Do you want a simple way to keep your team updated on what’s happening on your project, here’s one: a Kitchen Screen.
Most companies have a small kitchen or resting area where people go to make themselves a cup of coffee or grab something quick to eat a couple of times a day. Team members stay there for 5 minutes clearing their heads and informally chatting with colleagues about all sorts of stuff. Did you ever think about putting there, in a non-intrusive way, a small monitor showing important information about your project?
Some years ago my team placed in our kitchen a short 3-slide PowerPoint presentation running on an endless loop with some graphs about our project. We showed a bug detection & fixing convergence graph, our test execution progress graph, and a table with defect statistics showing the amount of open and closed bugs per team. Suddenly people came for coffee and started looking at the screen and talking about the stuff in it.
Two weeks after our “first showing” I got a request from a development manager to add an additional slide with a couple of graphs showing the progress of his team. A week later the project manager asked me to place the updated status of our project Gantt.
The initial presentation was very simple, and I had to remember each morning to manually update the graphs using a template we had defined in Excel. After a while I got one of my engineers to create a small exe file that would generate the graphs and update the presentation automatically twice a day. It got so popular that other teams from within the company started using our “platform” to place small screens in their own kitchens. Our kitchen screen managed to get the information to more people in a more effective way than our weekly Testing Update Reports.
If you decide to use these screens there two important things to keep in mind:
1. Make sure to keep the information updated. Once you stop updating your graphs for more than a couple of days people will stop noticing the screen, and it will take you extra efforts to regain their attention.
2. Don’t put too much information in your presentation and give time for people to digest it. Use a maximum of 5-7 slides, place only 1 or 2 graphs on each page, and show them for about 12 to 20 seconds. The optimal screening time is around 1 minute for all the presentation.
Finally, keep your screens and presentations fun and imaginative, people like surprises once in a while.