Any project planning methodology offers a visual means of communicating the goals, tasks, and progress of the given project. Examples of such items are Gantt charts, timelines, mind maps, status reports, and calendars. These visual representations provide the team and leaders a mechanism to rapidly process the details of the plan and understand its current state.

The Play Card Methodology is no exception to the understanding of the importance of visually communicating the project plan. The critical visual tool utilized in this methodology is the Play Card itself, presented on a dry erase whiteboard near the team’s workspace. While there is a great temptation to digitize the Play Card into a spreadsheet or some other electronic format, there is tremendous value in maintaining the analog, whiteboard approach.

1. Simple, rapid, and inexpensive implementation.
To begin operating within the Play Card Methodology requires only acquiring a dedicated whiteboard within the workspace of the team. If one is not already available in your office, once can often be purchased at your local office supply store for around $20-$50. Within minutes, you can begin operating this methodology with your team.

2. Immediate visual access.
Since the whiteboard is placed in the workspace of the team, the plan is immediately accessible by the turn of the head and the glance of the eye. Digital versions of project plans require the team to initiate the program (ie: opening Excel), access the project, and navigate the various documents. When things get busy, the team is less likely to obtain these electronic means to view the latest updates, rendering the less impactful at the very moment that it is needed the most.

3. Updates require direct engagement with the team.
Team touch-bases are an essential element to the Play Card Methodology which will be covered in detail in a later post; However, when these occur, the whiteboard is updated with notes regarding the project status and any obstacles. There are times when the project status and obstacles are identified and documented by the team during the course of the day, before the touch-base meeting. When this occurs, it is noticed by the entire team, which triggers conversation and collaboration.

Play Card Format

The format of the Play Card as it is presented on the whiteboard involves the rendering of a table consisting of four columns and as many rows as there are projects or project components. As noted in the first part of this post series, these rows should not include specific tasks, but instead projects themselves, or larger segments of a more complex project.

The four columns are:
1. The project, or project segment name.
2. The week’s goal, expressed as a SMART goal, for the project.
3. The primary resources assigned to the project. This column should include two or more persons or teams to encourage collaboration.
4. The latest touch-base notes and any obstacles threatening progress affecting the week’s goal. It is the project manager’s responsibility to address these obstacles indicated as soon as possible. When the obstacles are resolved, this column is updated showing the resolution.

Below is a visual representation of such a Play Card.

A sample of a Play Card presented on a dry-erase whiteboard.

The reality of remote teams and the popularity of “work from home” arrangements with team members does present a challenge to the manual whiteboard approach. The absence of a manual whiteboard does not imply that implementing the Play Card Methodology is off the table. The presence of a monitor in the remote work areas with a digitized version of the Play Card is one solution. Regardless of the solution implemented to visualize the project plan effectively, it is vital to keep it simple, accessible, and engaging.

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.