My business partner and I were sitting next to each other on an airplane, waiting to pull away from the gate, when I noticed he was playing a game on his phone.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s called ToyBlast,” he said. “You match cubes of the same colors to clear them and complete objectives at each level. If you clear a bunch of cubes all at once, you get different power boosters, depending on the number of cubes you cleared.”

It looked like fun, so before we took off, I downloaded the game. And then I forgot about it. Not too long ago, I saw it on my tablet and decided to give it a try. Not only is it a fun game, but the strategies to win remind me of some of the strategies we use to manage our IT projects.

Always Keep an Eye on your Scope

When you start each level, the top left side of the screen shows your “Goal” — what you need to accomplish, then counts down as you play. When I first started playing the game, I didn’t check the top left side carefully, so I didn’t know what I needed to achieve. Now that’s the first thing I look at when I start a new level, and I keep an eye on that countdown so I know my scope.

When managing a project make sure you and your project team know the scope, so you know when you’ve achieved success, and keep it right in front of you so your scope is always in view.

Evaluate Lessons Learned as you Go

Some levels of the game are easy to complete, and others are much more difficult. I’ve found, though, that when I fail a level I gain good information about what I need to succeed the next time.

Maybe I need to not clear the color matches as soon as they happen, but rather clear others to get a booster or two. Maybe I need to clear the cubes from one side of the screen, in order clear some of the objects and allow more cubes to appear. Or maybe I need to combine the right boosters together to accomplish the goal. By evaluating what didn’t work the first time I tried, I’m positioning myself better for the next try.

Learn from your mistakes in your projects as well. Take the time to evaluate what works and what doesn’t for both you and your project team. Failing once gives you good information about how to succeed the next time.

Resource Management

I’ve mentioned those “boosters” a couple of times. They include a rocket that clears a row or column; a bomb that clears surrounding cubes; and a globe that clears all the cubes of the same color.

These are great on their own, but if you can combine boosters by getting them next to each other you get an even more powerful result. A rocket combined with a bomb, for example, clears multiple rows and columns. Two globes together will clear the entire screen.

To succeed at the game, you need the right resources available to you at the right time. Assess your resource needs not just at the beginning of your project, but throughout the overall effort. Do you have who you need at the right time? Are you missing key resources critical to the success of the next stages of your project?

Strategic Planning

Evaluating the scope, lessons learned, and resource needs allows me to approach each level differently. Instead of reacting to the cubes on the screen, I can proactively plan what I need to do in order to achieve the goal.