Carl Chatfield: Top 10 Problems, #10: Try to use Project as a free-form brainstorming tool

Carl Chatfield here. This blog post is one in a series of 10 based on a presentation I developed, “Top 10 problems new (and not so new) Project users have, and what you can do to ease the pain.” I first gave this talk at a Puget Sound PMI chapter meeting. I later gave an updated version of the talk to my local chapter of the MPUG Project User Group. As you might expect, at the PMI meeting the discussion tended more towards the broader project management issues, while at the MPUG meeting more towards specific features in Project. In fact at the MPUG meeting I had my computer projecting and we played around with Project features that related to some of the issues I brought up.

Top Ten List

In the process of writing the Project Step by Step books (starting with the 2000 edition and continuing through the current edition) with my co-author Tim Johnson, I observed first-hand some of the problems Project users encounter. Some of these problems are straight-forward gotchas in the software, but many common problems were really about how people define, understand and practice project management. In this and the other posts in this series, I’ll guide you through each of the top ten problems new or inexperienced project managers encounter, and what you can do to help identify and address these problems.


Project is not especially well suited for free-form brainstorming of complex workflows.

There I said it. I often find people who are trying to develop workflow models in Project that define the activities required to complete some end result: who does what, and in what order activities should be completed. The problem they encounter is that it’s fairly difficult even for an experienced Project user to get the flexibility they want to answer broad framing questions before diving into details like task durations, resource units, and so on. Continue reading at

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