Project Management

1. Project Planning and Organization

Standing Meetings:
Standing meetings are times for your team to meet face-to-face. It’s easy to talk about updates and research as well as show off any new designs or plans. Communicating information is simply easier and faster in person as opposed to over the phone or in an email. We suggest using an online tool like Doodle or whenisgood to find a weekly time that will fit with your team’s  schedule. The Geisel study rooms are a prime meeting spot. Make sure to reserve them 2 days ahead of time to get the good rooms! You can also reserve the Student Sustainability Collective (SSC) to meet in as well.

Weekly Emails:
In addition to standing meetings, it’s important that you send out weekly emails summarizing the past meeting’s talking points and assigned tasks. It’s also helpful to send out a reminder email 24-36 hours before a meeting which should include a meeting agenda and items to discuss. An excess of communication is always better than none.

Leaders should also create the following for use in weekly meetings (Form A):

  • Attendance Sheet: used to keep track of member attendance and commitment
  • Budget: used to track all money earned and spent during the life of the project
  • Progress Developments: a great way to qualitatively record milestones

Helpful Tools/Responsibilities for Team Leaders:
Communication is very important, which can’t be said enough.  Here are a few tools that might really help make your efforts more efficient and allow you to communicate better. Besides the use of Project Updates, none are required but are definitely recommended. Remember, they don’t replace face-to-face communication or personal phone calls.

2. Team Communication

G-mail accounts allow you to link and/or share an enormous amount of information very easily between a group of people.  If everyone is signed up for Google Plus, you can have online video chats or meetings with a large number of people at once. Other video-conferencing software: Skype, oovoo, FaceTime.

Google Groups:
Sending an email out to a Google Group means everyone in that group will get that email. It allows the team to have a location where all emails are stored relative to the project or group and can be easily referenced later.

Facebook and Texting (GroupMe):
Sending out a quick Facebook message, albeit informal, can be an effective way to communicate quickly to your team if an urgent matter arises. Some people check their phones much more often than their email. For more professional and lengthy communication, email is always the better choice. This is always up to your discretion as a team leader.  If members cannot receive group messages on their phones then you can set up a GroupMe to enable a group text to be sent to everyone in the group as a normal text.

Google Drive:  
This free cloud app allows one to create a document, spreadsheet, presentation, etc. where as many people as necessary can all be on the document and be updating it real time for everyone to see. Using google drive and keeping it organized is highly recommended. Everything stays on the cloud where it’s accessible to anyone at any time who’s been invited to share it. As a leader, you will also have access to the ESW Database on Google Drive. In this database, you’ll find contact information of other ESW leaders and members, Project Updates of other projects, and a lot more other information. Familiarize yourself with this database and utilize it as a resource.

Dropbox is software that creates a centralized folder on a cloud that is accessible by any team member from their computer.  This software puts a Dropbox folder on your desktop and allows you to put any sort of file or subfolders in it. Everyone who has Dropbox and is shared in the folder will have access to the files and subfolders inside it. Some notes: Dropbox will keep previous versions of your files back to about 12 or so saves. If two or more of you edit the same document at the same time, Dropbox will create a ‘conflicted copy’ for any version saved after the first. Use Dropbox to store info that won’t really be changed such as purchase receipts and project photos. If something should be changed, leave that responsibility to one person or use a cloud software that is friendlier towards simultaneous edits (i.e. Google Drive).

3. Other Helpful Advice!

Sometimes team members can be unreliable: someone might continuously miss meetings, be chronically late, never complete their research, or miss the critical work day. Often, there are very understandable reasons such as work, school, or family which always come before ESW business. It’s often worth taking a minute to casually chat with the team member and see what’s going on for them as opposed to just assuming they’re neglecting their work. Compromising by reducing their workload is often helpful, but sometimes it is necessary to come to a mutual decision with the member that they might need to leave the team if the member is actually preventing productive work from moving forward.

Casual Team Meetings and Hangouts:
Hang out with your team in a non-work environment! Go get burritos or pizza before your meetings and don’t worry about ESW or school stuff for a while. Everyone in ESW is pretty awesome and we hope your project will end with your team as good friends. Take some time to get to know everybody so your project workdays, meetings, and communication isn’t solely based around a weird professional, forced relationship. It’s much easier to do work on a project with people who know and are comfortable with.

Too Many Interested Members:
If your project has too many members and there just isn’t enough work to go around then you will have to make a tough decision and cut however members you need.  Be sure to keep your director involved when making these decisions.  To help you make this decision, ask your members how much time there are willing to commit to the project.  Also try to break up the project into different focuses to see how many members you will need to stay on the project.  Encourage any leaving members to do the following:

  • Propose a new project
  • See if they are interested in another ESW project
  • Participate in ESW workshops
  • Join a committee in ESW