about it – you won’t be understood very well. Prepare fancy presentation with Visio drawings – it will take hours. Take a pen and a piece of paper – it will be seen only by a couple of people. Take a whiteboard and it will be able to get back to work in a couple of minutes.
  • Brainstorming support. Imagine a group of people throwing all their ideas across the room. Imagine you’re the person who is responsible to gather all of them. I mean ideas, not people. Of course you can write them down in your notepad but every idea can work as a starting point for another one. As long as people don’t see what has already been said, and put down in your notepad, they just let their chances for inventing world-changing innovations pass.
  • Design and architecture discussions. Try to facilitate any design or architecture discussion with no whiteboard. It will be such a waste of time. Why? Because you simply talk all the time about how these boxes are interconnected and what each arrow means and how information flows through the diagram which is exactly as informative as it sounds.
  • Kanban Board. Yes, Kanban Board is build of whiteboard and sticky notes. And no, it wasn’t a reason why I chose these two as first candidates to PM Tools I Use postings.
  • Information radiator. If you want to spread any information through co-located team whiteboard is the best medium to use. Be it a ‘days left’ counter or a list of priority projects or actual versions numbers or list of requirements or a flower your fellow PM always draws once again when the old one is wiped out. Everyone will see it. Everyone will learn it.

Whiteboard is a kind of all-purpose tool which I generally like much since the tool shouldn’t constrain you much. If you invite me to meeting where there’s nice whiteboard and a marker at hand you can be pretty sure I won’t leave it clear. You know, this little author of ugly drawings inside me won’t let me.

in: communication, project management

4 comments… add one

  • Steve March 1, 2010, 10:55 am

    totally agree. I can’t work without one. I wish there was a really easy to use virtual whiteboard, but I just much faster drawing on a real one.

  • Pawel Brodzinski March 2, 2010, 1:46 am

    Steve,

    I think virtual whiteboard will work when hardware-wise it will still be a board you write on with marker and everybody sees what you have written.

    Now if you would add some software in background which is able to synchronize two boards or stream board state to remote location you should be able to keep drawing pace and gain remote features.

  • Joshua Lewis March 2, 2010, 2:31 am

    I agree on the use of whiteboards. One technique a friend introduced me to is to take a photo of the whiteboard at the end of a session. Its a really nice way to document the discussion/design etc.

    Unfortunately, we have very whiteboards in my environment, and very little space for more :(

  • Pawel Brodzinski March 2, 2010, 2:34 am

    The trick with taking a photo of the board after the session is a great one. My colleague I work with use it pretty often. You don’t even need a photo camera – mobile phones these days produce readable pictures.

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