Posted by Billie J. Watkins on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 - 00:00
Have you ever managed a team project that required everyone to work 12-hour days, for weeks on end – only to realize that at the end of the assignment, you missed the mark? I remember a project I handled a number of years ago before I joined Robert Half -- I was responsible for planning and implementing a last-minute event. In my zeal to meet the deadline, I selected a venue that yielded half the attendees we’d anticipated. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best decision, but you can be sure I played Monday morning quarterback following that project to analyze what transpired so I never suffer that kind of missed opportunity again.
Whether you manage an ongoing team or serve as project manager for a team assignment, here are six tips to help strengthen team productivity:
1. Clear and comprehensive communications. The most critical first step when assigning projects or managing a team is to clearly outline assignments, expectations for the work product, available resources, and deadlines -- and detail interim checkpoints for progress, if appropriate. Describe the workflow, who is accountable for what -- and make yourself available if employees have questions or issues that need resolution.
2. Staff and delegate strategically. Decide how duties can be most effectively assigned among team members to maximize their expertise, knowledge and capabilities. The same applies when you delegate new or special projects. The more strategically you delegate assignments, the more time you’ll have to manage your critical duties. Plus, you’ll be providing staff the opportunity to build their skills and develop professionally. If you have work that requires specialized expertise that you don’t have on staff, consider using project professionals on a temporary or part-time basis.
3. Empower team members. Ensure team members are empowered to do the work -- and have the required information, technology and authority to complete the assignment in a quality and timely manner. Don't spend time looking after employees -- if you've made yourself available, employees will know to come to you when they've hit a roadblock. When employees know you trust their abilities and have a clear understanding of the "big picture" of each project or assignment, they will perform better overall and understand how their contribution impacts business goals.
A productive team should be unified by common goals and a shared vision; . . . as a team,
they can create more effective
solutions and achieve stronger results
than as individuals working independently.
4. Promote time management. Provide staff with information, tools and technologies that can help them prioritize and organize their work and proactively manage their schedules so they can be productive in their duties. Establish and maintain control throughout the duration of a project by clearly communicating timelines and deadlines. At the onset of a project, you should also enforce a schedule of check-ins when you will be updated on status; but maintain flexibility to adjust timelines as necessary.
5. Leverage legal technologies. Within the past few years, many new law office technologies have been introduced that offer significant savings in time and money within the law office environment. Because new legal software and programs are continuously evolving, keep current on new developments that can enhance your team’s productivity.
6. Promote a team-oriented culture. A productive team should be unified by common goals and a shared vision. It’s critical that employees understand that teamwork and collaboration are expected; and, more importantly, that as a team, they can create more effective solutions and achieve stronger results than as individuals working independently. Encourage team members to meet together regularly to discuss workflow as well as solutions or improvements to shared work processes; regularly reward and recognize team accomplishments. And be sure that you model teamwork and collaboration in your work activities and interactions with other legal professionals in the office.
Have you used some creative strategies to enhance team productivity in your organization? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.
See Part 1 in this series on enhancing productivity in the legal workplace -- “6 Simple Steps to Maximize Productivity in Your Legal Job.”