Quite often, the greatest advantage a small team can give themselves is to sit together in the same room. Close proximity is a critical factor in fostering strong communications among the group. Especially with small teams that are driving hard, working on projects with a great deal of uncertainty and change, a shared space should be considered a necessity for success.
Having the space, however, is a far cry from using it as effectively as possible.
This space has a huge advantage over the documents that might be passed around or artifacts such as blogs, wikis, or folders and documents on your server. The walls, windows, and doors are visible to everyone who passes through. They are in your face. They are visible without even having to look for them, and should be leveraged accordingly.
On any project, there is a collection of information that everyone should have access to instantaneously, in a form that can be shared, discussed, and debated without a lot of effort to bring it to the surface.
The vision for the project should be clear in anyone’s mind. Why the project exists. Who the customer is. What makes this product different from what exists elsewhere. This serves as a basis for aligning the team and validating any proposed changes to the scope.
A list of the prioritized features for the project keeps people aware of the overall scope of work. Those that are definitely needed, those that would be great if there was time, and those that you can squeeze in if a miracle happens with all the other stuff. Keep it at a high level, either business features or use cases, so that it doesn’t become a maintenance nightmare. With a few embellishments, such as the status and expected completion date, ownership, dependencies on other features and any current issues or concerns, this list becomes a powerful overall perspective of the project scope and status.
Tie to this list a list of milestones, commitments, and constraints that are shaping the project, and you will have a view of the box that you are trying to fit all this scope into. Don’t try to merge the two sets of information together. Retain the scope with the most reasonable estimates to completion that you can. Avoid trying to arbitrarily fit them into the business constraints you have set. Expose the gap between the two and manage this properly.
Tasks that need to get done but don’t register at the feature level need to be captured and tracked to completion, and this list could be effectively posted, too. All too often, teams will diligently have weekly (or more frequent) team meetings where the same things are discussed again and again. Keep these items on a managed list; don’t carry them forward from week to week without closure.
Each of these pieces of information should be prominently placed where the whole team can see it as they go about their daily business. This could be next to the coffee machine, posted in the primary meeting room, or right next to the whiteboard that everyone uses. Choose a place where the team congregates. Keep the information current and relevant. Use it to drive the project, and it will be a major communication aid for the team.
Let it fall out of date, like so many six-month-old Gantt charts posted in "war rooms," and it will become invisible to the team.