Kate Blecich

Fostering team cohesion

Great managers are able to support their teams through making smart choices and then guide them to making even smarter choices.

Making my own decisions and being supported in how I achieve an agreed outcome have been some of the most important and satisfying elements of my career to date.

Note that I say ‘agreed outcome’. I’m not suggesting I head off and work on personal projects. But rather once an end goal is set – an outcome – the ability to choose and define how I will achieve it is important.

As a manager, this freedom can be daunting. We agree as an employee, we crave it. But as a manager it can be daunting to provide to the team. So how will you keep on top of deliverables?

Build an asynchronous workflow

Building an asynchronous workflow into your business creates greater transparency and communication.

Flexible workplaces, remote teams, conflicting deadlines. Working ‘asynchronously’ today is not unusual.

While it produces some benefits, such as reducing distractions and team-based interruptions, it can produce its own set of problems, ranging from isolation-led procrastination to disjointed or mismanaged organisational tasks.

While the freedom to finalise our independent task list and projects in a location of our choosing is a fantastic benefit, often producing a burst of short-term productivity and allowing us to move some of those hard-to-shift tasks from our to-do list, one downside is that we can at times lose focus of the big picture.

What we need to execute at an organisational level becomes lost, because, individually, we may have become disparate.

Have you experienced the sense that everyone is working on something different, but if you had an understanding of the whole it could have improved your outcomes?

Asynchronous workflow is most often associated with IT production and communications. However, as more time-based and traditional business models shift their work practices to flexible and cloud-based technologies, there is a greater need for teams and employees to collaborate with access to what they need anywhere and at any time.

Some of the benefits of building asynchronous workflow into your business and teams include:

– Transparency – connection across the company and each employee;

– Communication – easy to communicate clearly and consistently and see the whole picture;

– Accountability – seeing the whole picture can result in teams feeling accountable in both their work and commitment;

– Reduce empires – reduce capacity holding and silo mentality resulting in organisational-wide collaboration (so often experienced in accounting and professional service environments); and

– Time flexibility – can be more productive from anywhere in the world, including the local cafe, and allow teams to work at times that suit them.

Designing and deploying your own asynchronous workflow is not merely the introduction of tools and new resources. Throwing new technology alone at this shift can result in a mismatched solution comprising of a mixed bag of:

– Remote conference/video calls;

– Various platforms for tracking tasks; and

– Bunch of other collaboration and communications tools.

All in isolation, these provide singular benefits, but the ultimate asynchronous outcome will not be achieved from technology and tools alone.

This is not just an organisational change but an individual change as well. Ultimately, your culture will be at the centre of this change.

Helping bring the people on the change, understanding and communicating the new – making them aware, understanding their desires, gauging their existing knowledge, enhancing their abilities and then constantly reinforcing the change is critical (ADKAR model to change).

It’s about creating and aligning the behaviours you want and need to deploy the asynchronous workflow.

Rolling out a flexible workplace and then having key sponsors refer to a day where a team member works flexibly as “a day off” is not aligning and reinforcing the right behaviours. Communication and reinforcements will play as big a role as the technology itself.

Incorporate Kanban

The Kanban system of organisation can also be of great benefit where time and capacity can be a huge limiting factor on growth.

Before I discovered the power of Kanban, I had always had my own system of keeping track of what I needed to do and to be honest it had served me well over the years. A list kept in my notebook! Depending on the degree of chaos in my life – either at work or home, or at times both – the process was adapted.

Some weeks the list involved a number of large tasks that all fitted nicely onto an A4 page in my notebook. The page itself might start to resemble a patchwork quilt of types with scribbles, adages and side notes. But for the most part it was contained on the A4 page.

Then there were other weeks. My list started to merge into multiple pages of my notebook. Sometimes with clusters of client and internal meeting notes scattered between the day’s ‘to-do list’. These weeks seemed to be defined by the rewriting and reworking of the actual to-do list. Transcribing the list to keep it all together and actionable from one location in the notebook. At times I considered multiple notebooks. But this just seemed a step too far…

Believe it or not, the system did work. Most of my tasks got actioned. Some – while actioned – no doubt to this day remain unticked and lost in the pages between internal meeting A and client meeting B.

Kanban, however, has provided me with a new structure. One I’m loving.

Kanban is the Japanese principle of “just in time”.

Kanban translates to signboard or billboard in Japanese and is a scheduling system for lean and just in time manufacturing.

Developed by an engineer at Toyota to improve manufacturing efficiency, it is now also used in software development and agile environments. It’s a method of managing work that balances the demand for work to be done with the available capacity to get to this work.

The user or teams would “pull” work as they have the capacity to action it, rather than have the work “pushed” on them.

This “pull” concept has revolutionised the way I approach my working week.

Another thing Kanban has taught me is to try to only have two or three tasks on the go or “In Progress” at any time.

If a task is pending someone else, I transfer it to “Waiting on” and give myself 10 minutes at the end of each day and 15-20 minutes on a Friday to circle back on these tasks for follow up or reforecasting.

As simple as it sounds, the “Waiting on” alleviates a level of stress around my action list allowing me to focus on the “Ready” and “In Progress” tasks.

My “Future Ideas and Concepts” is something I keep an eye on – especially if the time I have available is not compatible with a “Ready” or “In Progress” task.

These are great for your team to help you progress or for actioning in times of procrastination.

Any time a concept or idea pops into my head that I would like time to think about later or don’t want to forget, I record it as a “Future Idea and Concept”. This way I don’t lose it.

The Android and iPhone apps allow me to record these at any time – even for those midnight musings.

Kate Blecich, co-founder, Schedullo

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