Keep the Team Productive and Connected Without Another Meeting

04/23/2013 04:14 PM | Sky Stebnicki

One of the most frustrating things for any manager, or even a team member, is a fragmented and disconnected team. Unless it is intentionally and tirelessly combated, groups of any size begin to experience the destructive effects of entropy as energy gives way to apathy and disorder.  When this happens communication breaks down and managers often turn to weekly meetings to try and keep everyone in line. Holding meeting after meeting can help a little, but the reality is that nothing will get done until right before and in some rare cases, right after the meeting.  The rest of the week is floating in a state of disorder as everyone waits for the next big gathering for motivation.

Two major keys to overcoming the once-per-week spike in productivity is regular day-to-day communication and accountability. The weekly helps everyone get on the same page, and if run properly provides enough accountability to combat procrastination. Both of these are good and valid elements of a team's productivity, but how do you get the benefit day-to-day rather than just once per week?

Infecting your organization with the proverbial "Death by Meetings Syndrome" is certainly not the answer. Though some have fallen to the illusion that meetings can take the place of actual work, the reality is no tasks really get done in a meeting. In fact, while meetings help with communication and accountability they can also be equally or even more detrimental to actual performance because they can be a huge distraction from actual work. So how can you get the benefit without the distraction?

This is where the social side of netric, specifically the status updates, can be very useful. On the home page when you first log in there is a box asking: "What are you working on right now?" Every time you post your work status update, everyone in your team sees what you entered like a status update on Facebook. This opens lines of communication and provides ongoing accountability. Here is how we use it to manage teams sometimes spread out all over the world, working on very complex projects:

Each morning when a user logs in they are to write three things into the status box (taken from the scrum project management callouts):

1. What they did yesterday
2. What they are planning to do today
3. What obstacles they are confronting

This takes all but a few minutes and everyone in the team very quickly gets a snapshot of what everyone else is doing, did (or didn't do) yesterday, and what the problem areas are (like waiting on Mike to get me that document). As a manager it becomes trivially easy to find those who have failed to check in and apply pressure where needed without wasting the collective time of the entire team in a all-hands meeting.

This is a simple process, but we believe the best solutions are often the most simple. Give it a try on your team and see if you agree.
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