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I have just started utilizing an approach that I refer to as the 3 in 3 email.

It is nothing groundbreaking but simply an email issued every Monday and Wednesday asking 3 questions regarding the next 3 days.

  • What do you need from the Planning Manager in the next 3 days?
  • What blocks do you have that the Planning Manager can help with?
  • What facilitation can the Planning Manager support you with in the next 3 days?

This email is delivered to a team of 18, both laterally and vertically throughout the organisation.

Is there a way to improve it and do the questions feel useful within a project or delivery environment? It does not replace face to face communications but is used to bridge the gap the between Daily Stand Up and the Weekly Progress Update which are standard delivery ceremonies.

  • Surely you should be asking the team this question?! No-one on this site can possibly know whether it is appropriate for your organisation. Besides anything else, as stated it is merely an invitation to offer opinions, and that is off-topic for this site. You might be better off rewriting this as a question about techniques for solving the communications-gap problem and then judging your own solution against any that are offered. – Marv Mills Mar 4 '15 at 15:04
  • I don't totally agree unfortunately @MarvMills. I have asked for specific and measurable input to improve the template. It is not merely a team retrospective but it goes to the heart of effective project management - it is exactly the same as "How can I improve my Risk Log" or "How can I improve my Meeting Agenda" as questions. The team can and do offer feedback but I am also interested in the expertise of the community of PMs here on SE. – Venture2099 Mar 4 '15 at 15:54
  • ...you have lost me Marv if I cam being completely honest. I am not sure what you are saying. – Venture2099 Mar 4 '15 at 16:22
  • Now I am intrigued - you think the idea is horrendous? That is quite a strong statement. Which part exactly? We have Daily Stand-Ups and a full Weekly Update. I am providing a discreet method twice a week for all team members to formally request any support they need (protecting themselves and offloading their facilitation when needed) and you think the idea is "horrendous"...am truly interested in why. Also interested in how exactly you would do it differently...what would you do differently whilst keeping daily and Weekly updates. – Venture2099 Mar 4 '15 at 17:14
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To the questions- Having been a project manager for longer than I care to really think about, I can say that more than half the time the answer to "what can I (the project manager) help you with" the answer was "nothing". The structure of the question focuses it on the project planner, not the problem. The engineer might not even think about his argument with IT about getting lab domain that isn't on the corporate network or how the project planner (manager) can help help them.

Focus on the person. Make it all about them. Make the question more open ended. "What is blocking you from completely your work this week?", "What resources do you need?" etc.

As to the method of asking the questions: Email is a highly imperfect medium. Essentially what you're sending out is a survey. Responses to surveys generally run in the 10% range (and marketers are thrilled if they get this) and those surveys are usually just checking boxes on a screen. Even SurveyMonkey would be better and is still not the best solution.

This is why the daily standup works so much better. 15 minutes, and everyone gets a chance to talk in real time. Here's a hint, it doesn't have to be daily. Do make it less than 15 minutes and it could be more than one meeting. If six people are in New York, get on a phone with them at 10:00am, meet with the guys near you at 9:00am.

With a team of 18, it is not out of scope to be able to touch base with each person twice a week one on one. When I ran the PMO at Hitachi I met with everyone in the core team multiple times a week. I knew about problems before they ever became problems and was able to head them off proactively.

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The three questions are all really very similar. It may be more effective to just ask:

"What roadblocks have you run into today"?

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