With teams turning remote this year, many managers face new challenges in trying to keep their work management efforts effective. In most cases, the traditional practices are no longer valid, and thus new approach is needed. Many teams choose to implement proactive work management as a solution and here is why.
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Issues with Reactive Management
With the change of pace and location of most teams, there are new issues managers have to deal with daily. Delays, quickly changing priorities, unrealistic prioritization of tasks, virtual meeting fatigue, and over time has become the new norm. All of this leads to drops in productivity and team morale.
Amongst other reasons, the issues are caused by:
1 – Immature planning efforts that fail to prioritize work in the right way and set a course.
2 – Reactive instead of proactive work management that leads to not following a long term plan.
3 – Time thieves like interruptions, invisible tasks and taking on too many tasks at once.
Fostering Proactive Work Management
To make sure your team does not fall victim to these issues, you should consider switching from reactive to proactive work management efforts. Instead of reactively making decisions on the fly, structure your team, and work in a way that allows you to make decisions ahead of time and follow through as needed. To do this, you will need to focus on three axes – culture, rules, and tools. Each of them brings a substantial contribution and changes how business is done.
The Culture Axis
When talking about the company culture there are two aspects to note in creating a proactive approach. First, it is how we communicate within the team and how many distractions is this communication causing us? If your team is used to synchronous communication and getting answers to any questions immediately, you should be no stranger to the interruptions it creates. And unfortunatelly, each interruption we face brings our productivity levels lower. Instead, you should create an environment where asynchronous communication is preferred and the team members rely on sending messages and e-mails instead of calling or video chatting every time.
The second cultural aspect you should be aware of is reviewing your process and improving it. Instead of doing the same thing over and over again, gather your team once in a few months and ask them – what has worked, what did not and how can you as a team improve? This will allow you to take a deeper look into how the team operates and come up with proactive solutions to make it more effective. Aim to come up with 2-3 clear actions for the next phase and then come back to see how successful those changes were in the next retrospective.
The Rule Axis
If you are used to reactive management, switching over to proactive work management can cause some difficulty. However, keeping true to these 3 rules can really help.
The first rule to implement is making your tasks more accuratelly described. If you are unsure of what this means, a good rule of thumb is to use the SMART criteria to check if your task description is complete. Make your tasks specific by adding in descriptions and categorizing them with tags. Then, make your tasks measurable by giving a time frame in which they must be completed. Assign them to one or several team members to make them accountable. Make them realistic by listing all the steps that have to be taken and time-based by setting a deadline. This will make sure all your tasks are clear to any team members and can be executed without any further interfering.
The second rule for proactive work management is documenting all the team processes by visualizing them on a Kanban board. While there are other ways to document the process, using a visual task board allows you to not only know the process steps but also see them. This way all team members immediately know what process steps have to be taken and when.
Third, to make proactive work management happen you should implement a rule that only tasks on the centralized task list can be worked on. While it may seem silly at first, invisible or simple smaller tasks often steal valuable time from our workday and if not accounted for, they slow down other processes. Making it harder to plan and execute work effectively.
The Tool Axis
Lastly, we come to the 2 tools that can help you with creating proactive work management within your team. The first one is holding regular planning and prioritization meetings. These should be done every 2-4 weeks and will help your team in knowing which tasks are the most important and should be completed first. Regular overview of the backlog will allow you to react to changes and prioritization will mean that the team members can pull tasks from the backlog on their own without additional supervision.
This leads us to the second tool – a centralized and visual list of tasks. Planning and prioritization are great, but if you can put all of this in a visual Kanban board like Teamhood, this will mean your team can also see and effectively work on what has been planned. By instilling such a tool you create one place to share and look for information.
The Benefits of Proactive Work Management
Taking your approach with remote teams from reactive to proactive can be difficult at times, but it is certainly worth it. Making the change will allow you to have better control of what is going on, lessen virtual meeting fatigue, create better output, will boost team morale, and eventually will lead to improved knowledge and better procedures. Try it out and let us know what worked the best for you!