Post-its for Project Planning

In an effort to further expand our knowledge base, identify opportunities to reach new customers & markets, explore new technologies, and collaborate with the broader innovation ecosystem, we at LOFT are always on the lookout for new ways to partner with startups.

One model we are starting to explore, is the idea of helping startups run pilots/launch first runs of new products & services.

A couple weeks ago, my colleague Jason Goodwin and I were tasked with creating a proposal and project plan for one of these initiatives. The idea? To work with the startup company to help gather user feedback on their product. Our amazing Manulife/John Hancock employees would serve as the users, and we would share the insights gathered.

Naturally, Jason and I were eager to get started and tried channeling our ideas into Word document. However, this seemed to raise more questions and left other stakeholders wanting more information. Jason and I were also getting a little confused and the ultimate goal of this initiative was getting lost. Rather than diving deeper down the Word document rabbit hole and typing what would have likely been very long and hard to read report, Jason suggested we take a couple hours and get all of our ideas out onto a white board with some every-so-handy post-it notes.

Our post-it note “legend”

Now, you may be thinking that being part of an innovation group, we must be throwing post-its at the wall all day, every day, but sometimes its hard to remember to practice what you preach. Nevertheless, Jason and I blocked our calendars and one Friday afternoon, got all of our thoughts out and onto a board, for all to see.

The exercise started with Jason drawing out a grid, so that we could identify things that fell into the following categories:

Pre-work

Weeks 1–12 of the program

Post work

From there, we determined that we needed a color coded post-it note “key” to keep track of which items were tasks, questions, dependencies, and user tasks. Then, we just started writing and posting.

Weeks 1–12 of the Project

At first, the type A part of my brain wanted to make sure every post-it I wrote was perfect and that all the other post-its on the wall were in the right spot on the board. I quickly noticed that when it comes to this exercise, “done is better than perfect”, and that by just getting words down on paper, things became much clearer. For example, there were many times when I wrote a question on a sticky that turned out to really be a dependency or a dependency that could really be seen as a task. After working through this exercise, there were three things I found most useful:

Feedback & Input: By having our thoughts and ideas visually displayed in the office, it was easy to call over leaders and stakeholders to review our work and provide feedback, rather than waiting for them to respond to an email or slack message. It was also easy to make updates/edits immediately, as we received feedback.

Visuals Help: The post-its on the wall, along with the way we color coded and laid them all out, made it much easier to digest the information and get a grasp of the full depth of the task at hand. We could identify what needed to be done during what weeks, where we would need budget, when we could loop our social team in, etc.

Usability: Once we actually initiate the project, it is easy to track our progress using the same content we put up in the planning stage. It is not only satisfying to physically move the post-its along as things happen, but it takes away the need for creating yet another document, in addition to a written proposal to track the status of the project.

Have you used a process like this in planning for a project? If so leave a comment, would love to hear how you tackle project planning!