War Rooms: An Assessment of Benefits, Drawbacks, and Best Practices

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'War room'

War Rooms in Project Management refers to a designated physical or virtual space used to bring together key stakeholders to discuss and address project-related issues. [1] The purpose of War Rooms is to create a central location where the project team can work together to resolve critical issues in a timely and efficient manner.

The War room serves as a hub for communication, collaboration, and decision-making during the project's lifecycle. They are commonly used in complex and high-stakes projects where a centralized approach is necessary to ensure successful outcomes. They are equipped with necessary project management tools and technologies, such as project management software, whiteboards, and visual aids, to support effective communication and problem-solving. The War Room concept was first introduced in the military and has since been adopted by various industries, including construction, manufacturing, and technology, to help project teams work through complex issues in real-time. The use of War Rooms has been shown to increase collaboration and productivity, reduce project delays, and improve overall project outcomes. To be effective, War Rooms must be properly staffed with the right people and resources. This includes project managers, subject matter experts, and decision-makers who can work together to identify, analyse, and resolve project issues. Clear roles and responsibilities must be defined, and the room must be used consistently and effectively to achieve its intended purpose. Put simply , War Rooms provide a centralized location for project teams to work together to resolve critical issues, improve collaboration, and achieve better project outcomes. To be successful, War Rooms must be properly staffed, equipped, and used consistently to maximize their potential.

History of War rooms:

Military war room

War rooms originated during times of war, primarily used by military leaders to strategize and advance military campaigns. This concept has been adapted and applied to project management, borrowing the term "war room" from its military roots. The term itself emerged during World War I and World War II, with the first war room established in 1901 at military headquarters[2]. Although the term "war room" was originally associated with military operations, it has been adopted in various domains, including project management, due to its effectiveness in promoting collaboration, decision-making, and overall project success.

In project management, a war room refers to a designated physical space within a business headquarters equipped with whiteboards and computers or a or digital rooom, aimed at facilitating strategic planning. It serves as a central hub where project teams and stakeholders gather to discuss project activities, share ideas, and foster effective communication. War rooms are particularly crucial for larger projects that require comprehensive management and coordination. During the planning phase, the war room becomes a crucial environment for productive conversations, enabling the project to progress smoothly and efficiently. It acts as a collaborative space where ideas are generated, brainstorming sessions take place, and potential flaws in the project plan are identified and addressed. Executives and project teams invest a significant amount of time in the war room, preparing for the upcoming project.

Traditional War Rooms:

In the past, war rooms were typically physical rooms at an organization where key stakeholders conducted meetings and other project related activities. They were equipped with large whiteboards, corkboards, and charts where information and data regarding the projects could be displayed. Project teams would gather in these rooms for face-to-face meetings, discussions, and decision-making. Physical war rooms offered advantages such as immediate access to project data, a tangible sense of collaboration, and the ability to quickly gather stakeholders and discuss issues related to the project activities. Yet, they also had limitations, with the most important the need for everyone to be physically present. Also there is limited space, and challenges in communicating and maintaining up-to-date information through all team members.

Modern Virtual War Rooms:

Virtual war rooms are becoming more and more common as a result of technological improvements and the growth of remote work. These virtual rooms overcome some of the limitations associated with traditional war rooms without duplicating the way they operate. To establish a centralized place for remote teams, virtual war rooms utilize project management software, collaboration tools, and video conferencing platforms. Following are some of the tools that required in order to operate a virtual war room:

Virtual war rooms
  • a. Digital Collaboration software: Virtual war rooms utilize online project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Jira, which offer shared workspaces, task tracking, document management, and real-time collaboration features. These tools enable team members to access project data, contribute to discussions, and update project status from anywhere, at any time.
  • b. Video Conferencing and Communication: Virtual war rooms leverage video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet to facilitate face-to-face communication among team members. These platforms allow for virtual meetings, screen sharing, chat, and file sharing, enabling remote teams to collaborate effectively and maintain a sense of connection.
  • c. Cloud-based Information Storage: Instead of physical displays, virtual war rooms rely on cloud-based storage solutions like Google Drive, Dropbox, or SharePoint to store and share project-related documents, charts, and reports. This ensures that team members have access to the latest information regardless of their location.
  • d. Real-time Dashboards: Virtual war rooms often feature real-time dashboards and project management software integrations that provide up-to-date visuals of project progress, timelines, task status, and metrics. This allows team members to monitor key indicators and make data-driven decisions.
  • e. Mobile Accessibility: Modern war rooms acknowledge the need for mobile accessibility. Many project management tools and collaboration platforms offer mobile apps, enabling team members to access project information, participate in discussions, and stay connected on the go.

While many argue that a virtual meeting can't match with the effectiveness of a physical war room, in reality, they are taking over in almost every organization and team as they offer an agile and flexible method of communication, let team members escape from their hectic schedules, and allow international teams to corporate and collaborate despite any distance-related limitations. [3]

The Benefits of War Rooms in Project Management:

War rooms have become a crucial component of successful project management, providing project teams with a dedicated space for collaboration, communication, and decision-making. By bringing together key stakeholders and facilitating real-time monitoring and transparency, war rooms offer numerous advantages that contribute to improved project performance. Following are the advantages of war rooms, highlighting their impact on communication, collaboration, issue resolution, stakeholder engagement, and overall project success.[4] [5]

1. Improved Communication: War rooms serve as collaborative hubs, promoting interaction and teamwork among project participants. By co-locating diverse stakeholders such as project managers, subject matter experts, and team leads, war rooms facilitate direct and immediate collaboration. Team members can easily seek advice, resolve conflicts, and share updates, resulting in faster and more effective decision-making. This collaborative atmosphere also nurtures a sense of unity, fostering a collective responsibility for project success and encouraging cross-functional problem-solving.

2. Improved Collaboration: War rooms serve as collaborative hubs, promoting interaction and teamwork among project participants. By co-locating diverse stakeholders such as project managers, subject matter experts, and team leads, war rooms facilitate direct and immediate collaboration. Team members can easily seek advice, resolve conflicts, and share updates, resulting in faster and more effective decision-making. This collaborative atmosphere also nurtures a sense of unity, fostering a collective responsibility for project success and encouraging cross-functional problem-solving.

3. Real-time Monitoring and Transparency: Another significant benefit of war rooms is the ability to monitor project progress in real time and maintain transparency across all levels of the organization. By displaying project metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs), and critical milestones on large screens or dashboards, war rooms provide stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of project status. This visibility enables early identification of bottlenecks or potential risks, allowing for timely course corrections and proactive management. Moreover, the transparency fostered by war rooms builds trust and accountability among team members, leading to a more motivated and engaged workforce.

4. Faster problem resolution: Complex projects often encounter unexpected challenges that require immediate attention and resolution. War rooms provide a centralized hub where these issues can be rapidly identified, escalated, and addressed. The physical or virtual presence of key decision-makers and subject matter experts facilitates quick problem-solving by leveraging collective knowledge and expertise. By minimizing the time spent on issue identification and resolution, war rooms enable project teams to stay on track, mitigating potential delays and ensuring timely delivery.

5. Improved Stakeholder Engagement: Stakeholder engagement is a critical aspect of successful project management. War rooms create an environment conducive to effective stakeholder engagement by providing a platform for direct involvement and participation. Whether it is through regular meetings, workshops, or presentations, project teams can engage stakeholders by sharing progress updates, seeking feedback, and addressing concerns. This active involvement promotes a sense of ownership and ensures that stakeholders feel valued, leading to increased support and commitment to project goals.

It is essential to note that war rooms serve a greater purpose than just being meeting rooms. They are designed for teams to work together and drive project progress, not just to report on its status. The facilitators should ensure that all best practices are followed, and the team's efficiency is improved through this collaborative process, rather than being bogged down in unproductive activities.

Virtual war rooms

The drawbacks of utilising ‘war rooms’

While they offer numerous benefits, it is important to recognize the potential disadvantages and limitations in connection with the use of war rooms. In this section some of the key drawbacks that organizations may face when utilizing war rooms will be explored , highlighting the need for careful consideration and mitigation strategies. Defensive behaviours, reactivity, groupthink, and potential performance issues are among the key disadvantages that organizations should consider. By recognizing these disadvantages and implementing appropriate measures, organizations can optimize the effectiveness of war rooms and enhance their collaborative problem-solving endeavours.[6]

  • 1. Defensive Behaviours:

War rooms can accidentally lead to defensive behaviours between team members. When faced with pressure, uncertainty, and unclear problem causes, team members may avoid taking on additional work or become hesitant and defensive. This defensive attitude is caused by knowing that tackling new issues may cause us to overlook or put off important ongoing efforts. Such behaviours prevent the spirit of collaboration and problem-solving within the war room, hindering progress towards effective solutions.

  • 2. Reactivity Instead of Proactivity:

One significant limitation of war rooms is their reactive nature. Generally, war rooms are established in response to escalated problems, often under high-pressure conditions. However, research suggests that reactive approaches are not always effective in problem-solving. Placing diverse team members with limited information into a confined space is more likely to lead to reactive, poor decisions that may not fully address the immediate problem or build the capacity to handle future challenges. Proactive strategies, such as fostering a shared vision, utilizing shared monitoring systems, and implementing pre-emptive problem-solving processes, are more conducive to long-term success.

  • 3. Groupthink:

War rooms can unintentionally promote groupthink, where individuals within the team become overly conformist and deferential to dominant voices. In ambiguous situations, team members may lose their individuality and succumb to collective thinking. The urgency to resolve problems quickly may limit the consideration of alternative solutions, leading to self-censorship, reduced creativity, and a focus on maintaining harmony rather than critically evaluating options. The team may persist with a flawed approach, disregarding warning signs that indicate the need for adjustments. Guarding against groupthink is crucial for fostering diverse perspectives and ensuring sound decision-making within the war room.

  • 4. Poor Decisions and Performance:

Another potential disadvantage of war rooms is the possibility of poor decisions and lower performance outcomes. When team members are engrossed in the war room, their primary projects and client services may suffer. The lack of coherence, overall vision, and effective communication within the war room can lead to production blocking, where individual ideas interfere with others' thought processes. This may result in delays, misunderstandings, and a lack of alignment, compromising the overall performance of the team.

Overcoming the challenges:

To enhance the team's ability to see the big picture and overcome the limitations of war rooms, several strategies can be implemented:

1. Shared Mental Model: Encourage the development of a shared mental model among team members, where everyone understands the overall system and their role within it. This can be achieved through the use of a common monitoring system that provides visibility into the interactions between subsystems in multiple domains. Time-correlated data from various sources can help identify the root cause of problems and facilitate a holistic understanding of the system.

2. Ongoing Feedback: Provide teams with ongoing shared feedback at both the system and subsystem levels. Shared feedback allows teams to monitor system performance, assess the impact of their actions, and troubleshoot problems collaboratively. Access to a common data system and correlated data enables smarter decision-making, increased efficiency, and improved performance over time.

3. Build Team Trust: Foster a sense of trust within the team by emphasizing a common mission, vision, and team goal. During high-conflict situations, it is essential to focus on the problem rather than personal differences. Teams with systems in place that encourage attention to the problem and facilitate a shared mental model are more likely to work together effectively. By solving problems efficiently, IT teams enhance their credibility and earn trust within the larger organization.

4. Reward Team Performance: Align incentives and rewards with team performance rather than individual performance in silos. Metrics and diagnostic tools that monitor the overall system promote a shared vision and responsibility for system performance. By shifting the focus from individual domains to the collective system performance, teams can prioritize what truly matters—the customer's experience. Rewarding collaborative efforts encourages teamwork and reinforces the importance of working together towards common goals.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can mitigate the limitations of war rooms and maximize their potential for effective collaboration and problem-solving. A shared mental model, ongoing feedback, team trust, and rewarding team performance contribute to improved performance, agility, and customer satisfaction within the IT team and the broader organization. [7]


When a War Room cannot be Effective:

While war rooms can be highly effective in many scenarios, there are situations where they may not be appropriate or yield the desired results. Here are some instances when a war room may not be suitable:

  • Routine Operations: War rooms are designed for complex and critical situations that require intense collaboration and real-time problem-solving. In routine operations, tasks are often well-defined, and established procedures and workflows are in place. Individual teams or departments can efficiently handle these tasks without the need for a war room. Implementing a war room for routine operations may create unnecessary overhead and disrupt the established workflow, resulting in inefficiencies rather than improvements.
  • Limited Scope and Impact: War rooms are most effective when dealing with problems or projects that have a significant impact on the overall organization. If the issue at hand has a limited scope or minimal impact, it may not warrant the creation of a war room. In such cases, a smaller team or individual can handle the task without the need for intensive collaboration and coordination.
  • Lack of Urgency or Time Sensitivity: War rooms are typically established to address urgent and time-sensitive matters that require immediate attention. If the problem does not have a pressing deadline or the urgency is low, assembling a war room may not be justified. Instead, a more measured and deliberate approach can be taken, allowing teams to address the issue at a pace that aligns with the level of urgency.
  • Complexity without Collaboration: War rooms are particularly effective when complex problems require cross-functional collaboration and diverse expertise. However, if the complexity of the problem can be handled by a specialized team or subject matter experts working within their respective domains, a war room may not be necessary. In such cases, it is more efficient to assign the task to the relevant experts who can apply their specialized knowledge to solve the problem without the need for extensive collaboration across multiple functions.

The decision to establish a war room should be based on the specific characteristics of the problem, the impact on the organization, the urgency of the situation, and the need for cross-functional collaboration. Evaluating these factors will help determine whether a war room is the appropriate approach or if alternative methods are better suited for the particular circumstances.


In conclusion, the utilization of war rooms in project management has proven to be a transformative approach, empowering teams to effectively navigate complex challenges, foster collaboration, and make well-informed decisions. The benefits derived from war rooms extend far beyond their ability to centralize communication and provide a dedicated space for project-related activities.

One of the key advantages of war rooms is their capacity to enhance the coordination and synchronization of project teams. By bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, war rooms promote cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. This multidisciplinary approach fosters a deeper understanding of the project as a whole and enables teams to leverage their collective intelligence to solve intricate problems.

Moreover, war rooms facilitate real-time information exchange and facilitate rapid decision-making. With access to up-to-date data, progress reports, and relevant documentation, team members can stay informed and adapt their strategies accordingly. The continuous flow of information within a war room ensures that decisions are made based on the most current insights, minimizing the risks associated with outdated or incomplete data.

In addition, war rooms serve as a breeding ground for innovation and creativity. The dynamic environment within these spaces encourages out-of-the-box thinking and idea generation. By encouraging open dialogue and fostering a culture of experimentation, war rooms become catalysts for breakthrough solutions and novel approaches to project challenges.

To fully leverage the potential of war rooms, organizations must develop a deep understanding of their history, evolution, and underlying principles. By implementing best practices, such as clearly defining the purpose and goals of the war room, establishing effective communication channels, and promoting a culture of trust and collaboration, organizations can create an environment conducive to success.

Furthermore, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the potential challenges that may arise within a war room setting. Being aware of defensive behaviours, such as resistance to change or groupthink, allows teams to actively mitigate these issues. Through the implementation of strategies like fostering a safe and inclusive environment, encouraging diverse perspectives, and providing constructive feedback, organizations can cultivate an atmosphere that encourages critical thinking and creativity.[8]

Lastly, while war rooms offer immense value in certain project scenarios, organizations must also recognize that their application may not be suitable for every situation. Projects with routine operations or limited scope may not require the level of collaboration and intense coordination that war rooms provide. It is important for organizations to carefully evaluate the characteristics of each project, considering factors such as urgency, complexity, and the need for extensive collaboration, to determine whether a war room approach is the most effective choice.


  1. PMI, War Room https://www.projectmanagement.com/contentPages/wiki.cfm?ID=398722&thisPageURL=/wikis/398722/War-Room#_=_
  2. Jacob Dahl, Why do you need a project war room? https://medium.com/@jacobdahl_35850/why-do-you-need-a-project-war-room-52a9f0d33203
  3. This is about the future of office space’: Agencies pivot to virtual war rooms for major events https://digiday.com/marketing/agencies-pivot-to-virtual-war-rooms/
  4. pagerduty, Benefits of an Agile war room https://www.pagerduty.com/resources/learn/what-is-a-war-room/#:~:text=A%20war%20room%20is%20a,problem%20as%20quickly%20as%20possible.
  5. PWC , War Room Success Stories https://www.pwc.com/it/en/services/consulting/war-room.html
  6. Paul R. Yost, Ph.D. Michael P. Yoder, M.I.M. (July 2013), TOXIC WAR ROOMS, Center for Leadership Research & Development Seattle Pacific University, https://www.technologydecisions.com.au/content/it-management/white-paper/disadvantages-of-using-war-rooms-and-the-alternative-550033836/preparing_download
  7. Isidora Markovic (2023), How do you ensure that a war room is secure and confidential https://tms-outsource.com/blog/posts/what-is-a-war-room/
  8. Ingebretsen, M. (2003), Enter the war room. PM Network, 17(5), 26–30. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/corporate-war-room-problem-solving-3368
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