We had a ‘job jar’ in our house when I was growing up. It worked like this: my Mom would add notes – mostly for my Dad – each with a job or task written on it. When it was your turn, you would pick a note from the jar and unfold it… and your fortune would be revealed to you.I didn’t enjoy my chores any more than any 10-year old kid, but I remember the ‘job jar’ fondly. Looking back, the trick to it was the excitement of the unknown; the element of chance; the one-two punch of anticipation followed by “the reveal”.
As a digital project manager, the unknown is much more unsettling than exciting. And the idea of the job jar would unravel quite quickly, taking the project with it. (Although it might be fun adding tasks to it in client meetings.) Nor did our job take into account the competing priority, urgency, complexity and ownership of different tasks.
Things have moved on in our house in the past 30 years. The job jar is just a story now. And at work, those of us of managing projects have a multiplication of different productivity tools and devices to hand, many unimaginable even just a few years ago.
For my part, I’m still a fan of lists and post-its, flash cards and sketch notes. We can record and share them on the fly these days – with minimum effort – and technology has moved my notional job jar into a sci-fi future.
The ability to synchronise and share data across devices in real time is perhaps the most transformative of recent developments. And from a user experience, visual design and technology perspective, we have some magical tools at our disposal. The right mash-up of applications makes project and resource management easy, elegant and enjoyable in ways the poor old jar just couldn’t do.
But the mash-up is key. Get it right and you find yourself with superhuman project management powers. Get it wrong and suddenly the job jar doesn’t look like such a crazy idea after all.
In these pages, over the next few months, our PMs will be sharing their thoughts and experiences about new (and old) PM tools and applications. Feel free to jump into the conversation.