Instead of a project charter that nobody will read, create a project poster to figure out the right way to tackle a problem, define project scope, and guide your work.
AND I NEED THIS... WHY?
Let's face it: medium- and large-sized projects can be squirrelly. It's hard enough getting everyone on your team to agree on what problem you're trying to solve and how you'll solve it – let alone keeping the people around you in the loop. Research and ideas get scattered across a zillion different Confluence pages. Stakeholders are leaving comments and questions on all of them, which distracts your team from their core work. A project poster might be just the cure for what ails you.
As soon as you've started thinking about a new project, run this play to capture and communicate your ideas. But it's not a detailed requirements doc. Include the minimum amount of information you need to communicate what you're doing, why you're doing it, how you'll measure success, and your go/no-go decision.
Already waist-deep in execution mode? No worries. Project posters can (and should!) be created once a project is already underway so your team stays focused on solving the main problems.
WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?
The project's core participants: full-time owner, project manager, product manager, developer, designer, analyst, etc.
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Project Poster template
Running the play
Unlike project charters, your project poster is a living document. Update it as you explore your problem space, challenge assumptions, validate solutions, gather feedback, and course-correct before you move forward.
Project posters get filled out over the course of several sessions with your team, so don't worry about doing it all in one go. In the first session, focus on defining the problem space. Then share it with your project sponsors as early as possible to get their feedback, which you'll incorporate in future sessions as your project develops.
The poster is split into 3 parts to support this evolution:
Problem space – Explain why solving this problem matters to customers and to the business. Get clear on objectives and possible solutions.
Validate assumptions – Identify knowledge gaps and risks. What do you know and what do you need to find out?
Get ready to execute – Visualize the solution, and estimate the scope of the project.
HOW TO RUN EACH SESSION
Schedule 60 minutes with your team. Collect and share relevant information in advance (e.g., notes from user testing, analytics, customer feedback, market research, etc.).
Start the first session by sharing the project poster template with instructions. In future sessions, you can start by (briefly!) reviewing what's changed on the poster.
Lead your team through the questions, making sure you're basically agreed on each one before moving on to the next. If you reach a stalemate or team members have wildly different ideas, take the time to talk through them and try to reach a consensus. If you can't, someone from the team should take on a follow-up task to gather more information and share it out. Ultimately, the project's full-time owner (i.e., project manager) or executive sponsor may have to resolve differences of opinion by simply making a call on which direction to go.
The "Problem space" section captures the project's reason for existence. This section should include just enough detail that someone outside your team can understand why you're considering the project and its objectives.
You'll probably revisit your problem space several times before you're ready to execute. As feedback from sponsors and stakeholders comes in, teams often find they haven’t been asking the right questions or haven’t met the customer’s needs. You might also find that your assumptions weren’t exactly spot-on.
Don’t stress. This is normal. Come back to this section of the project poster and work through the questions again. (And again, and again, if that’s what it takes.)
Defining the problem space will force you to make assumptions that need to be validated so your team and sponsors are confident in your solution. Initially, this section of the poster amounts to a to-do list. As the project moves along and you record your findings here, it provides an overview of your validation efforts, and the information you've gathered.
Your research should confirm (or disprove) the solution and its relative priority before you go any further. If you can't do this, you may need to revisit the problem space or brainstorm more solutions to consider. For massive projects, this can take weeks, or even months, to work through.
As your research progresses, update this section with summaries of what you've found and links to supporting documentation.
READY TO GO
This section will be empty when you first create the project poster, but you'll fill it in as you reach conclusions around which solution to pursue, an idealized vision of what you'll deliver, and what it'll take to deliver it.
Involving multiple team members with diverse skills sets in the "ready to go" phase helps ensure you capture all aspects of what you'll deliver and develop that all-important shared understanding.
Having trouble agreeing on scope? Use the Trade-off Sliders play to help your team hone in on what to optimise for.
Be sure to run a full Health Monitor session or checkpoint with your team to see if you're improving.Find your Health Monitor
You're solving broader problems with bigger objectives, longer time horizons, and once you land on an approach, more people involved the in the execution. Because you're working out which problems you'll prioritize solving, leadership Project Posters are strategic or visionary, rather that the more tactical posters a project team might build.
Run this play as a part of an annual planning cycle or offsite and allow 1.5 - 2 hours. Do some of the research beforehand as individuals so you can build out the more of your project poster during the session. Share your poster with the entire organization as a 12-month strategy document.
If your project poster isn't complete at the end of the session, schedule a follow-up session with your team to keep working on it. Also be sure to re-group with your team after you get significant pieces of feedback from stakeholders.
Print out your project poster and hang it near your team's area or in a common space like the kitchen. Put a pen and some sticky notes next to the poster so your co-workers can leave feedback.
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