When teams are well organized and things run smoothly everyone is able to contribute to their fullest potential, creative ideas come to life, problems are solved, and deadlines are met.
But, this ideal isn’t always the reality. If a team isn’t managed well, projects are never done on time, team members don’t collaborate well, and people are stressed and burned out.
See "4 Ways Managers can Restore Team Members’ Motivation" for tips on how to reenergize a dragging team.
You can avoid this situation altogether and streamline your projects for better results with these four work hacks.
1. Assign a Team Captain
While the best teams work together as a group, you need a team captain, or project manager, to keep everyone organized. This person should oversee timelines, follow up on assignments, make sure project pieces are moving from one person to the next, and help everyone communicate effectively.
Jess Ostroff, CEO of Don’t Panic Management, discussed the need for a team captain in a recent webinar. She says the captain should be “your eye in the sky” who “has complete visibility into what the team is doing from the start.”
She also said, “This person is the gatekeeper. Every request that comes in goes through this person. I definitely recommend assigning this based on who is the most organized, and whoever is not afraid to ping people.”
Your team captain’s main job is to support the other team members and free up their time so they can see the project through to completion.
Nick Scholz, solutions marketing manager at Workfront recently emphasized how important it is that a team’s captain is organized:
“They must be the ones who are extremely organized, keeping track of every little piece and facilitating those of us who are working down there in the trenches trying to get a particular piece done, or work on a particular campaign.”
With a dedicated team captain, your team will work efficiently to execute projects and produce better work.
2. Templatize, Templatize, Templatize
Okay, so “templatize” isn’t in the dictionary. But, in this case, it’s the verb form of “template,” which means it’s an action word. Templates should be accurate documentation of the processes you use, and creating those templates and then using them again and again to ensure consistency is going to take action on your part.
Team captains may lead the effort to templatize tasks for your projects, but they should have everyone’s input. Sometimes work isn’t always done the way a project manager thinks it’s getting done, and team members will have valuable insight into how they work and what they have found to be most effective.
Scholz explained how important templates are to streamlining projects:
“Without templates, it’s hard to keep those standardized processes. And without standardized processes, your teams are going to end up wasting time, every single time they set up a new project.”
So, what should you templatize? Scholz believes “any work that is duplicatable is something that can be templatized.”
Take some time to assess your projects and look for common elements. What are the things you find yourself doing over and over again? Are there any steps you follow each time you take on a new project? Create templates for these tasks so that each time they come up your team can complete them quickly and the same way every time.
Templates don’t have to be complicated and could be as simple as documenting project plans and workflows in a shareable document that everyone can access.
3. Adopt Agile Practices
Agile project management was traditionally used in the information technology and software development industries, but other fields, like marketing, construction, and law, are also using it.
In essence, Agile practices enhance things like collaboration, efficiency, and productivity. There are lots of elements of Agile that can take your team to the next level, but there are two tools in particular virtually any team can implement:
- Daily Stand-up Meetings where team members meet for just 15 minutes to update the group on progress, identify roadblocks, and collaborate.
- Scrum, or a method of working that tackles a list of prioritized tasks (a Backlog) in a set amount of time, called a Sprint.
Ostroff describes Stand-up Meetings as “a really great way to stay in communication and in very tight communication with your team.” These meetings ensure everyone is working in conjunction with each other and is on track to meet goals. They can also make it easier to identify and leverage team members’ skills.
Ostroff said: “Sometimes it can save you not only hours that you’re agonizing over what to do, but it can just help you learn about what other skills people have on your team that you maybe didn’t even know.”
Agile and Scrum practices can also bring challenges to light quickly, so a team can avoid them or work through them right away, without wasting time or having to push deadlines back.
Scholz has had success using Agile marketing and points out that one of the best things about it is that it frees up team members to continue working, despite potential roadblocks:
“One of my favorite things about my team’s move to Agile marketing is having someone whose whole job it is, when we go into these Stand-up Meetings, to find out what our blockers are and have it be their job to get that blocker out of the way so I can focus on getting the actual content done and getting the strategy worked out.”
Not all teams will be able to use, or benefit from, a completely Agile environment. But, using some elements can help teams save huge amounts of time and streamline projects.
4. Work in Sprints
This work hack is related to number three because Sprints are part of Agile project management. A Sprint is a period of time—usually two weeks—during which a team works on assigned tasks that were prioritized during the planning phase of the project.
Stand-up Meetings are held daily to track progress and overcome obstacles and at the end of the Sprint, the project (or portions of it) should be complete and ready to hand off or present to stakeholders. Teams also have a Retrospective Meeting after each Sprint to evaluate successes and setbacks and improve future Sprints.
This method of working allows teams to focus solely on the most important tasks, making project execution extremely efficient.
Ostroff explained that when an entire team decides to work in Sprints, everyone will benefit from uninterrupted blocks of time. She said:
“When everybody knows this is going on and everybody’s onboard with it, people are really respectful of that. They’ll only tap you on the shoulder or call you if they really need you. They’ll limit the emails you’re getting.”
Sprints will also allow your team’s captain to have full visibility and your templates will make it possible to accomplish more in a shorter period of time.
With a very organized system of working in Sprints and a purposeful timeline, like the one below, your team will work together in a much more powerful way.
These four hacks can be customized to your team to streamline your next project, so each team member’s skills are used to their fullest potential and the end result is one everyone is satisfied with.
To see the full webinar that these insights came from, watch "10 Marketing Hacks to Deliver Work On-Time, Every Time" featuring Jess Ostroff and Nick Scholz.
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