My Projects are Hopelessly Disorganized. How Can I Get Them in Shape?

by rocketmatter-admin June 23, 2014

This is the latest edition in our quick-and-practical Q&A style videos. Questions come from social channels, keyword analysis, and readers of this blog. A transcript accompanies each video.

My Projects are Hopelessly Disorganized. How Can I Get Them in Shape?
“My projects are hopelessly disorganized. How can I get them in shape?”
Project management is something that we’re very good at in the software industry. It is so hard to deliver software, that over the years we’ve developed all sorts of crazy techniques and borrowed ideas from different industries to get software out the door and delivered.
We’re using a couple things right now that are very beneficial for law firms and business of professional service in nature. For example, we’re using something called Kanban boards. If you can, visualize a series of swim lanes. You start with “what I’m planning”, “what’s in progress” and “what’s done”.
The idea behind a Kanban board is to list out everything that you’re working on and limit the number of things that are “work in progress” because that’s where bottlenecks occur.
What you do is use index cards, and they can be virtual. There are programs that do this. One of them is called Trello which is one that we use here at Rocket Matter. You can move your index cards from “planned” to “work in progress” to “done” and you go to the board once a day and you sync up and you move your cards around and you see what you’re working on and it really keeps everybody on the same page and shows in a visual way where things are.
This is a great thing for something complex like litigation where there’s a lot of different moving pieces. And it doesn’t just have to be “planned”, “work in progress”, “done”. You can have different stages of the pipeline. You could have “on hold”, you could have “discovery”, you could have “actual trial”, you could have whatever it is. You could define those different swim lanes and that would allow you to start managing your projects.
One other thing you might want to think about with project management are daily stand-up meetings. And this fits perfectly well together with the idea of having a Kanban board that you’re in front of.
The idea of a daily stand-up meeting (and we have videos on this and some blog posts on this) is that you get together with your team of people and in the morning you stand up (so the meetings aren’t too long) and everybody says what they’re doing today and what’s in their way and you can also say what you did yesterday.
The last thing you might want to think about is taking a look at what’s going on with Lean Manufacturing and how that’s affecting the workplace right now. A great book is called The Lean Startup. One of the biggest business books right now.
The whole idea is that you come up with a hypothesis: we’re going to do this, you’re going to experiment, see if it works and then you do it again. This lean experimentation idea is great when you can afford to learn from mistakes. It’s not a very good thing if you can’t afford to make a mistake. So, in law and in other places you’ve got to be a little bit careful when you apply those ideas.

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