Seeing and understanding the work of the Hub: project boards on Main Street
By Teal Amthor-Shaffer, Gerald Rhead, and Erik Skogsberg
A walk down Main Street at MSU’s Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology is an invitation to collaborate. Main Street, the Hub’s primary thoroughfare, intersects our space in Wells Hall and takes visitors through the central artery channelling and coordinating our day-to-day activities. Our colorful project boards provide a focused yet comprehensive overview of our portfolio. The boards give us, our partners, and our visitors an idea of the scope and variety of the Hub’s work across campus. Inspired by other agile methods and transparent work environments, we’ve approached project management in this tactile, highly visual, and highly visible way to facilitate dynamic collaboration.
For visitors, this transparency raises awareness but also invites questions and observations that bring new or fresh perspectives. By welcoming and starting conversations, we are inviting visitors to participate in our culture more deeply. Those conversations can surface opportunities for us to work together. And on our team, we want staff and partners to make connections across projects, whether that supports their individual professional development goals or helps find efficiencies in our processes or methods.
In this post, we’ll walk through the anatomy of our project boards so that when you visit Main Street, you’ll understand what you’re seeing and the ways we can collaborate.
Hub Board Essentials
1) Project header: A reusable, dry-erase template that is populated with the baseline information necessary to give visitors context about the project. It also establishes “swimlanes”: areas which indicate the status of individual activities within the project.
Project Lead/Sponsor/Team: The project lead is listed first, then the sponsor. The team of people collaboratively working on the project are also identified here. Any of them can answer questions that visitors may have and are happy to have conversations about the work.
Project Title: Often times, this is a “working title” that is more descriptive than official.
Project Description: Typically indicates what the project is intended to explore or accomplish and who it affects.
Timeline: A look at estimated milestones based on what we know right now.
Swimlanes to track the status of tasks, from left to right:
Backlog/To-Do Tasks: When a new task is identified, a task card is filled out and it waits in this queue until a member of the project team is able to start working on it.
In Progress Tasks: Cards in this swimlane are being worked on.
Completed Tasks: When a task is finished, it moves into this lane.
2) Working space: Project headers and footers are positioned on our walls to frame a task area. This creates “working-space” that is tackable or tapeable. Task cards are affixed with push pins or tape so they can easily be moved through status swimlanes (identified on the header) as progress is made or roadblocks are encountered.
Task Cards: A brief description of the task can be found at the top of each card, along with information about when the task was assigned, when it is due, and an estimated work time. Who is completing the task and who has assigned the task are also identified on the card. Once a task is finished, the person who worked on it is also asked to reflect on whether or not adequate time was allowed, and if the work encountered any issues along the way. The back side of the task card has additional space for describing any issues.
3) Project footer: A different reusable, dry-erase template to promote engagement with the project. Project members can create a “Share-your-Thoughts” prompt where visitors are welcome to use post-it notes to respond with observations or additional questions. Contact info for the project lead is also provided here in the upper-right corner, if someone is interested in sharing more extensive feedback or getting involved further.
What Else Am I Seeing on the Hub Boards?
Stickers: Sheets of red, green, yellow, and blue stickers are affixed to the wall in multiple places. The stickers are used to indicate more specific status updates for the tasks within each swimlane.
Yellow: actively progressing on the expected timeline
Red: has encountered a setback or requires additional resources (often times this is how the person working on a task requests help or input from other team members)
Green: completed tasks receive this sticker
Blue: the activity documented on this task card contains a storytelling opportunity that should be explored
Story anchors: Story anchors are part of the Hub’s engagement platform, which articulates our organizational mission, vision, and goals in relationship to MSU’s institutional values and priorities. In defining these connections, story anchors provide a framework of understanding about the Hub’s culture and priorities.
That framework directs communication activities by aligning them with the Hub’s strategic priorities. Story anchors therefore guide the reflective questions that our team asks itself weekly about each of our projects. They remind us to identify opportunities to share what we are learning, exploring, and accomplishing.
The anchor that you see accompanying project boards asks the project team to share any opportunities for storytelling that they have identified. If there’s a post-it note on the anchor, the Hub’s engagement team knows to follow up and learn more.
Documentation: Many project boards feature a section where supporting materials are tacked up for quick reference. Almost all of the documents found in this space have a permanent home on the Hub’s Google Drive. Examples of supporting documents are more detailed timelines or the project charter, which is established at the very beginning of a project and specifies the overarching scope and objectives as well as identifying resources and partners.
What is SCRUM? We could (and will) write an entire post on the role that our weekly stand up meetings, which feature rapid-fire project status reports, play in our culture. For now, we want you to know that the project boards form the backbone of those updates. During SCRUM, project leads report on status of the project, including new tasks that were added as well as task cards that were completed or moved due to either progress or issues.
Get Involved with Hub Projects
A great first step is visiting us during SCRUM, which takes place every Monday at 10am. The project updates delivered during SCRUM are truly brief and the entire meeting lasts 30 minutes or less. If that time isn’t convenient for you, we’re open Monday through Friday from 9 am – 5 pm, and everyone on our staff is happy to give you a tour of our space and our project boards. Your initial stop will be Main Street, where the project boards are on display. Here are a few ways for you to immediately engage:
- Get an overview of our portfolio. Scan Hub project boards and take it all in. Use project titles and descriptions to give you a quick idea about the overall goals for these projects, and determine what interests you.
- Share your thoughts. What questions do you have? What could you add? Each board has footer where you to share your questions or feedback on sticky notes. You can do so anonymously or provide your contact info.
- Get involved with a current project. Want to get involved directly with a project? In the upper-right corner of the “Share Your Thoughts” section of each board is the contact info of the project lead. If you have more extensive feedback or want to potentially get involved with the project, reach out to the project lead directly.
- Pitch a future project. Have a project idea or think the Hub might be able to help with your work? Talk with a staff member. We would love to hear about your work and see if there are ways we could support each other.
Have immediate questions about our processes and projects? You can always get our attention by using #MSUHub on Twitter!
Teal Amthor-Shaffer, Director of Engagement (@teal57)
Storytelling amplifies, connects, and builds community.
Gerald Rhead, MSU Hub Director of Academic Entrepreneurship (@rheadmore)
Engaging stakeholders. Expanding thinking. Establishing partnerships.
Erik Skogsberg, Teacher Learning Designer (@erikskogs)