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Sticky Notes Style of Project Management

About 5 years ago, we had an IBM Project Manager on site to help install the ERP (Enterprise Resouce Planning, software that keeps track of supplies, ordering, money, etc… runs the financial part of a business) that we bought from GEAC. The lady, whose name escapes me at this time, had a very interesting concept of Project Management. She used sticky notes. I would walk into her office and see exactly what was done, was in process, and had not been started. She ran a five million dollar project off of sticky notes. I have had to make changes to this method, based off of my experience, but this is how I run projects and solve issues where I have worked since.

First, and most important is the sticky notes. I personally use the Post-It Notes by 3m. There are two types that I use, the 3 x 5 yellow and the 3 x 3 yellow. Someone could use any size or color, but yellow is easier on the eyes and the sizes are perfect for my handwriting.

The 3 x 5 yellow sticky note is specifically used for major functional areas. If there is a major reporting component to the project, then I use the 3 x 5 yellow to define it. I also use to 3 x 5 to group under the major functional areas the status of the tasks under the functional area. (In Progress, Not Started, and Done) I keep a hanging folder (a folder that hangs inside a file drawer) for each of the major functional areas. The tasks for that functional area go inside the hanging folder.

The organizational layout for each functional area is one 3 x 5 sticky note with the title. Below that, there are 3 x 5 sticky notes, one for each status. I space those out to give room for the individual tasks under each functional area. With enough room, projects with thousands of tasks could be done, but I keep the tasks and functional areas really broad. Example, I would have a build task and a test task for a stored procedure, but not one for each step of the build or test process, those would go in the folder documentation. I also always have a miscellaneous functional area for those surprises that do not fit anywhere.

The 3 x 3 yellow sticky note is used to define tasks. I put two pieces of information on each of those tasks, name and estimated time. When the task goes to the in process status, I put the initials of the people working on it. I keep a folder for the task in the functional area’s hanging folder with at least a basic write-up on each task. (What needs to be done, requirements, test cases if any…).

The advantages to this system is that people can quickly see the up to the minute status of a project by looking at the sticky notes. Everyone knows what needs to be done and tends to just put their initials on a task and gets to work. It is easy to build Gantt charts off of. I admit, it is not pretty, but it got us through our year 2000 testing, numerous production down issues (a bad thing), and several migrations of systems to newer versions and servers.