“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
– Lao Tzu
The path to achieving a team goal is a complex process consisting of several important and sequential stages: planning, implementation, monitoring and analysis, and making changes to the process. None of these stages can be ignored, because they form the single framework of the project.
The process of teamwork on a project is always an iterative process with constant iteration of the same activities. Understanding these processes will allow your team to automate some of these processes, optimize expenses, outsource some of the work, or reject individual steps.
A good work plan includes the following steps:
- Goal setting for the short and long term.
- A set of tasks to be accomplished to achieve the end result, with a clear division of work steps (iterations) for easy monitoring and analysis of actions.
- Intermediate points (milestone plan), which are like beacons that show us the rest of the way to the main goal.
- Available resources and understanding where to get them and how to use them correctly. Points of revision of the planning itself for possible correction of work.
This format of the plan is the most effective to achieve team goals. But to put all of the above into practice, you need the right tools.
Work planning tools
Let’s list the most popular tools for creating plans to accomplish various jobs and goals. They are as follows, arranged by level of task complexity:
- A mental list in your head.
- A line list on paper, in a notebook, work computer, or somewhere else.
- Spreadsheets: Excel, Google Docs, Numbers, and so on.
- Dependency charts, whiteboards to visualize tasks, and interactions between them.
- Gantt chart (a special bar chart). Helps you understand the speed of work, see control points, and determine how fast you’re approaching the goal.
- Agile methods (scrum) or agile process: A modern and effective method of flexible planning.
Online tools for teamwork
The constant exchange of information is the basis for successful interaction within a team, regardless of the format. If we’re talking about remote work, online tools come first. It looks something like this:
- Services in which you can set tasks and record their completion. Various CRM systems are popular lately, but simple online tables with tasks are also suitable for such purposes.
- Messengers and mail for the fast exchange of messages.
- Skype, Zoom, and other services for video communication and group video meetings.
- Mobile and telephone communications, as well as special applications for calls.
- Social networks for tracking company and employee activity.
There are many such tools and new ones appear every day. It is important to choose the right set of planning tools for your tasks. Complex and multifunctional planning tools are not always a good solution for a small team. Try to keep it simple and not make communication difficult for yourself and your team members.
Now, knowing the planning steps and how to use one tool or another for convenience, you can go directly to the implementation of the plan.
Effective Solutions (The OODA Loop)
The effective execution of any plan depends largely on how timely the necessary decisions are made by management. And the best way to do this is to apply the OODA loop meaning process:
- O – observation or collection of various data about the project, team, competitors, and so on to set objectives.
- O – orientation or analysis of information with further synthesis of multiple solutions.
- D – decision or selection of the best option to perform the task at hand.
- A – action or clear adherence to the chosen way to achieve the goal.
And the faster each of the items is performed during a particular iteration, the sooner the team will achieve the desired result.
Teams that perform full OODA operations quickly are observed to be more efficient and can react quickly to changes in internal and external conditions. In today’s world, this is especially important because external factors can completely change a project’s planning structure in a single day.
In a world where the team must invest time to create a project, time becomes a significant and often the most important resource. In this case, flexible planning and the ability to adjust to changing conditions will be an advantage for any project, regardless of its specifics.
Monitoring and Analysis
This is important to measure progress in executing the plan, to understand the effectiveness of the work processes, and to quickly adjust the team’s actions if necessary. Ideally, this should be done at each step (iteration) of the plan’s execution.
Usually, the first step is assessing the achievement of the intermediate and/or final result, followed by the workflow. It looks something like this:
- Was the task accomplished?
- Does the result meet the desired criteria?
- Is the process optimal or can it be improved?
And so on, at each stage. In the case of negative answers, the search, analysis, and correction of the team’s actions are performed, as well as suggestions for improvements with the possible correction of a specific iteration or even a plan.
It is important to understand that in order to achieve the desired results, it is highly desirable to control processes on an ongoing basis. As for analysis, it is important to properly evaluate the actions of the team as a whole as well as of each employee individually.
Each of the steps on the way to achieving team goals is important and requires the involvement of the entire team and manager. Don’t be afraid to spend time observing and analyzing, because these are the stages that will lead you to the decision-making process to optimize processes. Only quality work and in-depth analysis guarantee effectiveness. And effective teams create high-demand projects.