How to use a Trello Kanban board for Project Issues, Decisions & Action items

If you’re looking for an easy, effective non-Excel way of managing your project risks, issues, actions, and decisions, then this post is for you.

What is RAID?

RAID stands for Risks, Actions, Issues and Decisions.

The RAID log is a simple tool to keep track of all of these, which can be very useful in regular project meetings as well as for audit purposes.The bigger the project, the more issues, actions, and decisions there are.

Risks represent all of the things that could go wrong on your project. For each risk you would normally estimate the probability and possible impact of it happening, and also any actions we are taking to mitigate against it.

Actions or tasks represent all the things that need to be done. Actions typically arise during workshops, meetings, each should have an owner, priority and a due date. After project meeting the team reviews action items, to mark off those completed and review progress against those not yet done.

Issues are known problems within the project. Issues are typically escalated up to a project steering committee or business executive team. Issues should be marked as resolved once the problem is sorted out.

Decisions are simply a list of decisions made in a project that usually needs to be communicated out to the project team and to have a record of them.

From my experience, in many large and medium companies where the waterfall methodology still dominates the project approach, RAID logs are done in Excel and look something like this.

The spreadsheet has been around for nearly 30 years and almost a billion people use them today. But, their usage has evolved from being a data analytics and number crunching tool with formulas and functions to a work and project management tool.

In fact, 60% of spreadsheets in use today contain no formulas. Instead, Excel spreadsheets are being used for list management, project tracking, and basic work coordination.

This approach is good but can get very messy and hard to manage on large projects where there are many people, several streams of work and many risks, actions, issues, and decisions.

Here are my challenges with using Excel RAID logs.

  • Excel is for number crunching, yet so many people use it for project management. It can work but it’s never ideal.
  • Excel is locally hosted and designed with one person managing them. They generally are not a great tool for collaborating on RAID topics.
  • Not a web-based tool that all stakeholders can view and update
  • Duplicate copies and out-of-sync versions. This is probably the biggest issue.
  • No workflow and no quick way to see the status.
  • Excel does not lend itself to a quick understanding of RAID log status.

A project’s risks, assumptions, issues, and dependencies are the most critical aspect of project management. Poor communication of this information leads to delays which carry significant costs. Most projects fail because risks, assumptions, issues and dependencies are unknown, undocumented and not communicated.

There is a better way.

Even if your company’s not “Agile”, it doesn’t mean you can’t start using agile tools for helping deliver the value your project is intended to.

I find that RAID logs are much easier to manage in one or more Kanban boards. Save Excel for helping your crunch your numbers and give an agile kanban board and try.

What is a Kanban board?

KanBan is the scheduling system created by Taiichi Ohno, at Toyota for lean and just-in- time production.

Trello is one of the easiest kanban boards to use and it’s free, which is always awesome.

A basic Kanban board for a simple to-do list looks like this image below.

Here you see this board has three columns or lists. To do, Doing and Done. It’s a simple workflow to give you the idea of the most basic use of a Kanban board. Items in each list move from the left to the right as progress is made onto the to-do list.

What is a board?

board is a list of lists, filled with cards, used by you and your team. In the board example above, you can see there are three lists (To Do, Doing & Done). Each of these lists then has cards that can represent a task.

With kanban boards, you can:

  • Visually see work in progress
  • Instantly understand impediments (things causing you to delay) and take steps to remove them
  • Improve communication between yourself and others on your team
  • Empower teams to self-manage visual processes and workflows

What is a card?

A card is the items you see on each list. You can assign a card to one or more people, add comments, upload file attachments, create checklists, add labels and due dates.Everything that has to do with a task remains self-contained in the card so that everyone has all of the information in one place.

With the basics out of the way, here is how to use Trello for your RAID Log.

How to setup & use Trello for RAID

For my RAID board, I set up 4 lists that look like this. Think of this as a workflow. Items will be moved from the backlog across the screen from left to the lists on the right as you deal with each item.

  1. RAID backlog – this is the intake list. When new items are discovered, a card is created here and a label is put on it to indicate if it’s a risk, action, issue or decision. Cards can be sorted by priority by simply dragging the card up and down on the list. Everything starts here and then is moved by dragging the card to the next list.
  2. In Progress – when an item is being worked on, it is moved into the “In Progress” list. The most pressing issues are sorted to the top and team members can work on and update these cards directly. These items have been assigned an owner and they are working on it.
  3. Resolved – when an item has been resolved, it is moved into this list. Unless it’s a decision where you would then move into the “Approved decisions” list.
  4. Approved Decisions – when a decision is made, it can be added to this list to capture an ongoing log of all of the decisions.

Note: Other lists can be added to the workflow. You could add an “In review” list after “In Progress” if you wanted more oversight of the process. Trello is very flexible and can adapt to your specific process.

What’s in each Card?

When you open a card, you see this page.

Each card contains all of the details for each item including a label, due date, the team members responsible and involved, a text description of the item and a section for comments. You can also add attachments and checklists if it makes sense.

Ongoing workflow for updating the RAID log

Keeping the RAID log up-to-date is best done by giving all of the team access to the board and empowering each user to add new RAID items to the backlog. When you do project status meetings, bring up the log and review the items on each list. You can add, assign new items, change priority and add comments for everyone to see.

If already use Trello and you want to copy my RAID Kanban board, click on the link below and copy it to your account.

Other Kanban board SaaS tools

Trello is just one tool you can use for this. Here are a few others that are great too.

Questions, comments or suggestions?

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