When The Going Gets Tough, We Set Up a War Room

I have a nice corner office at Matrix Group, but I haven’t seen it in a while. Why? Well, it’s been a busy couple of months at the company and I’m spending most of my days in the War Room.

We don’t really have a War Room like the White House. At Matrix Group, any room where a bunch of staff are working together on a project can be called a war room. Some people call it the Peace Room, while others call it a huddle. Whatever we call it, in the last year, we’ve discovered the joys and benefits of working collaboratively, in the same space. Here’s how it happened.

About a year ago, we had a small team that had six months to get a lot of work done. Their manager asked if he could sequester the team in one of the small conference rooms so they could collaborate, discuss issues immediately, look at each other’s code, and have the front-end developer immediately address prototyping and styling needs. The answer was, of course, yes. The result? The team got the project done and they did a great job. They reported being super-productive because they had easy access to each other, they were largely uninterrupted by the rest of the company, and they had snacks.

Six months ago, another team was crashing on three deadlines. I suggested that they set up their own war room and I was told it was too hard to lug computers and monitors into the small conference room.  My response: why don’t we outfit the room with a bunch of monitors and keyboards? Then teams can come in with their laptops or desktops, have benefit of multiple monitors (which is how everyone works around here), and have an immediate war room. So we did and it worked. Staff are loving having the ability to work together collaboratively, as needed.

Even my new biz team requests huddles several times a week. During these huddles, four of us sit in a big room, discuss a topic, get work done, discuss some more and get more work done. We’re not talking the entire time and we’re not really meeting; we’re just working in the same room and occasionally looking up and getting instant access to each other.

I recently did a Matrix Minute YouTube interview with a team that set up a war room for a week to finish up a project.

If you think your team might benefit from a war room, here are my tips for doing it successfully:

  • Make sure the right people are in the war room. For example, we find it helpful to always have a front-end developer in the room because they can handle so many tasks and can address the CSS issues that sometimes block developers.
  • Establish a deadline and a set of goals so the team has a clear idea of what they need to get done, broken down by day and week.
  • Free up people’s schedules so they can spend time in the war room uninterrupted; it’s too distracting if people have to get up and leave all the time to sit in meetings or take calls.
  • Keep the team well nourished with snacks. Don’t forget healthy alternatives!
  • Make sure the collaborative space is big enough and well-lit so that the team doesn’t feel like they’re in grim, cramped quarters.
  • Set up the room with good technology (monitors, good chairs, etc.) so that staff doesn’t feel like they’re giving up the benefits of their own space.
  • If you’re the manager, you should probably be in the war room as well. At the very least, spend part of your day in the war room or check in regularly.

How about you? How does your organization handle crazy deadlines? Have you ever set up a war room? With what results?

One thought on “When The Going Gets Tough, We Set Up a War Room

  1. Wow, I’m so glad I ran across your blog post because I just read about another company doing something very similar (except it’s ALL the time and their desks are on wheels) so it’s great to know this works in more than one place.
    -Mary Longacre
    Business Quarterbacks

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