044 – Dear Project Diary: Project (b)logging to keep your head straight
In today’s world we are bombarded with more information than ever before – it’s on our mobile devices (social email, etc.), daily stand-ups, 24 hour news networks telling us about how the world is collapsing every day, so much going on.
That’s a lot of information coming in – so how do you sort through it? With that much information coming in and going out, it can be hard to really feel like we are on top of our projects. Especially in two circumstances:
- We have a large number of projects we are managing at the same time
- We have a very long duration project, and need to be able to look ahead and look back
So, how do you find a ‘quiet space’ where you can actually think and plan?
In this episode, we talk about keeping a Project Diary. A diary or a log of your project can be a great way for you to sort through your thoughts and challenges on a project, and maybe even a way to provide a higher degree of transparency into your project to your stakeholders. Project Diary, Project Log, Project Blog, Project Vlog – we got you covered. Check it out!
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Approach: Project Log [10:56]
So, how can we deal with this? Well, an approach you can use is one we’ve all heard of in a different context – Journaling. Yes, a Project Journal, though, we like to call it a Project Log. Sounds cooler. A project journal is just that – a document where you write, at least daily, about your project.
For example -“Today’s date – Met with the procurement team, Jane agreed to expedite the shipment of the furniture so we have more time to try different configurations in the office. New arrival date is March 1.”
Could you do this with other tools? Sure.
If you are tracking events for communication and CYA purposes, your RAID log may even be a better place for this – any event, a meeting outcome (like a decision or agreement), an issue, risk or even follow-up tasks could and should be tracked there.
What you don’t necessarily get with this approach is:
1. A clear timeline
2. More importantly, an opportunity for you to write and think through activities.
Kim’s Journal [19:22]
Kim started tracking a log of activities because he had gobs of small projects, and sometimes he had trouble shifting back and forth between this project and that – ‘where was I on this?’ He started in a Word document, then went to something called Microsoft Binder – which is long since gone. It looked something like a OneNote, but allowed the attachment of different documents together into a single meta-document. And it was great – if Kim had to go back and reference something, he’d just do a control-F for a quick search. Then, he had a big event – he managed a very large project and had a very challenging sponsor who:
● wouldn’t attend status meetings and didn’t read reports
● wanted to be involved, but didn’t
His decision: Make it public.
○ Now, you do lose a bit of your private commentary, so there was a trade-off.
● Used Sharepoint – rebranded the theme and called in Project Log where each post was pushed out to the team
Each event, Kim would post a short summary, and whenever he made an entry, an email was automatically sent to executives titled “PROJECT LOG.” Kim would paste key meeting minutes there, but would keep it brief whenever possible. This approach fed the need they had to check in on the status of a project, and because of this, he got the executive to engage in checking and resolving the areas that are causing some delay or problems.
And, at the end of the project, Kim could hand over a binder of all deliverables – and among that, the big, fat 4” binder, were 67 pages of project feed.
Since then, Kim has gotten involved in PPM implementations further, and one of his now favorite features which he used to “poo poo” is a social feed. So, if you have a tool where you can make annotations that are automatically distributed to your team, yet still kept as part of the project
record – brilliant.
Private or Public? [23:23]
Making your notes public doesn’t necessarily work in every case. And, as mentioned, you do lose something when you take this approach. Not only are you not able to be as candid with your own thoughts, but often times there are matters that should not be made public. If you are delivering a project for an external customer and have internal discussions about the financials, you aren’t going to share that with the customer. Or, if you are working through the internal team, performance or personal issues, much of that is better kept private.
● Private – good for collecting your thoughts and if you like to write/think your way through problems and challenges, and to keep sensitive info to yourself
● Public – really good for big teams when comms are more challenging or problematic, or when you really need to make sure you have an air-tight system of record. When taking notes or making documentation, you can either go primitive and hand write everything, or use an application like One Note.
Some organizations use a shared One Note for the team on a project, which is also fine. As mentioned though, if you’re going to be public, the option for a ‘push’ communication is preferable. The interested audience can get that push, and stay up to date, and the less interested can just unsubscribe or log in for a pull communication if they are interested.
There are some great PPM tools that do that (if you’re looking for PPM-ish tools), or you can also use SharePoint and just get creative with some of the tools your organization may already have.
However, note that you need to consider your audience- most executives are NOT going to want a very active push communication.
1. Be consistent. Whether you are keeping your log private or (especially) if you are making it public. Work it into your “end of day” ritual, anchoring it to entering your time, getting ready to go home, or whatever works for you.
2. Make sure you target the right audience if you share it. Don’t bombard people with details they don’t care about. And don’t publicly share project and team information which is better kept private.
3. Give it a try! Try it on an important project for a month, and share your results with us. And so there you go, that’s your Project Journal! If you have questions or feedback on this topic and want to tell us how your trial-go at a project journal went, hit us on facebook at /pmhappyhour, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org