Implementation requirements are just two: A commitment to improving productivity and some training for your team. The tools are free.
Getting the best out of the team has been a problem even before the COVID 19 pandemic struck. When it hit, the priority was to manage the crisis. Productivity was not the priority. Saving life and, health and safety were.
Organizations did many things to manage the crisis. One of them was to allow the staff to work from home. Productivity and profitability were not the primary concerns then. In the initial days of WFH, it was okay to take a bit longer for completing a task. It was crisis time. We were all getting used to the new normal.
As the pandemic challenge is persisting, the realities of sustainability, profitability and productivity are emerging. We need to find ways to manage the pandemic and work productively and sustainably. But with the team members so dispersed, collaboration at work is genuinely challenging, and team productivity suffers.
Why is team productivity low?
The essence of teamwork is collaboration. Without it, the team cannot coordinate the work well, and productivity suffers. So, every organization must use collaborative tools to improve productivity.
In the post COVID era, with WFH fully or partially in place in most organizations, team productivity suffered for many reasons.
1. Task Allocation:
Projects are accomplished by the team members working tandem. Often, a team member can move to the next task only when others have completed their tasks. When the team members are working from different locations, the task allocation becomes more complicated. Similarly, a manager or team leader has to prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency, and have to allocate tasks accordingly. Informal methods of work allocation and monitoring progress are not effective in remote work settings.
Remote working offers few opportunities for informal communication among the team. Formal communication tools, like daily reports, cannot cover everything.
Coordinating the daytoday work plans of members is complicated. The team members do not know the schedule of the others in the team.
4. Document Sharing
Often, several team members need to work on a document to complete it. In such cases, the team members must wait until the other member finishes her or his part. When you are working on large documents, it is a real problem.
5. Loss of Control
The team leader in the informal and semi-formal setting are used to ‘seeing’ the team working to know that they are making progress. Without seeing the pace of work, the manager does not feel in control.
Simple Techniques to Improve Team Productivity
Thankfully, there are a few inexpensive techniques to improve collaborative work and improve team productivity.
1. Embrace Kanban
Kanban is a method for managing and improving work systems. In Japanese Kanban means a notice board. Using Kanban, you and the team can visualize the work items and view the progress and process, from start to finish.
Kanban is a workflow management method designed to help you to visualize your work, maximize efficiency, and be agile. You can divide tasks into bucket lists such as To Do, Doing and, Done. You can then track the progress of each task and seamlessly move or promote them to nest the bucket list.
2. Project Management Tools
There are simple and mostly free software solutions available to make it easy for you to Kanbanise your projects and processes. Using those digital tools, you can allocate the projects, tasks, and activities to your team members. You can put due dates and label them (E.g. Urgent, important etc). Each member can update the tool and the entire team can view the progress.
3. Use Semi-formal Communication Platforms
With the teams working remotely, the opportunities for informal communication are few. Probably, many of you are using WhatsApp for easy communication. However, it is a personal messaging system. Your organization and team need a semi-formal, simple, and secure communication system. Slack is a good example.
4. Calendar Sharing and Document Sharing
By establishing the practice of sharing the calendars of the team members, coordinating the work schedules of the team becomes easy. Similarly, document sharing will enable the team to work simultaneously on a document and complete it in the least possible time
Several organizations already use them. But numerous others do not. Probably they did not need them so critically before in the pre-COVID era. But with the social distancing guidelines and WFH, practices every organization needs these tools more than ever before.
These tools and techniques are simple - and generally free. So, acquisition is easy. However, you get the value when the all the team members use them. Management should drive and support the use of these tools in the organization and techniques. Besides, as with everything new, staff will need some training to effectively use the tools.
Future Options (www.futureoptions.org) offers support for implementing these tools and training staff. As the success of your organization depends on the performance of each employee and the teams, you may not want to wait for long to implement them.