January 13, 2023

Show Me Your RAID Log with Special Guest Melissa McDonald

Show Me Your RAID Log with Special Guest Melissa McDonald


Welcome to an episode of Show Me your RAID Log, where we talk with industry leaders about how they use RAID logs and similar tools to help project managers succeed.


Show Me Your RAID Log Show Introduction 


[Kim Essendrup] “Welcome to another episode of Show Me Your Raid Log, where we talk with industry leaders about how they use raid logs and similar tools to help project managers succeed.” 

[Kim Essendrup] “I’m Kim Essendrup, Co-Host of the Project Management Happy Hour Podcast and one of the founders of RAIDLOG.com, and I’ve used raid logs for years to save broken projects and to keep my own projects from getting too broken. And I’m really excited to see how other leaders use theirs.” 


With Special Guest Melissa McDonald 


Melissa is the founder of The Smart PM

Melissa is the founder of The Smart PM

[Kim Essendrup] “And with me today. To talk about RAID logs is Melissa McDonald. Melissa is the founder of The Smart PM, a woman of a veteran-owned small business, and she is the foremost expert on delivering value. Using Smartsheets to manage that work, she has a team of certified project and change management professionals that specialize in Smartsheet development.”  

[Kim Essendrup] “She’s a business and management consultant that can become part of your team to accelerate your capabilities to do more when you need help fast. Melissa is a former three-time PMO Director and Smartsheet user herself. And before that, she proudly served. On active duty and in the United States Army as an engineer officer. More importantly, she loves to cycle and travel the globe.”  

[Kim Essendrup] “Hi Melissa, welcome.” 

[Melissa McDonald] “Hi Kim, thanks for having me.” 

[Kim Essendrup] “All right, so I’m excited to ask you a few questions about one of my favorite project management tools, the RAID Log. Ready?” 

[Melissa McDonald] “Absolutely.” 


How Did You First Learn About RAID Logs? 


[Kim Essendrup] “All right, so the first one is this, how did you first learn about RAID Logs?” 

[Melissa McDonald] “Just really in my first PM role being a project manager and working for one of the first PMOs that we had. They had a great tool kit for us, and it was right in there just, just part of the tool kit.” 

[Kim Essendrup] That’s interesting a-a lot of the more experienced project managers I speak with. It’s just always been part of their toolbox, something that they learned early on and just have—taken with them.” 

[Melissa McDonald] “Yeah, there-there’s a lot of great tools, a lot of unnecessary ones as well.” 

[Kim Essendrup] {lauughter} “Have to agree there, yeah.” 


Can You Tell Us About a Time When Using a RAID Log Saved a Project? Or Kept You from Having to Save a Project?  


[Kim Essendrup] “So, can you tell us about a time when using a RAID Log saved the project or, even better yet, kept you from having to save a project?” {laughter} 

[Melissa McDonald] “Well, As a PM, we all know that there’s so many moving parts and pieces. I had a-a very large hardware and software project installation project at Walter Reed, and the product was shipping from Japan. Over 700, um, large commercial industrial-sized printers. And so, keeping track of all of that, plus implementing it throughout the entire campus to include the White House and Camp David.” 

[Melissa McDonald] “So just too many moving pieces and parts and obstacles to overcome, and it was too high of visibility. Definitely not presidential, but it was a pretty-pretty important project, and so I needed to stay on top of everything from the get-go. And aside from the schedule, the RAID Log was my second most important document.” 

[Kim Essendrup]What an exciting project. That had to have been high profile, yeah?” 

[Melissa McDonald] “It was, for the company, yes.” 

[Kim Essendrup]Wow, that’s pretty cool.” 


What Has Been Your Biggest Pain Point When Using RAID Logs? 


[Kim Essendrup]So what has been your biggest pain point overall when using RAID Logs, you have a frustration point when using them? 

[Melissa McDonald]I do, actually, and it’s not the tool itself. It’s the visibility. It’s the fact that it’s not utilized in maybe a dashboard, a status report. It’s just piece mailed out, and the leaders don’t get the total impact of what is in that-that document. It’s not just about risks. It’s about the action items. It’s about the things that are outstanding. And I think the lack of visibility is the biggest pain point I’ve seen.” 

[Kim Essendrup]Do you have any things that you’ve done specifically to help raise that executive awareness in the RAID Log? Because there can be quite a lot of information there. So how do you present that in a meaningful way to executives?” 

[Melissa McDonald]Well, I keep it clean and managed it, you know it, it grows really-really long, and so obviously you want to prioritize it and-and keep the most important things up top. You know, if you keep it organized and you keep it well groomed, then it-it becomes an essential tool.”  

[Melissa McDonald] And it was always something right after the schedule and right after the status. The RAID, like we worked off of the RAID log like that’s really part of your stand-up when you think about it from a scrum and a daily stand-up. What are your obstacles? What are your-what are your issues? Put it in the RAID Log, take away, and start managing that.” 

[Kim Essendrup]Now you mentioned Scrum there. Do you use raid logs when you’re working in a more agile way?” 

[Melissa McDonald]Um, I-I have and it’s just your go-to list cause you don’t really want to dirty up your schedule. Your schedule is all the tasks that have to be done. Your RAID Log is all the things that get everything out of the way to enable your schedule. So, they go hand in hand.” 

[Kim Essendrup] “I could not have said that better myself.” I totally agree.” 


What is Your Favorite Tip or Trick for Using a RAID Log? 


[Kim Essendrup] So, with that, do you have a favorite tip or trick that you can share with our audience when using your RAID Log?” 

[Melissa McDonald]I do, I do. I like to put the Change into the RAID Log and manage the changes, um, in that, so it becomes the CRAID Log or the RAID +C Log. I mean, people don’t seem to respond to CRAID Log, but keeping track of your change is really essential, and technically you have a Change Log as another in-independent tool. But just put it all together, it just becomes a really great place to keep very essential information in one spot.” 

[Kim Essendrup] “Yeah, I think that’s one of the strengths of a RAID Log is that it’s very easy to extend it and say here is my, going to have my Change Log and call it my CRAID Log, or maybe I’ll add my, a tab for lesson learned. Or something like that.” 

[Melissa McDonald]Yeah, it’s-it’s a great tool. It’s really the 2nd most important tool in my book, if not the 1st one. You’ve got the schedule; that one gets down pretty good on what you have to do. But everything else with your RAID Log is how you’re getting the schedule done. So, it-it’s important, very important.” 

[Kim Essendrup] “Absolutely.” 


Find Out More About Melissa McDonald 


The Smart PM - Melissa McDonald

The Smart PM – Melissa McDonald

[Kim Essendrup] “Well, Melissa. Thank you so much for joining us and sharing some of your project management experience and wisdom. And if our audience wants to find out more about what you’re doing, how can they best do that?” 

[Melissa McDonald] “So I’m on, um, LinkedIn at Melissa McDonald. Or you can find me on my website, The Smart PM, or you can send me an e-mail at melissa@thesmartpm.pro.” 

[Kim Essendrup] “And we’ll have all those links in the notes with this video. Melissa, thank you so much for taking time to join us today and Showing Us Your RAID Log.” 

[Melissa McDonald] “Thanks for having me.” 


Together, we can run or rescue any project