Well, it’s project management time again! Seems to be a theme with me lately – I think I’m working on more projects, and have started to notice the potential in using project management tools to manage things that I hadn’t really thought of as ‘projects’.

I attended a course at Mimas on using the ‘One Page Project Manager’ (OPPM). This is a system developed by Clark Campbell (some time in the 90s, I think), and is designed to allow you to quickly and clearly present all the essential information about a project in one page. I thought it sounded too good to be true!

I hadn’t done any reading on OPPM before the course, and was vaguely expecting it to be some sort of theoretical guidance on what you should include in a project summary (maybe with some tips on ‘expanding margins’ and ‘what really is the smallest readable font size?’), so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the course (run by David Sommer Consulting) wasn’t theoretical at all. OPPM is a single-page template, which you fill in with the relevant information. It’s not designed to go into loads of detail about each task or stage of a project, but to provide an overview of the vital information.

You can download a pdf version of the template for free from the website www.oppmi.com, along with guidance on how to use it. If you think you like the look of it, I’d suggest that it’s probably worth paying $10 for the Excel version, as it’s designed to be used and customised within Excel.

I like the way the template is laid out – when you see how it all fits together, it’s actually a very elegant use of space. You start reading the OPPM clockwise from the objectives in the lower-left ‘hub’, and it’s pretty easy to see at a glance what each section signifies (if you disregard my frankly shocking handwriting!)

The practice OPPM I produced during the training course. Real ones look much prettier!

You can use multiple OPPMs in a single project, if you need them – have one for the top-level overwview, then one for each of the large tasks that need breaking down.

My impressions? That it’s a flexible system which will lend itself well to small-scale projects, and isn’t as demanding or time-consuming as some other project management systems.

I think it’s a good bet for information professionals, as it forces you to think about the vital information that is absolutely required at top-level, and doesn’t give you scope to get bogged down in details – something which I know many of us are prone to!

David also spoke about the idea of planning projects backwards. This isn’t part of OPPM – just a technique that David and his clients have found useful. I was surprised to realise that it was a system I’ve used for planning projects before, without realising that it was an actual ‘thing’.

The idea is that instaed of starting at the beginning of your project and planning forward, you start at the outcome and plan backwards. You know what you need your final outcome to be, and you know when you need to deliver it by. Use this information to then take a step backwards, and say ‘ok, if we need to have this outcome by Dec, what’s the immediate prior step? We’ll schedule that to be done by end Nov.’ (I’m finding this harder to explain that it actually seems in practice!)

I’m going to try using both of these techniques, and I think they’re simple and flexible enough to find a fairly permanent position in my ‘productivity tools’ arsenal.