Project Management Tool 101

I recently worked on a project at work that was cross-departmental, that served a very important purpose for the University. Coordinating schedules, thoughts, ideas, and implementing said ideas was actually easy to do thanks to a project management tool
called, Basecamp.

I’d never used a project management tool before being introduced to Basecamp.  The Basecamp motto is “Basecamp keeps people on same page.  No matter what your role is, everyone works toward a common goal: finishing a project together.”  After witnessing first hand how it can be utilized to connect people, develop ideas, and ensure communication is happening from the start to the end of a project, I would say they live up to that motto.

I was really impressed with how easy Basecamp was to  use. You can create multiple projects, add people to projects, upload files, videos, images, etc. It’s truly robust.  I also liked that you get an email from Basecamp when someone has added to a discussion thread on a project.  You can turn this function off if you don’t want to be emailed multiple times a day. I keep this feature on, I like how it allows me to stay connected to the conversation as it’8280865636_04a6745e2bs happening.  Basecamp essentially works like a discussion board, with a lot of other features, like the ones mentioned above.  This allows you to forgo those long planning meetings, and utilize a web 2.0 tool to accomplish the same thing. Also, if used correctly you can have Basecamp help you learn about the other people in your project group.  I think that’s one of the hidden gems about a project management tool.  Not only will it help you develop and implement a project, but it also allows you to spend time socializing in a way that we normally wouldn’t in a meeting.

With all of that being said, you do have to have someone in the group who’s willing to take the lead and get the right conversation going.  I think that’s key no matter the project management tool you use.  It’s easy for people to get sidetracked and not want to participate if they don’t see the importance of the discussion thread.  In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable he says “Experiential team exercise can be valuable tools for enhancing teamwork as long as they are layered upon more fundamental and relevant processes.”

If you want to try a project management tool (I highly recommend Basecamp) here are the things I witnessed my leader do that were effective and enhanced the team dynamic.

1.     The person in charge of the project needs to get the conversation flowing by asking the right questions. This should be done early in the morning. This way everyone in the group has all day to respond to the question or the idea given. 

2.     Try to only have one or two discussion threads going per day.  One of them should be something that’s stress relieving and helps everyone learn about each other.  The other question should help propel the project forward.

3.     Here are some ideas for questions you can ask that are stress relieving but also help the team connect with each other and the project.

  • What picture makes you think of this project? (You could do a lot of variations to this questions)
  • If the sky was the limit, what would the end result look like to you? (You never know what ideas could come from this simple questions)

Have you used another project management tool? If so, which one, and how did you use it it to foster an authentic conversation? 

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