I have to admit that project management is one of my weaknesses. I have just started reading some books and trying to do things in a more organized project sort of way.

In one of the books I have been reading the auther talks about brainwriting instead of brain storming as a way of getting all the end items on the table that need to be worked on. The way it goes is you give everyone 20 to 30 minutes or longer I guess on the size of the project to write down eveything that needs to be done. Then you go around and have each person share what they have written. You later take all the end items and turn them into a schedule and assign them to team members. The idea is that everyone has a unique part to share. Everyone shares something. Even if you are the last person to share and most of your ideas have been mentioned you'll probably have at least one to share.

I've done this twice now and one time it worked really well. The second time I don't think the project was big enough to warrant doing it with the team I had assembled. We did get a lot on the table, but it just didn't seem as profitable.

Does anyone use this form of brain storming and how does it work for you? The book I am reading has a mid-nineties copyright date. So I'm wondering if there are more recent books that would be better to read. I'm reading through GTD and Allen lists a different way to do project management. If you ahve heard of brainwriting, is it a method that's outdated now?

Thanks for your input.



jhack's picture


Have you listened to M&M's brainstorming podcasts from July 2006?

dmbaldwin's picture

Hey John,

Thanks for the lead. No I have not listened to that podcast. I'll dowload ASAP.

After reading some of the other discussions in this section I was reminded of a boat trip I took from Singapore to and island in Indonesia. We were this tiny ferry boat -- no vehicles -- and at times we were surronded by these huge ships. I feel like the tiny ferry boat among huge ships. My projects could be brainstormed in half and hour or 45 minutes. Reading through what some of you are going through, I could see it taking 30 to 45 days just to get things set up right with everything going in the same direction.

I think I'm going to read and listen for a while.

Thanks again for the lead on the podcast.



bflynn's picture

Not sure of your field, but if you're working with small projects, you might look up agile methods, such as SCRUM - that is not a recommendation, just an identification. Smaller projects don't require the same management techniques as larger projects. If you have less than 10 people and six months in the project plan, you probably can do it without formal scheduling, gantt charts or critical paths just by having a daily standup meeting.

My experience is that many times project managers do not know different ways to manage and try to apply the single way they do know to every project. The techniques you need to design and build a tank are not the same that you need to change a light bulb inside one.


Mark's picture
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But of course. We like, use and endorse brainwriting...though we just call that brainstorming using a different capture method.


dmbaldwin's picture


How long do you recommend a group to spend brainwriting before sharing their ideas? The two projects I used it on we had a three month time frame with about 170 end items that were generated. The other was the same amount of time, but not as much to do and we generated about 70 end items. After reading through what a lot of people are dealing with, I feel like a very small fish in a huge pond!

Thanks for your insights and for having Manger Tools on the web and podcasts. My productivity and leadership has gone through the roof.



Mark's picture
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10 minutes. Much more than that just shows a great decline in value, plus an increase in assumptions as opposed to judgment.

Asking people to keep track over the course of a project is great, but rarely happens to any great affect. If you want, assign someone to review emails about the project, to look for wins and losses.


jgfellow's picture

I like the M&M podcast on Brainstorming, but I think that this particular method (M's 10 minutes of writing followed by discussion) is a good implementation.

We get involved in many multi-month modeling projects with lots of fidgety details. I often wish that I had identified more of what has to get done at the outset. I'm going to try to use this at the outset of my next big modeling exercise...

pmhut's picture

I have just listened to the M&M podcast, it's excellent (btw, in case some of you guys are wondering where it is, here's the link: ).

dmbaldwin, you can read the [url=]Project Manager Primer[/url] book on PM Hut. This book is probably the easiest explanation to Project Management (some of the comments on the articles are also interesting).

joshnankivel's picture

It looks like the link for the Project Management Primer isn't working; I went out and found it on PM Hut and it is [url=]here[/url].

[b]Dave, for me any project always starts out with the following basics:[/b]

1) Define who the stakeholders are (who are the customers of the end result?)
2) Define the stakeholder needs you should address (interviews with stakeholders are excellent, using techniques like story boarding, use case diagrams, simple flowcharts to represent what the end product will be used for, etc.)
3) [u][b]NOW[/b] that you have defined the who, why, and what you can start on the [b]HOW[/b][/u]
4) This is where your brainstorming/brain writing can come in. Personally, I like to try and think of the high-level pieces that need to be built, and then generate a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) which is just like an org chart where you break down work into smaller and smaller chunks until at the bottom you have discrete work packages you can assign to someone.
5) Only after you've fully planned your scope (through the WBS) and reviewed the WBS with stakeholders should you start on the schedule. Now you've got well-defined activities you can assign, and the person who will be doing it has a better idea of exactly what is required and how it fits into the big picture.

On smaller projects, this just goes much more quickly. The primer mentioned before is an excellent resource. There may be some content on my site that would help as well. Good luck!

Josh Nankivel

P.S. These resources may be helpful as well



pmhut's picture

Thanks Josh!

I just fixed the link btw.

erikko's picture

how long does it take for you to do brainstorming exercises

tlhausmann's picture
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[quote="erikko"]how long does it take for you to do brainstorming exercises[/quote]

It varies.

You can tell that the brainstorming exercise is coming to an end when the tempo slows...the walls are covered with torn off sheets from the easel and the markers have run dry. :D