When it comes to project management, especially with a small team, producing results that pack a punch in a short period of time is non-negotiable. The stakes and stress levels are higher, and team morale plays a vital role in crossing the finish line. In our world, there is no difference between running a good race and running a good project— warmup, sprint, cool down.
I'm not talking about the revolutionary 4 hour work week, 8 minute abs or 8 minute buns (unless you've figured out how to do it in 7). If you've tried those by now, you've probably figured out that you still have 36 more hours left of work, abs that you hide behind your oversize shirt and a butt that says, "You sit on me for at least 40 hours a week."There is no getting away from having to do the necessary work to get what you want. We've been experimenting with project management techniques, and the process we're stumbling upon seems to be keeping the team motivated, our customers happy and our production output in the 90th percentile. I have to ask myself, "What's with this 3 day sprint thing?" and "Can this help other teams as well?"
5 things we've learned about project management:
1. Better project management planning leads to more creative solutions, packing a punch and delivering on time.
2. Working with the finish line in sight keeps the team pumped and focused as we run towards a common goal with a lower margin of error.
3. Testing and/or reviewing work when it's still fresh is actually fun, so we stay in love with what we do and make our customers happy.
4. Marking a project and/or milestone as complete is gratifying. The more we mark things off, the better the team feels.
5. Taking 5 to debrief, celebrate, discuss the project highlights and pin a medal on a team member provides some closure and helps reset the team for the next event.
The 3 Day Sprint: How it all breaks down
The Warmup (Monday)- Just like needing a good stretch before a race, there has to be a good plan before taking on a project. We dedicate Monday (the entire team for the entire day) to coming up with a sprint that will produce the best results. As a team there are usually a few constants that every project will include and those things should always be in focus when deciding on what the sprint will entail. As a startup project management and team collaboration software company, those constants may include the product, our customers, sales. The goal: solve customer pain points with the product, positively impact our current and/or future customers, maintain/increase sales. Once there is a plan, the tasking begins. We task out the team and gather all related work items needed to execute the plan. When it comes to big projects we use the old-school milestone method to prep for sprints, which really just means that the overall project is a container for weekly milestone discussions and activity (tasks, documents, wiki to-do lists, notes, people etc.). After that, it's time to run.
The Sprint (Tuesday - Thursday): - Get ready for some Gilly moments (check out SNLif you don't get it). Longer timelines can make it easier to get sidetracked, but just because the timeline is shorter, it doesn't mean that mayhem won't come knocking. The trick is maintaining focus on the finish line. It's difficult, but no matter what, we try not to deviate from the plan for 3 days straight. To keep the focus, we use project management software in order to organize our discussions that go together with the work activity that goes together. We make sure that everything needed to accomplish a task, a milestone or a project is directly connected to those items so everyone has what they need to do their job along the way. While we do most of our project management collaboration in the cloud, we keep things human with morning check-ins (about 15 min) and also on breaks throughout each day. We rarely use email. It's distracting. Even with all of the wonderful technology available for managing a sprint, there is no substitute for the occasional, impulsive outburst when we feel like screaming across the office.
The Cool Down (Friday): Assuming we survive Gilly's antics, the team is usually gasping for breath after 3 days of picking up speed, but we don't quit there. Sometimes we actually see a trail of fire behind us, kind of like the DeLorean in "Back to the Future" (OK, now I'm really dating myself). Equal to the warmup (project planning) is the cool down (testing, reviewing and refining of work) after a good project management sprint. We take the time to go over everything while it's fresh, which just makes sense. We debrief, talk about how we kicked Gilly in the teeth and learned from our mistakes. What's really gratifying is when we step back from an intense time of collaboration and mayhem, maybe have some pizza and beer, and celebrate the wins that happened.Giving credit where credit is due is key (we give the office shake weight to whoever's killing it—don't ask), then we clear the slate, rest and get ready for the next event.
Excessivelylong project management timelines tend to result in plans lacking details, due dates getting pushed back and the team losing their drive. 3 day sprints may provide the focus your team needs to keep the wins rolling back to back each week. Hey, it's worth a shot.And If you think your team has what it takes to go for a 3 day sprint, give a shout out and tell us know how it goes.
Leave a comment and let us know what project management methods work best for you. We're all in this boat together, and the faster we share together, the faster we Rule work together.