If you are a team leader or a project manager, one of your key (though often implicit) responsibilities is to remove barriers to productivity and success. Or at the very least, you shouldn’t be putting those barriers up! Stephanie Vozza writes about nine practices (The Nine Levels of Work Hell) that lead to ineffective work processes and disengagement, frustration, and sub-par performance. The best part of the article? The tips on how to not do that, which can really be summarized into four approaches:
Plan and Prioritize
Spreadsheets and presentations are not an emergency, but you wouldn’t know it from the pace of many of today’s corporate offices. Quality products require forethought and dedicated resources. To avoid the frantic rush approach:
- Plan out a sequential project schedule (what needs to happen by when and when has the opportunity for a pivot passed you by?)
- Plan for the worst case scenario in terms of time when creating project timeframes and deadlines
- Prioritize goals and don’t work on all of them at once (consider urgency, ease of implementation, and relative impact)
Collaborate and Communicate
Managing knowledge and information is quickly becoming an ever-increasing challenge. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you make poor decisions, you duplicate others’ efforts, and you fail to gain alignment.
- People need to be connected and easily accessible; their work needs to be made visible
- Standardize and document processes; if you don’t take time to do this critical piece, people will waste tremendous time recreating the wheel instead of adding value
- Over-communicate status with all stakeholders and intersections, but in a way that doesn’t create information overload (consider when you should use push vs. pull messaging)
- Organize people by process or project, rather than department (this likely results in temporary, dynamic teams that can quickly set-up and disband)
Engage the Right People from the Start
As a kid, have you ever played the game of “telephone?” Kids line up, and at one end, a sentence is whispered. That message is relayed from person to person to person, until it gets to the end of the line, where it ends up unrecognizable, often taking a comical turn.
Many organizations do exactly that. When an executive has an idea and shares it with his team, and the potential project then gets passed down or across the organizational hierarchy through several people, gets delegated, and finally ends up on an individual contributor’s or project manager’s desk, the original intent of the initiative is often lost.
As a result, work occurs in the wrong direction, gets redone by others, and talented people who are doing good work end up experiencing failure.
Those doing the work need to be connected to those requesting the work.
Own Your Day
Emails, texts, messages, meetings, phone calls, questions, and interruptions are not real work. They are distractions from real work. To do real work that has real impact, you and your team must be able to turn these things off.