Tuesday, September 24, 2019

PMP Protein: Understanding Brainstorming

By Vivek Vardhan, PMP




In the earlier article, I wrote about Leadership and Team Building

Another, leadership toolkit is brainstorming, which is quick, effective and generates a lot of ideas. In this article, we will see what is brainstorming, in which processes it is used and the possible types that can be used by a project manager. 

Overall, brainstorming work as a technique, which is typically used to generate ideas. As per Project Management Institute (PMI)’s, brainstorming is defined as: 

“A technique that is performed in a group setting and led by a facilitator to engage stakeholders to quickly identify a list of ideas for a specific topic in a relatively short time period.”

PMI also says brainstorming can be used to identify a list of risks or a set of stakeholders or solutions in the PMBOK guide. The main principle of successful brainstorming is that the quality of ideas flowing shall not be assessed at the initial stage. 


Usage of Brainstorming
Brainstorming is one of the tools and techniques which has been used throughout the PMBOK Guide. Let’s check them one by one. 

  • Scope Management: For a successful project outcome, it is important to have proper scope defined. A good defined scope depends on collection of creative and relevant ideas. Hence, the important usage of brainstorming happens in Scope Management – specifically in Collect Requirements process. In this process, you can use brainstorming to generate and collect multiple ideas related to both project and product requirements.
  • Quality Management: In quality management, you can use brainstorming to develop the Quality Management Plan in Plan Quality Management process. With brainstorming, you can engage with the team members and or subject matter experts to get the best of inputs.
  • Risk Management: In my view, the most comprehensive use of brainstorming one can use is risk management, while identifying risks. In the process of Identify Risks, you can use it to get both the individual project risks and overall project risk. This process results in the creation of the Risk Register document.
  • Stakeholder Management: Another practical usage of brainstorming is to identify all possible stakeholders in Identify Stakeholders process.  This process results in the creation of the Stakeholder Register document.

Brainstorming can also be used in Integration Management while developing the Project Charter and Project Management Plan.

Things to Take Care 
While brainstorming, you as the project manager, may have to play the role of facilitator. Hence, you need to keep a tab of certain important things while performing this activity.

Since quantity takes dominance over quality, rejection of one idea may lead to failure of the session. Hence, in order to keep the people motivated for sharing, conducive atmosphere be made so that the participants do not shy away or feel ignored. There are no rules for a new thought, let the thoughts flow in, we may find it funny or stupid, but never mind, it can be sorted out later. The success of brainstorming depends on how well the subject of discussion is identified and related problem areas clearly spelt out within the group. Lack of clarity on the topic would lead to unnecessary discussion and waste of energies. 

Types of Brainstorming
To understand brainstorming as subject, following discussion techniques are used to generate creative ideas. Basically, these are various types of brainstorming. 


  1. Star Bursting: It focuses on writing set of questions rather than answers, which ensures that all aspects of the project are addressed before any work begins. It is useful in the situation when the project team is rushing to get things done at the last minute. Eventually at the end, good question database helps to get instant answers, which leads to good content in a short time. However, this brainstorming technique is being used mostly to build Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.  
  2. Brain Writing: This is a very basic technique and is based on general principle of separate ideas generated from decision. Here you allow the individual participants time to consider the question(s) individually before the group creativity session is held.
  3. Figuring Storming: This technique is based on analysis of how someone else might handle the situation. Putting yourself in new shoes can give the team a different perspective, helping them to see the possibilities from fresh ideas. This technique works best in a situation where the team finds itself coming across the same ideas for repetitive projects.
  4. Online Brainstorming: This form of brainstorming is a useful technique when the project team is working virtually in isolation. To collect the ideas, an online central repository is created where virtual team members can contribute and work in collaboration. 
  5. Rapid Ideation: It’s a useful technique when the project team has a shortage of time. In this technique, Project Manager or team leader provides context, information and questions on the topic along with pre-set timelines to individuals to write down ideas around the topics without considering filtering their ideas. 
  6. Round Robin: Brainstorming technique under which project team forms a circle to kick off discussions. Topic of discussion is shared by Project Manager, afterwards turn by turn each team member participates and share his idea. The shared ideas are recorded by a facilitator. In this technique, it is important not to evaluate ideas until everyone gets the opportunity to share. 

To conclude, brainstorming a method of generating ideas to solve problems by involving group of people under the direction of facilitator. 

Written by Vivek Vardhan:
Vivek Vardhan is a Supply Chain Management Professional and has project management exposure of five years. He has overall 21 years of work experience.

References:
[1] Book: Organizational Behavior by Stephen P. Robbins
[2] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)


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