Do you feel overwhelmed trying to optimize for task management? Or to create effective communication in your team? If yes, you’re not alone.
In my experience, most companies go out of business because of mismanagement.
When I look at a struggling business I find these two things:
- Lack of marketing – Not enough clients
- Poor management – A weak leader and a lousy team
9 out of 10 times it’s either of the two or worse…
You could blame the government or the economy or the market. But I think mismanagement is the biggest reason for businesses failing.
I believe a leader is a dealer in hope. He should be able to paint a picture for his team to follow.
I always say:The best businesses have the best leaders. Click To Tweet
So today I want to focus on management. Specifically, task management.
If you want to be successful as a leader, you have to plan and execute projects. However big or small they may be.
And to do so you need to optimize task management throughout your company.
According to a PMI study, high-performing organizations successfully complete 89% of their projects, while low performers complete only 36%.
Furthermore, whether you manage a remote team, or in an office environment…
Good communication is an important factor in the success of any project. Therefore, increasing effective communication should be high on the agenda of any leader.
The Foundation Of Optimizing Task Management
As a business, you could be working on several projects. And every single project is made up of several tasks.
Knowing how to manage each of those tasks is the secret to getting your projects completed on time.
At the very basic level, you are looking at to-do lists.
But task management becomes more complicated when it comes to managing workloads at a bigger scale.
Task management is a process where you have to:
- Outline your project. And identify all the tasks to be completed
- Prioritize the tasks based on a set criteria
- Create a schedule that is firm yet flexible
- Delegate to the right people
- Coordinate and communicate with them
- Monitor, track and analyze their progress
As you can see optimized task management requires a group of people working together.
And that requires effective communication among your team. It requires appropriate time management too. Because you need your team spending only the required amount of time allocated to each task.
Priority tasks need to be completed first. You have to ensure your team doesn’t get distracted and stays on track.
Optimized task management lets you stay on top of all your work. And helps your team meet their deadlines.
Think of it this way…
Your business is a machine. And each project takes your machine forward.
To execute each project you want each part of your machine to operate in the most optimized way. You want all the nuts and bolts coming together in perfect harmony.
In other words, you want your business to be a well-oiled machine.
And to do that time and time again, you need a structure in place.
Create A Structure
Now, when it comes to managing people, one thing I’ve learned is…
People are not manageable. You cannot actually manage people.
It is much better if you can create systems so people can manage themselves.
As your company grows, you will not be able to micromanage everyone. Because you will have a lot of people on your team, right?
So you have to create a structure. Or a system where you create a yellow path. And tell your team that this is the path I want you to walk on.
Your job as a leader is to show them what would it take for them to be successful.
Success could be however your team defines it.
It could be in:
- Financial terms
- Terms of status
- Terms of their role within the company
Whatever their goals are, if that person is the right person, your job is to show them the right path.
Your job as a leader is to coach them to be successful and walk on the path.
Ensure that they don’t deviate from that.
So I suggest since people are not manageable…
Create a structure, manage their compensation, manage infrastructure.
And then you just need to find the right people to fit that structure.
Hire The Right People
I see a lot of business owners hiring their friends and relatives. That’s a big mistake.
Business is a game of margins. And friends don’t always result in results. Profitable employees do.
The only reason you hire people in your company is so they give you results.
You hire for profitability. Period.
There are 3 main qualities that I look at when I am hiring people in my team.
Watch this video to find out:
The Structure Of Effective Task Management
This structure is only a template. It is not a definitive structure that would fit all businesses.
What applies to you may not apply to someone else’s business.
A big company could have hundreds of projects going on. On the other hand, a small business may have 2-3 projects at the most.
Everything depends on the size of your business, your team, your budget and the scope of your projects, etc.
What you need to do as a leader is to have a system in place. And if you have the right people working in that structure, your task management will be optimized.
Modify this template and adapt it to your business needs and requirements.
1. Establish An Outline For Your Projects
As a leader, you have to first create a general outline for your projects.
For each particular project:
- Define the goals and purpose of the project.
- Identify all the tasks needed to achieve the goals.
- A practical timeframe your team would need to execute them.
- Decide and allocate the budget and resources your team requires.
You should break big tasks into smaller subtasks and then focus on getting them completed one by one.
Remember if planning one project triggers an idea for another project, do not add to that project. Instead, create a new one. And create a separate plan for it later.
Let’s say you are planning for the creation of your company’s product catalog.
While planning for that, you may get the idea to create other company collaterals.
What you should do is make that a different project. Do not add on to the catalog project.
You have to keep each project narrowed and focused. Plan, schedule and gather your team and resources to work on it. And put that plan into action.
If your focus is clear and defined, your timeframe and budget allocation will remain in check.
For optimized task management, you have to establish an overall budget and schedule for the entire project first.
Then you have to identify and account for other things that would be required for individual tasks within the project.
Having that overview will help you and your team better understand everything.
It will also keep your budget in check.
Once you have established these outlines…
2. Categorize And Prioritize Tasks
Once you have all the tasks listed out to execute each project…
You have to assign a priority level to each task. Define them by a set of properties.
Once you have this structure in place, you would be able to prioritize and assign tasks effectively.
Hence, it is important to establish what is important at a specific instance.
One way to look at your tasks is to identify:
- Tasks that can be scheduled chronologically
- The ones that can be scheduled simultaneously or
- Tasks that can be executed at any time within the project timeline
Then create a schedule around those tasks.
Another way for optimized task management is to describe your tasks in detail.
Then evaluate them based on a set of assigned parameters.
How hard is the task?
It’s up to you to decide the difficulty level required for each task. But it is important you define them.
You could use tags such as:
- Very Easy
- Very Hard
You could use the level of skill or brainpower needed to define the above tags.
How urgent is the task?
An effective team leader knows not every task on their to-do list needs to be done right away.
You could use tags such as:
- Right Now
- In a week
Try to be honest and realistic in your estimations. If you plan to do everything now, you will never get anything done.
How significant is the task?
You could think of it as to how much of an impact a task has on your team. Or even your project or customers.
You could use tags such as:
- Highly Critical etc.
How much of an impact a task can have is subjective. It depends on the task, the project and your team members.
3. Create A Schedule
When you created an outline of your project you created an overall schedule for the project.
Now that you have all individual tasks listed, categorized and prioritized…
You have to create schedules for those tasks as well. Because you have to meet the overall schedule and time frame you have set for that project.
This is a critical part of an optimized task management process.
You have to set realistic time frames against each task. And define milestones and deadlines based on the priorities you have assigned previously to each task.
Remember that you need to make sure every timeframe you set is actually achievable.
Scheduling tasks is a great task management skill for a leader. It keeps the team focused on work on hand. So they don’t fall off the track worrying about other tasks.
As a leader, you have to avoid any undue stress on your team.
Now while keeping a strict schedule is key, you have to be ready for the unexpected.
When you create and plan a schedule you have to take all possible outcomes into consideration.
As a best practice, you have to analyze all the possibilities. And be prepared to overcome any obstacle that may come in your plan.
But some instances and situations require revisiting already made decisions. Hence, being flexible is a top task management skill for a leader.
- Someone makes a mistake?
- Your team member falls sick?
- An unavoidable situation arises?
- There is a sudden change in the market?
- The customer’s priority changes?
No matter how much you plan, there will be things that will be out of your control.
So your schedule has to be flexible with deadlines when it needs to be.
4. Delegate And Assign Tasks
This will go hand in hand with the creation of the schedule for your tasks.
The integrity of your schedule depends on your team.
And as a leader, you have to identify the people who will work on the tasks that have been laid out.
People who are best suited to tackle those tasks.
Delegating empowers your team, builds trust, and assists with professional development.
Before you start to delegate, consider:
- The knowledge and skills of the person with regard to the task being assigned?
- Do they have experience handling such tasks?
- Do they require any training?
- If so, can you spare the time and resources for the training?
Remember, if you add a new person to your team who doesn’t have enough experience, be patient.
An effective leader will let new members learn and grow with time. All you have to do is assign them tasks according to their experience.
Even then, they may take a bit longer to do certain tasks. But if he/she is the right person for the job, they will quickly become competent and reliable.
Eventually, you can start giving them more responsibility.
Here are a few other things you should look at before delegating tasks:
- What is their preferred work style?
- Can they handle it alone or need more support?
- What are their long-term goals and interests?
- Does their goal align with the task?
- What is their current workload?
- Do they have time to take on more work?
- Would you have to reshuffle other responsibilities and workloads?
Once you have identified the right people for the tasks…
Clearly explain the desired outcome to them. Tell them why you are delegating the task to them.
Never look for perfection or micromanage. But ensure that they know the lines of authority, responsibility, and accountability.
5. Effective Communication And Coordination
Poor communication is reported to be in the top five causes of a project’s failure.
29% of people say so. And they are not wrong.
In my experience, miscommunication can lead to disasters.
Each member works on their individual tasks. And that combines to create the completed picture i.e. a successful project.
By implementing a clear communication strategy, the whole project gels together seamlessly at the end.
Hence, I ensure my project leaders have proper channels for communication with each of their team members.
Any sort of team collaboration software plays a vital role in ensuring smooth communication between everyone involved.
When you are done delegating tasks, make sure your people feel that they can:
- Ask questions
- Ask you for feedback
Your team should feel they’re able to make decisions.
At the same time, you have to be consistent with follow-ups. You should not be blaming the team members when something goes wrong.
That is not the sign of a good leader.
You have to be involved with the projects. You have to be present and reachable if the team needs you.
If deadlines are approaching and workload increases, it is time for you as a leader to step up.
You have to ensure that all steps are followed by everyone in the team. Your inability to do that can lead to major setbacks, in the long and short run.
Now, I am not saying that you have to do it yourself.
It is the job of the team leader who is heading that project. Again, it all depends on the size of your business, team, and no of projects, etc.
6. Track, Analyze And Improve
Effective communication continues to be important when the tasks are completed as well.
Measuring each person’s work and results is an important part of an effective task management strategy.
This is the time to assess performance, build motivation and commitment.
And streamline the entire process for further improvement.
It is a continuous loop.
When a team member completes a task:
- Check and evaluate their work
- Make sure they correct their mistakes if any
- Give them feedback so that they can improve
- Show genuine appreciation for a job done well
You could ask your team members how they measure their performance.
When your team can provide input, it gives them ownership of the process.
After all, they have the best knowledge about:
- How they did it?
- What decisions did they take?
- And what success of a task looks like to them?
- What they could have done better?
If you have hired the right people for the job, you will see a strong desire to improve in them.
Make sure there’s a plan for them to become better and more efficient in their tasks.
If they require training, provide it. Arrange for a course or a seminar.
Discuss how their success will impact financial rewards, future opportunities, etc.
Provide recognition where deserved.
This ensures your organization is running at its most productive.
Some tasks will have quantifiable targets to hit. And the effectiveness of your team is based on performance against these goals.
On the other hand, some can be more subjective to evaluate.
It’s up to you how you want to evaluate performance. Whatever you decide it is important that you have this step in your task management structure.
The key thing is to act on this information so the performance of your business improves overall.