This Month’s Pattern *

81 War Rooms

The project is centered through the use of a dedicated war room.

Each year, we come across a scant dozen-or-so projects that have dedicated war rooms, with work products decorating the walls and project members interacting in the project’s common space. While this is hardly a major trend, it is a pattern that is worth analyzing, as such projects tend to be hell-bent for success.

    I’m beginning to think that a project not worth a war room may be a project not worth doing.

The war room is a manifestation of an attitude that a substantial amount of face-to-face interaction is essential to project success. In addition, it asserts that the active display of work products and artifacts is essential to both the jelling of the team and the conduct of its work. Finally, it is clear evidence of someone’s willingness to invest aggressively in project success. Real estate is the prototypical form of investment, and a project that is allocated real estate possesses a powerful symbol that it matters.

In most cases, the war room is simply a commandeered conference room. The room is large enough to accommodate any or all of the project team members, with room for a few visitors. Typically, project members are in and around the war room at some time most days, and it is there that they conduct most of the key interface discussions and design and redesign sessions.

Artifacts that are on permanent display include deliverables in progress, the working design, the schedule, PERT and manpower-loading charts, risk lists, work breakdown structure, a mix of work products, and managerial artifacts. Team members gravitate to the war room whenever they’re inclined to put their hands on any of the major planning or design artifacts, as well as to view the contributions of their teammates. (There is more on this phenomenon in Pattern 75,“Fridge Door.”) In the best cases, individual workers have private work space adjacent to the war room, so that the room and its surroundings constitute a well-defined project domain.

The project manager is a frequent occupant of the war room. It is there that he maintains the pulse of the project. Since some of the artifacts and work products on display are the manager’s, analyzing and updating them are war room tasks that naturally accrue to the manager.

The following may be obvious, but it’s still worth stating: Just declaring that the project has a war room and setting space aside for it doesn’t do the trick. The challenge is to make the war room a vital and organic part of the project. The war room has to emerge as part of the project’s own chosen direction; that is the only way the war room is going to be magical, as war rooms can sometimes be.

* Each month we plan to publish here one of the patterns from our Jolt Award book, Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies — Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior. (Watch this space for a mere 86 months and you'll have read the whole thing.) The book is published by Dorset House Publishing, in the US and Hanser Verlag in Germany. It is available at Amazon and also as a Kindle book.


Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
12-Sep-2017 to 14-Sep-2017

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

Brussels, Mastering Business Analysis
13-Sep-2017 to 14-Sep-2017

James Archer teaches Mastering Business Analysis. Contact IT Works for details of this course.  

Stockholm, Mastering the Requirements Process
26-Sep-2017 to 28-Sep-2017

Brussels, Mastering the Requirements Process
10-Oct-2017 to 12-Oct-2017

James Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact I.T.Works for details.  

Brussels, MRP part 2
11-Oct-2017 to 12-Oct-2017

Rome, Mastering the Requirements Process
16-Oct-2017 to 18-Oct-2017

Rome, Mastering Business Analysis
19-Oct-2017 to 20-Oct-2017

James Robertson teaches Mastering Business Analysis. Contact Technology Transfer for details of this course.  

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
6-Nov-2017 to 8-Nov-2017

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

Hilversum, Mastering the Requirements Process
7-Nov-2017 to 9-Nov-2017

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details please contact Adept Events. Dutch description, or in English.

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process part 2
9-Nov-2017 to 10-Nov-2017

Suzanne Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process part 2. Details for this advanced class at Den Norske Dataforeningen.

London, Mastering the Requirements Process
14-Nov-2017 to 16-Nov-2017

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details and registration, please contact IRM UK.

in depth

Business analysis is often seen as a technical skill. But the business analyst has another set of responsibilities -- to dig into what the stakeholder's mind and uncover what is really needed, and not just what they say they want. 

A Ruby Beam of Light, Book I of Tom DeMarco's Andronescu's Paradox saga is now available in English in paperback and ebook, from Double Dragon Publishing.

"This war isn't going to blow anything up, only turn everything off."

Suzanne and James Robertson's "Requirements: The Masterclass LiveLessons-Traditional, Agile, Outsourcing". 15+ Hours of Video Instruction. 

Als auf der Welt das Licht Ausging, the German edition of Tom DeMarco's science fiction epic, Andronescu's Paradox, has now been published by Hanser Verlag in Munich.  Translation by Andreas Brandhorst.

James Robertson’s webinar for Software Education explains how agile stories are best used to ensure the right solution. Writing the Right Agile Stories on YouTube. Download the webinar slides.