Whether they are called war rooms, situation rooms, command centers or mission control rooms, centralized and purpose-built project meeting spaces provide a dedicated location for project teams and stakeholders to co-locate and visually communicate the activities associated with the execution of critical projects. The idea of a war room is to physically gather an entire project team into a ‘single location’ to facilitate communication, problem solving, risk mitigation and status reporting. The single location can be physical, virtual or some combination of the two based on the specifics of the organization’s business structure and/or resource model.
Modern day corporate war rooms are modeled after military command centers set up during World War II. The use of these rooms significantly aided military and political leaders by providing a centralized location for fact-based knowledge sharing and well-informed decision-making.
While not focused on winning an armed conflict (thankfully!), project management war rooms provide much of the same knowledge sharing and decision-making benefits of their military counterpart:
- Direct, as-needed, verbal communications between team members rather than a reliance on phone conversations, emails or the need for separate meetings
- Heightened sense of team commitment, togetherness and feeling of shared responsibility
- Complete focus on the effort and its end-goal rather than “business-as-usual” or daily operations
- A controlled, single-source hub of information for leaders, contributors, stakeholders and interested lay-people
- Increased awareness of performance or other important metrics
In a nutshell, the Project War Room is essentially a room-sized communication tool. Everything in the room is visible to anyone in the organization. Project team members, who work in the room for the duration of the project, call it home. They can also see and hear what everyone else in the room is working on, which creates a self-sustaining culture of accountability. Project stakeholders, who visit the room on a regular basis, can quickly get up to speed on progress, current status and any issues that may be facing the team. This allows them to engage and participate immediately, rather than waiting for a dedicated status meeting.
War rooms serve as a controlled source for communicating important project information that may include posting of change notices, requests for immediate actions/decisions or general status updates. These communications also typically include data visualizations of key performance metrics such as budget, schedule, issues, risks and overall project health. The main goal of any project war room is to communicate effectively enough that anyone unfamiliar with the project should be able to grasp the status of the project rather quickly after entering the room.
Project War Rooms, along with over twenty-five other visual project management communication concepts, is explored in greater detail within “Visual Project Management,” a recently released publication by Paul R. Williams, and now available to interested readers!