Project Management

A Strategic Planning Approach

by Paul D.  Gardiner

Chapter 5 materials

References to the website in Chapter 5

Website reference from page 109:

discover Max Wideman's Project Management Wisdom

Website reference from page 120:

for help and advice on using three problem solving techniques for project managers:

- brainstorming
- brain-writing
- Crawford slip method

Problem solving techniques for project managers, chapter 5


Most problems are not solved automatically by the first idea that comes to mind. To get to the best solution it is important to consider many possible solutions. One of the best ways to do this is called brainstorming. Brainstorming is the act of defining a problem or idea and coming up with anything related to the topic - no matter how remote a suggestion may sound. All of these ideas are recorded and evaluated only after the brainstorming is completed.

The procedure for brainstorming is as follows:

In a small or large group select a leader and a recorder (they may be the same person).

Define the problem or idea to be brainstormed. Make sure everyone is clear on the topic being explored.

Set up the rules for the session. They should include
  • letting the leader have control.
  • allowing everyone to contribute.
  • ensuring that no one will insult, demean, or evaluate another participant or his/her response.
  • stating that no answer is wrong.
  • recording each answer unless it is a repeat.
  • setting a time limit and stopping when that time is up.
Start the brainstorming. Have the leader select members of the group to share their answers. The recorder should write down all responses, if possible so everyone can see them. Make sure not to evaluate or criticize any answers until the brainstorming process is complete.

Once you have finished brainstorming, go through the results and begin evaluating the responses. Some initial qualities to look for when examining the responses include
  • looking for any answers that are repeated or similar.
  • grouping like concepts together.
  • eliminating responses that definitely do not fit.
Now that you have narrowed your list down some, discuss the remaining responses as a group.

This is an adaptation of brainstorming that uses a written idea generation approach that makes it easier to describe more detailed and coherent ideas leading to a solution.

Brain-writing can be performed in two different ways:
  1. The card method, where the ideas are written on small cards and circulated among the participants for addition of related ideas or extension with other elements.
  2. The gallery method, where ideas are written on a number of white boards or flip charts and the participants circulate among these to add related ideas or expand on existing ones.

The procedure for brain-writing is as follows:
  • As with brainstorming, start by clearly defining the target topic for the idea generation. The topic is either written on a white board or on the participants' individual cards if the card method is used.
  • The participants then write down their ideas, either on the cards or on their white board. Precise formulations are encouraged, while still being sufficiently detailed to enable understanding without explanations from the owner.
  • The participants are allowed to add to others' ideas to reap effects from combining ideas or further developing them
  • In the end, the ideas are verbally discussed by the groups and preferably also sorted into classes of ideas.
Crawford Slip Method

The Crawford slip method is another written adaptation of brainstorming that in addition protects the anonymity of the participants. This approach is therefore often used when the group that will generate ideas experiences conflict that stifles creativity or when large amounts of information are expected to surface through the generating session.

The Crawford slip method must be seen as a variant of the card method, where the cards are not circulated for extending others' ideas. Neither is an open evaluation of the ideas conducted, which further increases the requirements for accurate idea formulation. Sorting the ideas is done by one person, often aided by computer software designed for this purpose, several of which are offered on the market. The final document that summarizes all ideas can in the end be used openly in the group to reach agreement on which ideas will be used further.

Website reference from page 125:

a comprehensive list of job descriptions relevant to project management

Self-assessment review questions and answers for Chapter 5

Please click here to start the quiz.