Smartsheet is used by teams within large organizations and small businesses to track and manage work ranging from online project management and task tracking to CRM related functions like sales pipeline management and issue tracking.
Below are ten team task management themes that we often discuss with Smartsheet customers. Whether you follow three, five, or all ten, recognize that a substantial improvement over 'work tracking via inbox' can be achieved in a very short timeframe.
- Enable transparency. For some, 'transparency' conjures images of a big brother watching their every move. But if you use transparency to your advantage, it can do wonders for team involvement by keeping people on the same page and reinforcing why their work is important to the overall goal.
- Promote productive competition. Communicate progress and make information available to those involved at all times. In addition to providing relevant information that may help others complete their work, laggards are exposed in an unbiased, fact-based manner. How laggards respond can be used as valuable input for making future roster decisions.
- Identify 'A-Players'. One of the benefits of transparency is that team leads can more easily distinguish the ‘email jockeys’ from those who are helping move the ball forward. Using a team task management system, you see what the A-Players are contributing versus those who are merely repeating information.
- Use meeting time wisely. No one feels productive sitting through hours of status updates in a team meeting. Utilize online team task management or project management solutions to ensure you’re up-to-date before the meeting even starts. Then use the scarce time with the group to brainstorm how the break through blocking issues.
- Use solutions people will embrace. Task management solutions that require extensive training are at a big disadvantage. Choose a solution that is familiar to everyone (not just the team lead). Successful solutions conform to the way people work, not vice versa. Posting updates and seeing where things stand needs to be as easy (if not easier) than picking up the phone or sending an e-mail. Don't fool yourself into believing that a team will respond solely to a 'let's do it for the greater good' message. People view productivity on a personal basis. Imposing onerous team task management processes on individuals without delivering substantial improvements from which they can personally benefit, will send you back to square one.
- View objectives and supporting tasks together. Effective team task management demands more than posting a list of to-dos and assigning them to Tom, Dick, or Jane. The ability to see overarching objectives and how tasks support them is critical in reducing the number of 'why are we doing this?' questions. Map tasks (or as you can do in Smartsheet - hierarchically arrange them) to a higher level objectives whenever possible.
- Know the task owner (yes, 'owner' is singular) It's common to have multiple people collaborating on work...just make sure that every task has a clearly defined owner. If things get off track, it's the owner who usually steps up and serves as the catalyst to get it done.
- Capture more than a task's description. Enabling team members to efficiently manage tasks to completion within a single tool is as important as knowing the task itself. The ability to share files, save e-mail threads in the context of the task, set due dates, and define next steps, provides team members with relevant content that reduces the need to constantly ask questions. A lot happens between a task changing from 'Not Started' to 'Complete'. Make sure your system can track it.
- Don't over-communicate. 'Statusing people to death' leads to people tuning out. What you initially hope will spur collaboration can lead to group aggravation if unmanaged. Make sure your system lets people to control the frequency with which they are reminded of tasks and receive change notices.
- Achieve balance. Be mindful of how many levels of sub-tasks you need to effectively track your work. Remember that for every additional layer of supporting tasks, you increase the amount of time you and task owners will spend updating the system. Smartsheet's recommendation: start with objectives and a single level of supporting tasks. If you feel your project or initiative demands a third level (or more) of hierarchy, first agree to the approach as a team.