19 September 2018

Building momentum in business with a business war room.

One of the groups in the war room in my office..

Many of us have heard of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It’s a famed ancient military book that many modern day business people credit with inspiring them along the way in some form or another. There are multiple versions of the 2,000 year-old guide including The Art of War for Small Businesses, for Women and for Success.

So what is it about war that tallies so closely with business?

Whilst business sometimes feels like you’re in the middle of a battlefield, I disagree with many of the comparisons to being at war. However, when we move closer to a more recent strategy for war and a little closer to home to Winston Churchill’s approach to World War II, there is something quite special here that we have adopted in our day-to-day business practice: the war room.

Metres beneath London’s hectic streets, as air-raid warnings rang out around the capital, Churchill and his Cabinet plotted the path to victory. Locking themselves away from distractions, with everyone they needed in one room, they were able to build a strategy to win the war.

Whilst we’re now in a setting a lifetime away from wartime Britain, running a war room is an incredibly valuable business tool to tackle a problem or complete a project.

You may have seen across my social media channels a few weeks ago that we ran a war room in my office for three weeks. So, how do you do it? How do you make sure your war room gets to the crux of the matter, and how do you know you need one?

Know your why

War rooms are the perfect remedy for a big task that’s been lingering or a project that needs input from multiple departments or teams. Bringing everyone together in one room, with all of the tools you need, you’re able to get straight to the matter at hand with no reasons for delays. It’s all too easy for distractions to come up when you’re at your desk, or for a delayed response when you’re in different buildings or across separate floors. Plus, when you’re all in one space, it’s impossible to pass the buck!

Have your war room purpose clearly defined and you’re ready to go!

Nominate an organiser

Invariably the big task is split into smaller sections: redesigning a website is split into web pages or sections for example. Have someone on hand to keep track of who is owning which task and where each person is up to.

Tools like Trello or Slack can be useful here, but with everyone in the same space, we simply use a whiteboard to stay up to date.

Having one person as the port of call for any queries or handing out ownership streamlines the process and ensures that everyone is on the same page.

Be prepared

Before beginning, ensure that you have all of the tools you need. That you have food and drinks at the ready and that the space is distraction free. There’s nothing worse than motivating a team to tackle a project then instantly losing momentum because of delays in getting the tech working or missing equipment.

Keep track of your progress

Once your war room is underway, keep track of where you’re up to and celebrate the milestones. Not only is this an essential way to stay organised, it’s also incredibly motivating for the war room team.

Maintain momentum

When you and the team physically leave the war room setup, how will you maintain that momentum? Have a plan in place, whether that’s daily scrum meetings to update one another on progress and delays, or using tools like Slack or your intranet to continue the communication now that you’ve completed the bulk of the work.

Have you ever run a war room? What are your tips for completing a big project? Let me know in the comments below.

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