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Brainstorming, Communication, team building and collaboration.

Use an agenda to Establish expectations for the Brainstorming session.

An agenda communicates to the participonts how long the session will take and what topics will be covered. We used the following agenda for a presentation to a PMI dinner session.

Agenda and brainstorming instructions
Time Topic Method Time   
6:30 pm Communication Presentation 20 min Brian Mullen
  Brainstorming Presentation 20 min Brian Mullen
7 pm Practical demonstration Team Brainstorming 5 min  
7:00 Silent brainstorm ideas on Write 6 ideas on post it notes 10 min Team
7:10 Collect Ideas Post ideas on flipcharts 15 min Team
7:25 Select most important ideas Each person selects the most important idea to them. 5 min Team
7:30 Sort main ideas Facilitator gets team to sort main ideas from most important to least important. 20 min  
7:50 Group sub ideas Team groups remaining sub ideas under each main ideas in columns. 5 min  
8 pm Finish      


How to build a winning organizations and teams

Projects play a key role in success of organizations in bringing new products and services to market. Projects help organizations meet the challenges of change.
How to succeed as an organzation
Create products that delight the customers.Build brand name and market share.
Empower employees.Educate them to make major decisions.
Continuously improve your processes. Continuous improvement implies change. Bureaucracies resist change. When threatened they circle wagons and fire inwards.
Focus on qualityThe way to delight customers.
Reduce waste and environmental impact. Make process more effective and reduce impact on the environment.

Compare Project Performance in different organizations

General Motors needs better design products to compete with the Japanese but cannot deliver. The Japanese design better products in less time with smaller teams.

Comparison of auto design engineering performance (1987)
American auto designJapanese auto designImprovement
New car engineering hours3 million1.7 million1.76 times
Project timeframe60 months46 months1.3 times
Average team size903 485 1.86 times
Team organizationLinear sequential processConcurrent engineering
Specific projectsGM A10Honda AccordChrysler
Project timeframe7 years3 years18 months

Concurrent engineering more effective than sequential process


Promote communication and collaboration with

Strategies to promote communication in an organization.
Open channels of communicationBrainstorming. Computer Design software.
Share knowledge.
Breakdown organizational barriers and silos.Colocate team members to promote communication.
Put one project manager in charge of the design project.
Recruit full-time team members.
Focus on reducing waste.

Building winning teams

Strategies to Build winning teams
Method to build winning teamMethod
Teamwork effective collaboration. Collaboration more powerful than individual thinking. Sharing information essential for decision making.
Create shared vision of where you are going. Combined with delighting the customer we need to know what the clients objectives and challenges are. Feeds directly into the decision making process.
Use effective methodologies and processes. More effective methodologies can reduce time and shorten times and reduce project schedule.
Overcome shortage of Resources by making more effective use of existing resources. Providing more effective processes allows people to accomplish better results in a shorter period of time. Training.
Avoid unnecessary personality conflicts that drain team energies. Communication plays a key role in building teams and managing change.

Communication challenges

How do your teams interact and share information? Are your teams organized to facilitate communication? What processes do you use to promote communication?

Limited Bandwidth
What is transmission rate? What is receiving rate?
Knowledge of receiver
Assimilating information depends upon your conceptual framework. Do sender and receiver speak the same language? Many people in a cross function team may have different terminology and different values. Think of talking to executives, architect, accountants, engineers and lawyers. Do sender and receiver share the same values?
Knowledge of sender
The sender must tailor their message to the level of the receiver.
Effectiveness of communication medium

Evaluate communication alternatives


Evaluate communication alternatives
Evaluation criteria Collaborative workspaces Documents and specifications Brainstorming Email Verbal
Understandability   Very good      
Preparation time   2 hours per page   10 minutes Instantaneous
Multiple inputs Yes Limited Yes    
Evolve over time Yes        
Persistence       Long but fragmented Short lived
Bandwidth         Narrow
Ability to drill down          
Ability to enhance   Limited to author      
Visibility of ideas   High Good    
Turnaround Current Weeks to months Seconds Minutes to hours Seconds
# of messages / hour          

Time to prepare a message reduces response time but increases comprehension.

Define client Objectives


Project planning saves time, money while improving quality and capacity

If you skip planning to save money your project actually costs more and takes longer

Impact of planning on project success
Level ofplanningPercent Improvement
Key Performance IndicatorsL O WH I G Hwith Planning
ScheduleAverage Schedule Performance against schedule24% over20% under44%
BudgetAverage Performance Against Budget12% over4% under16%
Capacity Average Capacity attained at 6 months85%96%11%
Utilization reliabilityAverage Plant up time at 6 months.85%100%15%
Total dollar return on high level of planning42%

A report by the Construction Industry Institute compared 120 projects in the US with a LOW, a Medium and a HiGH levels of planning. Comparing projects shows planning saves time, money and improves the quality of the deliverables. The study included 44 projects in the cost range between $4 million and $350 million with a median of $26 million. The quality of planning was ranked on the seven following factors:

  1. Groups represented on the Planning Team
  2. Written project planning charter
  3. Planning Execution Plan
  4. Duration of the Pre-Planning Effort
  5. Percent Design Complete at Authorization
  6. Developed control guidelines
  7. Execution Plan developed for Engineering, Procurement, Construction and start up.

Increase creativity, performance, collaboration and communication with brainstorming

70% of product cost determined by the time the design is completed.

Brainstorming is a key step in creative process to generate innovative, breakthrough ideas that give you a competitive edge.

Turbo brainstorming plays a key role in creative product design. Generation of multiple ideas shares knowledge and stimulates thinking. The flexibility of the process allows teams to move in unexpected directions as breakthrough ideas to be generated.

Usually this interaction takes place in meetings. Turbo brainstorming with post-it notes, accelerates many project phases and activities:

Turbo brainstorming with post-it notes, accelerates many project phases and activities:


Brainstorming Benefits

Brainstorming Benefits
Open channels of communication.Harvest team's ideas. Reduce chance of missing crucial information.
Speed team meetings by sixty percent and get better results.Reduce three hour meetings to one hour and get better results.
Reduce conflict through better understanding of others' ideas.Verbal discussion can generate misunderstanding and hard feeling.
Deliver better results by considering more alternatives.Brainstorming supports all phases of problem solving: capturing issues, understanding root causes, identifying alternative solutions, evaluating impact of each solution and evaluating alternatives.
Stimulate creative thinking and generate more alternatives.Get people to think out of the box. 
Share ideas and knowledge to deliver better better solutions.Brainstorming is effective for experts to share knowledge and for novices to learn quickly so they can contribute. 
Build high-performance teams through communication and overcoming major challenges.Brainstorming helps problem solving which is a major team building exercise.
Reduce resistance to change by involving more people in key decisions.And listening to their ideas.

Planning turbo brainstorming sessions uses post-it notes to identify topics, allocate available time, assign roles to each participants and outline the agenda.

Brainstorming is better than one-on-one interviews for collecting information because information validated.

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Expedite projects with more effective meetings

Turbo brainstorming saves you time in meetings and produces better results. The table provides a comparison between traditional meetings and assumes you have ten people plus the facilitator in a meeting each with six ideas.
Turbo brainstorming reduces a three-hour meeting to 45 minutes.
Steps in the brainstorming process Traditional brainstorming Turbo brainstorming is faster and cheaper Improvement with turbo brainstorming
1. Collect sixty ideas from participants 60 minutes 10 minutes 6 times
2. Select and sort ten major ideas 60 minutes 15 minutes 4 times
3. Group sub ideas under major topics 60 minutes 5 minutes 12 times
4. Label groups 5 minutes 5 minutes same
Total time  3.75 hours .6 hours 6.4 times
Start 8:00 am 8:00 am  
Finish 12:15 pm 8:45 am  
Number of people 11 people 11 people  
Cost per person per hour $100 $100  
Cost to brainstorm Topic at $100/ hour $4,160 $640 6.5 times

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Turbo brainstorming compresses project duration. Because you can cover more topics in less time you can compress three four-hour meetings into a single three-hour meeting. This saves project schedule time, travel time, giving your project team more time to complete their project tasks.

Each topic can take 20 to 45 minutes so you can brainstorm four to six topics in a three-hour meeting. By covering topics faster you can reduce three four-hour meetings into a single three-hour meeting reducing cycle time from 15 days to 3 hours. This saves project time, team-meeting time and money while at the same time exploring topics in much more depth.

Turbo Brainstorming reduces schedule, effort and cost by expediting meetings.

You can accomplish in one meeting with turbo brainstorming what takes three ordinary meetings.
Three traditional three-hour meetings. One three-hour meeting with Turbo brainstorming. Improvement with Turbo brainstorming.
Number of three-hour meetings 3 meetings 1 meeting 66% reduction
Number of topics covered in depth 4 to 6 4 to 6 Better quality with more depth
Number of people (* add one facilitator) 10 people 11* people Same
Level of participation Low High Better participation
Buy-in to final results Medium Higher Higher participant buyin
Elapsed schedule time depends upon time between meetings. For meetings one week apart the total elapsed time for three meetings would be two weeks compared to 3 hours. 15 days 3 hours 92% reduction
in cycle time.
Cost per person per hour $100 $100 Same
Cost per meeting $3,000 $3,300 Same
Number of meetings 3 meetings 1 meeting 66% reduction
Total Cost for all meetings $9,000 $3,300 64% reduction

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The biggest benefits of turbo brainstorming are improved quality of results, the reduction in cycle time, reduced cost of meetings and increased energy of team members.

With traditional meetings you have to publish results at the end of each meeting and refresh people's minds at the start of the next meeting. When you compress three meetings into one you can only have to write up the final results and can skip the interim results.

Turbo Brainstorming can reduce your meetings by 75% and produce better results. Turbo brainstorming energizes a team, stimulates thinking and leads to creative breakthroughs.

Turbo brainstorming has developed by ISP information systems planning corp.

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Turbo Brainstorming Patterns

Patterns capture the essence of a process. Brainstorming patterns help you structure the topics in a brainstorming session depending upon various situations you encounter.

Process/Pattern name
Steps within the process or pattern
1. Idea processing pattern

Ideas process may be plans, objectives, risks, requirements, deliverables, strategies, design features, .

  • Create ideas (Thinking, Brainstorming, Prototyping)
  • Capture ideas (Words, tables, diagrams, charts, databases, software)
  • Publish ideas (Web sites, journals, books, ).
  • Assign responsibility
  • Take action (projects, ). 
  • Deliver results.
  • Achieve benefits.
2. Turbo brainstorming process

Each session may cover four to forty topics. Advanced agenda planning and preparation increases results of a brainstorming session.

  • Plan multi-topic brainstorming session.
  • Setup brainstorming room.
  • Brainstorm multiple topics in one session.
  • Plan action items from session.
  • Review session results with executive team.
  • Publish results of the session.
3. Brainstorm next topic

Each brainstorming topic takes between thirty and sixty minutes.

  1. Identify topic.
  2. Capture ideas on post-it notes.
  3. Create planning workspace with flipcharts.
  4. Organize tasks on flipcharts.
  5. Group sub ideas under main ideas.
  6. Label each group.
7. Objective-setting pattern

Understanding client objectives key to satisfying clients. Often this involves developing a consensus amongst conflicting objectives of the project stakeholders.

  • Brainstorm client objectives.
  • Identify benefits from achieving each objective.
  • Create goal hierarchy.
  • Generate additional alternatives by analyzing goal hierarchy
4. Plan Meeting Agendas

Meetings may consist of four topics in a half day meeting to 40 topics covered in a five day strategic planning session.

  • Identify objectives of the meeting
  • Identify participants for meeting
  • Identify time budgeted for meeting.
  • Identify topics to reach the objective
  • Sequence topics
  • Identify method for each topic
  • Assign responsibility for topic
  • Allocate time for each topic
  • Finalize agenda.
  • Notify presentation participants to prepare material.
  • Build agenda booklet
5. Debono's six thinking hats sequence de Bono six thinking hats help speed creative thinking by a team.
  1. Blue hat thinking - worn by the facilitator
  2. White Hat thinking - Brainstorm what do we understand about the situation. 
  3. Greet Hat thinking - Brainstorm creative ideas
  4. Yellow hat thinking - elaborate and refine ideas
  5. Red hat thinking - how do we feel about the solution
  6. Black hat thinking - what could go wrong with our solution

6. Project planning pattern

Tips to facilitate high-performance teams including skills assessment, Recruiting tips. Training and rehearsal.

  1. Understand client objectives.
  2. Explore budget, schedule, technical and operational constraints.
  3. Identify risks that threaten project success.
  4. Identify deliverables to meet client objectives.
  5. Select process to produce each deliverable.
  6. Develop strategy to complete project successful.
  7. Identify resources required to deliver results.
  8. Identify tasks to produce each deliverable.
  9. Estimate effort and duration to for each work package.
  10. Assign resources to tasks.
  11. Develop project schedule and budget.
  12. Level resource workloads.
8. Project scoping pattern

Scoping identifies which objectives, features, requirements, etc are either in scope, deferred to a later release or out of scope.

  • Decide items to scope.
  • Create workspace for each release.
  • Select release for each feature.
  • Analyze impact of each release decision.
9. Deliverables definition pattern

Deliverables are results or outputs from projects and tasks. Deliverables are elaborated during the requirements and design phases. The definition of deliverables forms the foundation for estimating.

  • Focus on deliverables before strategy and tasks.
  • Prepare statement of work defining deliverables.
  • Decide delivery method (build, buy, assemble) for each component.
  • Develop project standards and guidelines.
  • Define components for each deliverable.
  • Construct assembly sequence.
  • Design deliverables and components.
  • Create detailed plan for summary task cell in Master Project with Matrix decomposition.
10. Problem-solving pattern

Brainstorming speeds problem solving by defining problems and root causes and then generating more creative solutions. Joint problem solving helps build a high-performance teams faster.

  • Identify problem, issue or risk to solve.
  • Brainstorm solution criteria
  • Explore root causes
  • Brainstorm potential solutions.
  • Analyze impact of best solutions
  • Blend best features to develop better solution.
  • Select best alternative
11. Impact analysis brainstorming Impact analysis reduces conflicts due to competing alternatives.
  • Identify competing alternatives solutions.
  • Brainstorm description
  • Brainstorm pro's for each solution
  • Brainstorm con's for each solution
  • Select major alternatives
12. Process mapping pattern Process mapping can be used to develop costs for current and new resource workloads to develop cost benefit comparison between previous and new processes.  
  • Brainstorm business processes to map.
  • Identify work steps in each process.
  • Identify cycle time for each work step.
  • Identify resource usage for each step.
  • Enter process map into Microsoft Project
  • Create cost/benefit matrix comparing improvement between old and new process in Excel.
13. SWOT Strategic planning Pattern SWOT analysis contains four topics to kickstart Strategic Planning.
  • Brainstorm Strengths.
  • Brainstorm Weaknesses.
  • Brainstorm Opportunities.
  • Brainstorm Threats.
14. JAD joint application design sessions

Joint application design expedites requirements definition by defining requirements and developing user interface design with group of key users.

  • Identify transactions that enterprise must process
  • Identify business processes where information would help
  • Map out work steps in each process.
  • Identify user interfaces for each process.
  • Identify information on for each form.
15. Cost Benefit analysis

Cost/benefit analysis creates a powerful tool for communicating benefits to project sponsors. Cost benefit analysis also focuses the project team on making sure the major benefits are achieved. It also helps them make the correct trade-off analysis when making design and deployment decisions. The current and new costs feed into Cost Benefit analysis from the Process Mapping pattern.

  • Create cost/benefit spreadsheet.
  • Identify activities impacted by the process improvement.
  • Count number of times activity is repeated each year.
  • Create a process map for before and new versions of each activity
  • Extract unit costs and benefits from the process models.
  • Calculate current cost of activities.
  • Project the future cost of each activity.
  • Calculate benefits from process improvement.
16. New product design pattern

Clever design key to product success as measured by revenue, profitability and increased market share. Product should deliver increased value at a lower cost when compared to competitive products.

Turbo brainstorming stimulates creativity during product design, increases the generation of breakthrough ideas, increases team collaboration, speeds problem solving; all essential to new product design. Turbo brainstorming expedites product projects to deliver new products in a timely fashion.

  • Product screening
  • Market assessment
  • Technical assessment
  • Detailed market study
  • Business analysis
  • Product development
  • Inhouse product tests
  • Market testing
  • Production setup
  • Market launch
17.Checkerboard brainstorming

Create a personal brainstorming system using a Microsoft Word table where the cells simulate post-it notes.

  • Identify topic.
  • Create table in Microsoft Word.
  • Write ideas into table cells
  • Move ideas with mouse drag and drop
  • Organize ideas in rows.
  • Insert new rows for more ideas.
  • Main ideas in left hand cells.
  • Related sub ideas in same row.
  • Sort rows in priority sequence.
  • Split unrelated ideas in separate tables.
  • Merge right-hand cells in a row to produce structure table.

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email me with your questions

Speeds up many processes in Project management and completing Project Activities.

Teams that develop and refine plans to understand the big picture develop stronger commitment to plans. These sessions also build respect for other team members.

Team Planning Sessions

Team planning sessions increase commitment and reduce project schedule time.
Phase n Start

Phase n Middle Phase n Finish

Team planning sessions identify tasks using post-it notes which are organized on sets of flipcharts. When the team planning session is completed then capture the results in Microsoft Project.

Click this link to register for any of my Project Management courses

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Click here List of Recommended books on Project Management, Team Building, Estimating, Software Development methodologies, requirements definition, and Microsoft Project.


planning corp.
5361 Malaspina Place
North Vancouver
B.C.V7R 4L9

Copyright April 10, 2007 Brian Mullen, I.S.P. information systems planning corp.

Last updated April 15, 2015

About Brian Mullen, M.Sc., president of I.S.P. information systems planning corp.

email Brian Mullen with your questions