Many associate the war room concept with the state’s external relations. Yet, today’s shifting commercial land space adopted this moniker too. Many forward-thinking CEOs and business owners craft their plans in a war room. So, what is a war room from the aspect of modern project management?

In short, the term refers to the room where the project leaders envision the project from start to finish. It’s that crucial part when they craft a step-by-step course of action and assign each team member to a role. Hence, it’s a control room resembling a “military headquarters” for the project management team.

What Is a War Room: A Look Back at the 20th Century

As the name implies, the ideas circling around the first war room had warfare as their only focal point. Around 1901, military leaders started labeling the rooms with enough space with the term “war room.” Later on, even legendary figures like Winston Churchill often used war rooms for the planning phase.

During each world war, leaders would gather the other high-ranking officials in one physical room to discuss tactics. This allowed them to present an alternative perspective and hasten the decision-making process.

Naturally, only a big room can serve this purpose. Plus, a war room would often house huge maps showing the continent. In that way, generals could come up with the next key decision.

Therefore, the current status of a war room retains the goal of a single room acting as “business headquarters.” As such, its sole purpose is that of providing effective communication between the project teams.

Today’s Project Management War Room

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A good team needs a dedicated space to dissect new ideas and successfully accomplish its set goals. Knowing this, project managers use “control rooms” built for relaying project information. Then, various subject matter experts present their ideas. To do so, they rely on detailed visual representations and even sticky notes to create the next phase of the business plan.

Of course, thanks to modern technology, project communication can flow even in a virtual war room. However, most businesses opt for a convenient meeting room. In general, they use a room near the center of the floor, so all members can arrive on time.

As for other necessary inventory, a war room is also full of phones, computers, and charts. Their layout is another relevant aspect since it should allow for optimal flow of information. After all, the war room meetings usually revolve around questions like the brand’s budget, scaling, etc.

What Is a War Room – The Main Principles

Equality Above All Else

Though akin to a regular office, a war room is where all parties involved can be vocal and provide input.

Discussing Project Management

A war room contains dozens of tools for intuitive visual information. This brings everyone up to speed and allows them to view the different metrics easily.

Also, you’ll find various graphs, wireframes, tables, notes, photos, etc., in a modern war room. Such visualization simplifies the task at hand.

The Means to Communicate Easier

One of the main benefits of a war room is paving the way for clear communication. Even if the team wants to make a few quick decisions, all members should be vocal. This means that each member can raise a point and discuss it before moving further.

A War Room vs. A Meeting Room

Unlike other areas, a war room is where the next big project takes root. So, it’s not a space where the leader gives a few orders around. Instead, it is meant for finding the optimal route forward.

The Layout of a War Room

The team will need a sufficient whiteboard to craft a new plan from scratch. This is necessary, meaning all war rooms feature at least one such item in the center. Next, all tables and chairs should provide a clear view of that information.

An Inclusive Space

To properly dissect an issue, leaders should invite members from all fields. In other words, all sorts of inputs and advice are welcome in a war room.

What Is a War Room – Classification

The “Command Center” Type

Some war rooms exist as such at all times. This means that the team can regroup there as often as they’d like.

As a result, they deem it the command center for dealing with all sorts of crises.

The “Ad Hoc” War Room

Sometimes, companies can not spare a room at any given moment. Thus, they use one of the offices as a temporary workshop for bouncing off ideas.

Regardless, with the right planning, even a provisional war room can serve a purpose and then some.

What Is a War Room – Reasons Behind the Term

Improves Performances and Results

Harkening back to the war times, this room demands undivided focus from all parties present. As a result, the team can act more unified and more motivated than before.

Getting Everyone on Board

Good project management rests on the will of the many, not the few. A war room allows just that. Instead of a team operating from behind a screen, it allows everyone to meet each other.

Next, the various fields can interact and exchange ideas directly. This is an efficient, time-saving method that also boosts the team’s spirit.

A More Tactile Approach

War rooms provide tons of visual data to review. Such a format allows for proper dissecting and is very easy to follow.

In that way, it avoids many of the usual pitfalls that come with regular meetings.

Effective and To-The-Point

War rooms contain PCs, laptops, tablets, charts, etc. Those gadgets are quite useful for inspecting a problem from all sides.

At the same time, any data analyst will have an easy time forming an opinion. Next, the rest of the team can weigh in and provide follow-ups.

Follow the Situation Closely

Due to the war room’s smart layout, all members can get the gist of how the plan has performed so far.

As a result, they have a clearer picture of where the weakest chain might be hiding.

Team-Building Exercise

When working on a solution in unison, the team grows closer together. The close proximity of a teammate improves camaraderie and provides a safety net.

Thus, a war room produces all of the means for success. Similarly, this setup boosts the level of mutual respect between all cohorts.

A Bird’s Eye View

A war room meeting is an invitation for all stakeholders, too. Once there, they can quickly get a summary of the team’s progress and identify issues on time.

What Is a War Room – Interior Design

These are the best practices for designing an effective project management war room:

Comfortable and Practical

This is the room where most of the future client meetings will take place. So, it needs to follow a stylish and relaxing interior. Aside from exposure to sunlight, you can also enrich the space with plants and proper decor.

Organize the Seating

The tables’ position should encourage collaboration. People will start working on their own if they’re too wide apart. Therefore, opt for a circular formation if possible. Above all, ensure all members have a clear view of the chalkboard.

Provide Ample Working Space

The war room should allow everyone to present their points. Hence, install as many foam or magnet boards as you can. You can even use erasable wall paint or hanging strips. It’s all about brainstorming and the free flow of ideas.

Necessary Equipment

Technology can be the catalyst for your next project. Aside from laser pointers and fast Wi-Fi, your team will also need projectors and HD screens.

Plus, you’ll need the latest mobile phone models to ping someone abroad. At the same time, this will allow you to automate the process.

However, ensure there’s enough space for drawings and graphs, too. The team should be able to present new ideas in the easiest manner as well. So, things like sticky notes and markers are a must.

Measure the Work Space

Regardless of how big the meeting gets, there must be enough seating in the war room. Also, the main table should face the center of the space. Similarly, you can leave a few smaller tables in a vacant corner as a backup.

Plan for Prolonged Meetings

Reserving a space for a refrigerator is a wise move. Sometimes, a deadline can force the team to skip meals. Yet, this can backfire due to exhaustion. That’s why a proper war room should come with a mini-kitchen and a snack and soda machine.

How to Use a War Room – The Basics

  • The war room is not the space for confidential conversations
  • Devise the rules of conduct and pin them on several notes around the war room
  • Properly organize the displays and whiteboards to promote discussions
  • Regularly update the means for data visualization and avoid cluttering them
  • Do not encourage cover-us and slipping things under the rug
  • Invest in a state-of-the-art security system and use data encryption
  • Know your team and look for new ways to expand their horizons
  • Limit their access to email and phone calls to focus their attention on the planning
  • Let someone be in charge of setting the “do not disturb sign” once work commences
  • Care for and respect each team member
  • Consider printing name tags on the chairs, so all team members feel equally important
  • After the meeting concludes, carefully evaluate the team’s performance

Conclusion on what is a war room

All projects divide the workload between various fields and groups. This means that even when working together, most team members won’t ever actually meet. Hence, a war room is a place fitting for crafting new ideas and setting them in motion.

Aside from that, a modern war room provides intuitive methods of presenting viewpoints. It sets the stage for smooth workflow via up-to-date visual methods. As a result, people from various backgrounds can easily help each other out. This is also essential for overseeing the overall progress of the project.

The bottom line: the purpose of today’s war rooms mirrors those of the early 20th century. Just like then, a war room is the convergence point where the team’s ideas morph into a plan of action. Yet, don’t aim for something fancy when setting up a war room. Aiming for a simple, practical layout is often the best route.

If you liked this article talking about what a war room is, you should check out this one with innovation frameworks.

I also wrote about similar topics like the benefits of project management, what is crashing in project management, project management forecasting, the s-curve in project management, lag time in project management, and primary and secondary stakeholders.


I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.