26 Fast Ways to Increase Teamwork Productivity
BEING PRODUCTIVE as a team is a lot harder than getting things done on a personal level. As a manager or a CEO, you might be well aware of how to plan, manage, and organize your work. But it’s not you alone who contributes to important projects.
Your business success relies on the performance of your entire team and their ability to perform highly both on a professional and personal level. According to productivity expert Jordan Cohen: “In today’s complex and collaborative workplace, the real challenge is to manage not just your personal workload but the collective one.”
As a team leader, you need to create a work culture that endorses proactivity and talent. Here are some tips to improve everyone’s productivity, and bring more efficiency to teamwork.
1. Set clear goals
Working without a clear goal is like going on a journey without a map – you might reach the destination, but it’ll take you significantly more time. To outline your team’s top priorities, you need to step back and ask yourself: “What’s the ultimate goal we’re looking to achieve?”
Outline your key teamwork goals, objectives, and milestones to help your team decide which tasks fall into the Top Priority category.
2. Define the OKRs
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) is a popular technique for setting and communicating goals and results in organizations. The method’s used by teams in the Fortune 500 companies like Google, LinkedIn, Intel, Zynga, and Twitter. So, there must be a reason why all these highly talented people use the OKRs
Start by defining 3-5 ambitious, qualitative, time-bound, and actionable key objectives of the company and team levels. Under each objective, define 3-4 measurable results, not more. Your OKRs should be quantifiable and achievable, yet challenging.
As you’ve defined your teamwork OKRs, write them down on a shared whiteboard or why not even make a poster to hang on your office walls. The more you remind each other of important business metrics, the more likely you are to achieve them.
3. Redefine what’s urgent
While it’s important to keep to your goals and avoid shortsighted reactive work, you still need to be prepared for unexpected events.
Learn to set apart the urgencies that are best avoided, and the crisis situations when it’s required to drop everything else and commit to solving the issue.
When redefining the notion of “urgency”, remind your team of your long-term goals and OKRs. If an urgent task will help you to get closer to a key objective, it should become a top priority.
4. Clarify expectations
It’s the team manager’s job to communicate the priorities and expectations for each role in the team. The last thing you want is for someone to begin his day thinking, “I have eight projects to work on, where do I start?”.
The requirement for efficient teamwork is that everyone’s aware of their role and knows what’s expected of them. If you’re able to make individual contributions actionable and measurable, even better.
5. Set clear responsibilities
In teamwork, it’s easy for the tasks and responsibilities to get mixed up.
To be more productive, it’s best if you clarify each team member’s responsibilities and areas of expertise.
But leave some room for trial and error as the tasks and projects depend largely on your key goals. When you give your team some room for approaching complex problems with creativity and flexibility, they’ll be able to adapt their skills according to the situation.
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6. Keep your teamwork organized
Leaving your team’s performance to the chance is one of the gravest mistakes a manager can make.
For people to work productively, their work needs to be organized into prioritized projects and tasks. It’s a lot easier to stay organized on a personal level than to be systematic about your teamwork.
Up next, you’ll find plenty of tips and insights to improve the way you manage your work as a team.
Infographic: Are Your Business Tools Killing Your Productivity?
7. Use a work management tool
A work management tool will help you to create, track, and manage complex projects and daily task lists.
If you’d like to get a quick overview of your team’s current projects, time usage, and work performance, start using work management software that covers both project management and reporting.
8. Stop using Excel to manage your work
Have you ever considered how much of your time is wasted on shuffling between tens of spreadsheets and emails to find information? It gets worse: According to Market Watch, up to 88% of spreadsheets contain errors.
Excel might have been the best business management software in the 1990s, but you can save hours of time by managing work with a work planning tool.
9. Create a weekly/monthly work plan
Weekly work plans are beneficial in many ways: you’ll be able to plan your teamwork more efficiently, and will spend less time on regaining focus after being distracted with unimportant tasks.
Make a habit of planning your work – 1 hour every Monday morning could save you 6 hours by the end of the week.
Unsure of how to start? We’ve got you covered! See the 6-step guide to creating a weekly work plan.
10. Create shared to-do lists
To-do lists aren’t going away anytime soon. But the way we create and use them has changed dramatically with the emergence of new technology.
Instead, (or in addition to) writing your upcoming tasks on a sticky note, use a work management tool to create shared task lists that you can edit as a team.
This way, everybody’s aware of the upcoming projects, meetings, and tasks.
11. Hold onto your to-do lists
By the time you leave the office, you have a look at your 50-points to-do list, and realize you only managed to complete 20% of it. And often, this makes us feel bad about our day.
Keeping to your shared team to-do lists can be difficult at times as you won’t manage to complete everything with a single day.
But it’s well worth the effort: by implementing tasks in a prioritized order, you’ll achieve the work with the highest ROI, leading to faster business growth.
12. Prioritize your work and projects
To make your task lists even more valuable and helpful, set a priority for each activity.
Evaluate each task and project that you take up as a team. Does it matter to your long-term success? Will the impact be significant or rather moderate? What are the alternative costs of dedicating time to the project (what else could you do with this time)?
Use these insights to set reasonable priorities and ensure that everyone’s aware of the superiority of certain activities and tasks.
13. Give up low-priority tasks
Here’s a simple framework to evaluate your to-do list and find what you need to get done as a team.
Conduct a monthly meeting to review your upcoming projects and ask your team to vote: How essential is each task in our pipeline?
- It’s a top priority
- We need to do it today
- We need to do it this week
- Let’s do it when time allows
- We can drop it for now
Drop the bottom 20% of tasks that have a low impact on your goals, but demand lots of time and attention.
14. Make time for work that matters
We all have periods when there’s too much work to get everything done. Even as you put all the medium-priority tasks on hold, there’s still a need for putting in some extra hours. There are several ways to make more time for work that matters: outsourcing, delegating, working extra hours, etc.
Before you commit to any of these solutions, ensure that they don’t end up eating more of your time altogether.
For example, outsourcing a small design task from a third party design agency might take a lot of time as you first need to explain your expectations and requirements.
16. Break big projects into smaller tasks
A well-known productivity hack suggests that you break big tasks into smaller ones so that they’re easier to accomplish step-by-step. The same rule applies to teamwork, only on the project level.
Divide complex projects into up to 6-hour tasks and assign these to specific team members. This way, everyone’s aware of their responsibilities and will know what to work on next.
17. Track your work progress
An important part of managing a team is finding new ways to improve the quality and outcome of work.
Tracking work progress with online project management software is a simple and effective way to plan tasks and mark them “done” as they’re completed. A work KPI report can give you information about the time spent on specific projects and tasks and will help you to make teamwork more efficient over time.
18. Track your time
Keeping a log of the team’s and personal process helps to improve motivation as everyone can see the effect of their work. Moreover, you’ll be able to analyze which tasks are the most productive while reducing the procrastination during your days at work.
The easiest way to keep track of the time spent on work is by using a simple time-tracking tool.
As you get started, time-tracking might be harder than you’d think. Here’s a 16-point guide on time-tracking best practices.
19. Be flexible with work hours
There’s growing evidence that young people prefer to work outside the bounds of traditional office hours. Being able to work when it’s the most convenient could potentially increase the overall performance of your team.
Make sure that you’ve got time or performance tracking system set in place to evaluate the work performance.
If you’re unsure whether flexible work hours work in your team, test it for a month before committing to a long-term habit.
20. Try the ROWE method
The ROWE concept means that team members are measured by performance, results, or output, rather than physical presence in an office or number of hours worked. The ROWE method will give your team members lots of freedom in managing their time and work.
It’s important to set clear and measurable goals to evaluate your teamwork so that even with great flexibility, the team’s committed to achieving their goals.
21. Schedule all your meetings
People forget about their duties and meetings all the time. If you want to be sure everyone shows up on time, schedule all your meetings in a shared team calendar.
Having each team member show up on time will save the time that would’ve been wasted waiting for the last person to show up. Communicate the importance of never being late to your team meetings, so that they’ll know how important it is to the company’s long-term success.
22. Keep your meetings short
99% of teams are guilty of this mistake – they hold meetings because of tradition.
Think about it: spending one hour at a meeting with twenty people results in twenty spent work hours.
Which means that each meeting is costing you thousands of dollars. If you keep your meetings more effective and spend 45 minutes instead of 60, it will be a significant saving of time.
23. Have a clear meeting agenda
Before you start a team meeting, ensure that you’ve got a clear agenda of discussed topics.
You could even set a time limit for addressing each issue and move on to the next subject as the time’s up. This way, your team will only contribute their most important thoughts and ideas. You’ll be surprised how much more productive organized teamwork can be.
Another great way to make your meetings more productive is to send out meeting materials beforehand. It takes the explaining part out of the meeting and leaves more time for collaboration.
24. Reserve downtime in your calendar
We all get overwhelmed with work.
Research shows that a predictable time off improves productivity and morale as everyone in the team will be more relaxed.
Moreover, taking a break has an enhancing effect on people’s creativity. Use your shared team calendar to schedule blocks of time for lunch or taking a walk. The more you encourage people to take a break, the higher their job satisfaction and health levels.
25. Encourage open communication
Staying on top of every project update and email is a mission impossible for even the most productive team members.
Provoke people to ask for advice from other team members and openly share their knowledge in return.
A good way to make company-wide information accessible to each department and team is to use a consolidated software solution instead of tens of single-feature tools.
26. Set the example
If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody will. As a team manager, it’s your responsibility to appear credible through your own actions.
Be smart about how you allocate the hours of your workday – the meetings you attend, the emails you respond to, the projects you engage with, etc. It’s the team manager’s job to set the rules and boundaries, and by following them yourself, you’ll build the case for proving their efficiency.