In this, my fifth and final post about life hacks, I’ll talk about the communication process, clarifications across all key personnel, and a big approach in how some of these are accomplished: the Stand-up/Walking the Wall approach.
What is it? Well, the concept of walking the wall is a somewhat structured “Stand-up” meeting approach. The goal here is to facilitate a smooth communications process with management and a way to give visibility to your current projects.
Imagine you’re part of a team, have a series of tasks in flight, and are hoping to gain clarity toward the full spectrum of where each team and team member is in the process. When these meetings are organized, scrum fashion, they’re set up with a goal of very quickly pushing through to clarity, with as little time wasted as possible. As a result, we stand and begin each meeting with an agenda. The agenda is often so repeated that it’s almost unnecessary, though we often have a whiteboard with an outline clearly laid out.
Essentially, each team talks about their individual projects in flight, with each team member discussing their current responsibilities, the obstacles to achieving those tasks, and the progress therein. With this cadence in mind, all the responsible individuals can be queried by any of the other team members. Often, we find interrelations between team members on discrete tasks, reliances, and precedential milestones that must stay on schedule to achieve completion.
My first exposure to this type of meeting came when I was responsible for the project management and implementation of a large VDI project at a prestigious hedge fund in Connecticut. At this firm, which was famous for its approach to project management, there was no end of conflict in these meetings. The idea here was to challenge each statement, and through the conflict and drilling, try to uncover the holes in the plan. Have you considered...? Did you think about…? How would the scope of the project be affected if…? I found this to be a highly unpleasant approach to building commitments toward a solid project plan. The thing is, the approach was entirely effective. Through these arguments, which were often quite aggressive, if the person deemed responsible was proven to have lost control over their scheduled tasks, they’d “lose their spot.” It was a shameful experience for those who did, but by fear and intimidation, they were able to achieve greatness as an organization. Believe me, this firm was incredibly successful. They understood that only 10% of those hired would survive their first year. However, if they did survive, great things could happen.
I’m going to link here to the principles of the founder. I think that this document is incredibly powerful, and really defines how they’ve been able to achieve their goals.
We have long known that the meetings take way too much time out of our days. I can recall having meetings to schedule the next meeting, which was frustratingly tedious and ineffectual. So, this “Walking the Wall” methodology, to me, is very effective. And from a PM perspective, it gives clarity to the entire team regarding successes, shortfalls, and potential hindrances to meeting scheduled timeframes.
I often have these meetings with myself in my head when I think about the goals I’m hoping to accomplish in my life. I try to think about the things that are blocking my progress, the things that I rely on for success. As this entire series of postings has solidified, it’s become clear to me that I, while not preaching to others about how they should maintain control over their lives, use a very specific project manager’s mentality as my approach to the various tasks I hope to accomplish in my life, my career, my health, my music, and my relationships. This is just how I do things. It keeps things clear and pragmatic for me.