paddle-ballHave you ever played paddle ball? Where a rubber ball soars high, is pulled back down, and soars back up again? Sometimes that’s what project management feels like. One minute you’re up high, surveying the entire project and the next minute you’re bouncing back to deal with the details of the day-to-day. Where the rubber meets the paddle is the part of project management that can make or break your high level plans. In LLAMA (lot like Agile management approach), we use task cards to describe, prioritize, and estimate all those nitty gritty bits of project management.

Once upon a time we used actual cards – honest-to-goodness 3”x5” index cards – and they had a lot of benefits. We posted them on cork boards that were prominently displayed so we could all see what everyone else was doing. We could draw on them, because sometimes a sketch is the best way to communicate. And we could rip them up, which is a scientifically-proven way to exorcise bad ideas and get new and better ones.

Now we use Trello – a nifty website and app that lets us create digital task cards. It’s got a lot of benefits, too. It’s not location-specific so we don’t need to be in the office to update cards or see a board. The UI allows for almost infinite uses of the app; anything that would benefit from categorizing, chunking, labeling, or color coding could take advantage of Trello. You can assign tasks by dragging and dropping photos of team members. Calling out “You can put my head on it” is scientifically-proven to be way more fun than saying “I’ll take that task.”

Regardless of which system we’re using, the requirements of a task card remain the same: small, discrete tasks that are clearly explained with unpadded time estimates. We spell it all out in Learning Solutions MagazineThe Secret of Better Project Management: Task Cards.”