Without goals, the team cannot identify when the project is complete. Without tasks, the team cannot understand how to achieve the goal. All project management methodologies involve tasks and goals, including the Play Card Methodology. In this light, to claim that the unique nature of the Play Card Methodology as being a goal-based method rather than a task-based method can seem a bit strange.

The Play Card Methodology empowers the manager to express the project as a series of goals while allowing the team to leverage their knowledge and skills in their craft to identify the tasks required to achieve the goals. Illustrating this concept further, the following defines the steps involved to initiate the Play Card Methodology.

1) Express the terms of the project in specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound terms.

The reference to “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound terms” may sound very familiar to you. That is because these terms define a SMART goal. For example, a deliverable in this format may look like the following, “Develop a contact us page for client’s website which allows users to populate an online form which will place its content directly to the body of an email sent to info@somecompany.us. The development effort is approximated to be 6-10hrs.” Note that the time-bound terms are expressed in a range of hours of effort rather than a specific date.

2) Identify the primary “gates” of progress for the project, expressed generally and time-bound.

As one travels on a highway, the milestones, as their name implies, are present at every mile along the way. On a long journey, milestones become too finite to be valuable, and therefore, exit numbers become the measure of progress. Thus, the concept of “gates” are intended to keep the mind focused on significant transitions in the project rather than smaller steps of progress. For example, a website development project may have discovery, content, design, development, testing, and implementation gates.

As the manager reviews, the timeline of the project, each gate should punctuate its timeline, but not necessarily evenly. For example, in a ten-week project, the discovery gate may consume one-week, but the development phase may consume three weeks.

3) Break the project down further to identify the weekly goals that must be achieved to ensure that the team passes through the gate in a timely fashion.

Consider the output of each gate and similarly to the deliverables, express these outputs in specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound terms. For example, in our ten-week project example, the first week of the project completes the discovery gate. The output of the discovery gate may be documented specs for the project which expand the details of the request as defined in the deliverables (step 1). Therefore, the week-one goal would be expressed as “Details gained from the discovery phase are to be documented in electronic format and delivered to the project team by the end of the day on December 7, 2018.

In our ten-week project example, the next gate, content, spans two weeks. In this scenario, consider the output expected on week three and define its goal. Then, consider what would need to be complete by the second week to define its goal. For example, the week three-goal might be expressed as “All text copy and accompanying photos used in the content of the home, about, products, and contact us pages of the website are to be written, proof-read, and approved by the client by December 21, 2018.” Thus, the week two-goal might be expressed as “All initial drafts of text copy and photo options are to be provided to the quality review team for initial approval by December 14, 2018.

4) Share the plan with the team involved to allow them to contemplate the tasks required, their dependencies, and the anticipated resources needed.

At this point in the planning process, you have defined all of the weekly goals for the project. You are now ready to present the deliverables and weekly goals to the team. At this stage, the manager’s objective is to gauge the achievable and realistic aspects of the weekly goals, identify hurdles that may not have been evident at the time of planning, and to identify opportunities of collaboration among the team. It may be tempting for the manager to begin defining the tasks involved; However, the tasks are the team’s responsibility. They are to be empowered to use their skills and expertise to connect the dots between Monday and Friday. In doing so, buy-in for the plan and collaboration is heightened for the cause.

In future blog posts on the topic of The Play Card Methodology, we will continue to expand upon each of the critical components of the method as well as the operation of the Play Card itself.