The first quarter of 2017 and has come and gone. While the year may still seem young, it’s not too early to check the pulse of your team, evaluate what is and isn’t working, and take action to resolve any issues. After all, the next quarter will go by as quickly as the last, and you don’t want to find yourself mid-year dangerously off track of hitting this year’s goals.
Evaluate your communication
Are you dealing with an unacceptable level of conflict, mistakes or confusion? Are people coming to you to mediate issues with coworkers? Is productivity not up to par? It’s possible that poor communication is to blame, so start there.
If your project team has a formal communication plan, and we recommend one, it may need an update. More likely, you discussed a plan but never formalized it. While it might seem unnecessary, it’s actually difficult to hold people accountable if the rules of engagement aren’t posted somewhere everyone can see. What are the expectations around returning messages? When should you bother people after work hours? When is text or IM not appropriate (e.g., discussing confidential or sensitive issues)? When should you pick up the phone and call? Put the plan on a shared file site, email it to everyone and reference it often.
Additionally, one of the most common challenges with communication plans is that people change information (e.g., extensions, cell phone numbers or IM addresses) as well as their availability, without notifying the team. Make sure that there’s a simple way to update that information, and require team members to maintain their individual information.
Ask “What’s working and what isn’t working?”
How is your team really communicating? What falls through the cracks? At what point in the process do things break down? Where do you experience the most hassle? Get the team involved in this conversation. They’re likely experiencing more problems and uncovering more issues than you are, so be prepared for some surprisingly harsh feedback.
Work as a team to solve your issues
If you don’t do anything about the problems you discuss, you’re just being whiny and counterproductive. Take action now to resolve issues that hurt productivity, morale and teamwork. For example, if you waste time resending documents during every meeting, create a new system where you use Google Drive or some other shared file system, and require people to use it and take accountability for maintaining the files. If people are spending too much time responding to email, set rules for when and how to use it.
You can’t let problems fester.
Grade the tools you are using
Do you need to upgrade your project management software? Has your IT team given you a webmeeting license that you’ve been avoiding? Do you have tools like LYNC or OneNote that are sitting there unused but might actually help your team be more productive? Do people need training to maximize the benefits of the tools you do use? Has anyone come across a tool you should be using but aren’t? This is a good time to conduct those types of conversations and evaluate new options.
You have plenty of time to meet all your project team’s goals this year … if you don’t let too much time pass. Take a hard look at your team, stick with what’s working and take quick action to fix what’s not.
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