Let’s start with the two tasks every manager handles today.
1. Monitoring team members
The problem I’m about to describe appeared in every single company I worked for. Team leaders needed to continually remind the person responsible for completing a task that the job should be finished within a particular period of time. And that’s a huge waste of time – just like being bombarded with a heap of unnecessary messages when you’re added in copy to emails your colleagues send to each other.
Of course, the problem depends on the level of a team’s maturity. But it’s always present.
And the manager keeps dreaming about one thing: send out a task and forget about it.
The situation also creates this additional problem: when somebody like the CEO or director of another department asks you about the progress of the task, you might feel like that’s the last thing on your mind and that person should simply reach out to the employee responsible for this job.
But you need to give them an answer. You’re the one sitting at the meeting and act as the person responsible for this work.
So you send an email to your employee, they respond, and that’s how you end up losing half an hour.
2. Handling tasks through email
Unfortunately, some companies develop communication cultures which encourage employees to add each other to the copy of email messages they send to other people. And that goes especially for the executives. Their names almost always appear in copy.
A message where we set up the date of the meeting will travel to seven different people, including the CEO.
Now, I understand that some messages should have other people in copy if they need to get the information. But imagine someone writes a message like this: Can we move our meeting to half an hour earlier? Adding their supervisor to copy simply doesn’t make sense!
After all, people who are busy coordinating the work of several hundred employees can’t be bothered to read 100 e-mails containing meaningless information about employee meetings that turn out to happen earlier than expected.
Managers just aren’t supposed to waste their time on these communications.
What’s a manager to do?
When I worked as a consultant, I’d begin every management training with an analysis of a manager’s working time. Most of the time, I’d ask for a report which listed all tasks in a week of the manager’s work. And I always heard this: It’s impossible to work less than 60-80 hours a week on this position. But then it would always turn out that 40 hours are more than enough.
When managers wrote down their weekly tasks, they realized that some of them are so trivial that they didn’t deserve a place in their plan. And they quickly made necessary adjustments. During the training, we would also install an application to monitor the time managers spent on various tasks at their laptops. It turned out that they wasted more than 80% of their time on communication: sending emails and talking via messaging apps.
And that’s a very optimistic value. Most of the time, the real amount of time wasted on communication would be much higher. I’m not saying that communication always leads managers astray. But I think it’s fair to question whether going low operationally is the path to best results for managers and their organizations.
If I spend more time than a few hours a week on tasks like:
- preparing reports;
- reminding employees that a task has been assigned;
- asking (and asking some more) if the task is being handled;
- reassigning tasks from one employee to another;
- playing the role of an office assistant (which means passing emails between people);
I feel like I’m suffocating! It’s as if I was completely stuck on the operational level of current affairs. And I can’t find a way out.
I never wanted to spend time on these tasks. And that’s because I believe the company hired me for:
- bringing them tangible results
- and developing their department,
and not passing along documents, emails, or assignments.
Digitization seems to be the only option
When I told one of my colleagues with 20+ experience in team management that I plan to get rid of at least half of the continuous torrent of messages, he told me that as soon as I succeeded I’d be fired. And I told him that my job feels split between developing strategies for achieving better results at the department and responding to hundreds of trivial messages that don’t add value for pur Key Performance Indicator (KPI).
I believe that managers who handle teams of professionals may assume that their employees know how to communicate with each other. That’s why I think it’s unnecessary that all communication passes through the team leader’s inbox.
Here’s my solution: digitization with Jira Software (from $10 per month)
After 5+ years of using of To Do lists for every process in which I was involved, I decided to switch to JIRA.
Since Deviniti is a Platinum Partner of Atlassian, JIRA seemed like a natural choice.
Here’s how I managed to break out of the communication cycle and save plenty of time:
Step 1 – I identified key processes
I think the work of every manager should start with identifying the processes that will drive the department to success.
When identifying the processes for my department, I avoided defining them by function. I didn’t want to end up with a situation where the graphic designer responsible for preparing visual materials would send his work to me, and I would be the one to pass it on to the webmaster. And then answer the webmaster’s questions by passing along his queries to the graphic designer back and forth.
Instead, I organized my department into processes. I identified the main KPIs and created a process for each one, assigning it to a particular employee. And that’s how I ended up with processes for SEM, SEO, marketing product development, and others.
Step 2 – I created issues for tasks
I created issues on the basis of my To Do lists. They work like folders containing information relevant to specific tasks. Then I assigned these issues to employees.
Step 3 – I created a Kanban board
I opened a Kanban board in Jira called “Marketing all” where I divided all tasks into: To Do, In Process, Done.
I also created additional individual Kanban boards with filters for each of the process owners and other managers collaborating on the project. They can view all processes in one place.
- I managed to reduce the time spent on current tasks by 5 hours per week on average;
- I stopped passing along messages from one person to another;
- I was no longer included in copy of messages employees exchanged with each other. And why would I be? I can get all the required information in my JIRA issues;
- I didn’t have to lose time on preparing reports – I had a ready array of data on my Kanban board which is created and updated automatically;
- At every meeting and any time, I’m ready to report on the current stage of the task without having to send out emails and asking people directly.
I was also able to gain time for developing strategies for my department, introducing innovations to my organization, talking to external companies, and training.
I believe these steps make my work much more valuable for the organization. And that’s because I can finally dedicate my time to tasks which bring the organization tangible results.
From now on, I’ll be striving to achieve higher KPIs instead of handling the correspondence of my colleagues.
PS This post could land on your to-read list only because I finally have more time to write. And that definitely gives us both more value than passing along tasks and emails. 🙂
PS2 Reach out to us at //deviniti.com/en/ if you feel we could help you in team management digitization. We are a Platinum Partner of Atlassian, but we use 7 other solutions to suit the needs of our clients. The tools we choose for them are tailored to match their requirements – we don’t sell ready-made solutions that just happen to be available.
PS3 If you’d like to learn more about JIRA, we’re happy to invite you to JIRA Day 2017 conference. https://deviniti.com/jira-day/