COVID-19 has forced so many of us to handle our work remotely, regardless of whether we were already in the habit. In many contexts it’s changed how our teams check in on projects or track them, for example. It’s now time to move from scrambling to rejigger communication so that we can “live with” working entirely remotely, to graduating this whole remote work scenario and virtual workspace into how we do projects going forward. How do we make our project execution approach digitally native for future projects so that we are ready for anything?
- Virtual Lunch Meetings. Seemingly a silly factor to consider, but it’s real. We’re in more meetings than ever now, so how do you make it safe to schedule an internal meeting during times your people might be hungry? You’ve had more unhappy and distracted meeting attendees than you think, just from that inconsistency in handling lunch. So when your meeting needs to be in that window, schedule it outright as a working lunch, and make that clear in the meeting invitation and agenda, so as to set the expectation that there will be chewing throughout. If the attendees are already comfortable with each other, this puts new availability back on the table when it’s time to schedule meetings, while putting people at ease about when they get to handle their basic human needs during the workday.
- Morning Coffee Stand-ups. On a similar note, at The Lytic Group a number of our regular morning meetings officially became “Morning Coffee” a while back, where everyone is encouraged to have their favorite cup handy for our quick gatherings. This happens to also make it ok to have earlier stand-up meetings whose timing doesn’t depend on or suffer from anyone’s need to commute. If your company culture supports it, this also allows employees to get an earlier start each day on their own deep work.
- Optimize Your Virtual Brainstorming. When trying to move to digital-native teams, this means having your virtual conference rooms in order. Virtual teamwork is the perfect place and excuse to start being stricter about meeting structure, for example. Agendas are critical to productive use of time in a meeting, so during our status meetings we’ll very often screenshare the agenda document throughout the meeting, write notes, updates, and questions on it live during the meeting, and then just save it. And so instantly we have meeting minutes, stored on our shared Sharepoint, internal drives, Dropbox, or whatever.
To complement that, OneNote is currently my favorite little whiteboarding tool, since we happen to spend a lot of time in Microsoft Teams, that lets us spitball ideas during meetings, plus gather spontaneous resources (images, web pages, videos, etc.) and organize them, right on the spot, and it’s immediately an artifact stored within the project’s channel for future reference. If you want to go further with the many products that can be integrated into Teams, Outlook’s group calendaring & task lists get the job done for much of the time tracking for many teams use cases. Try Planner, too.
- Cloud- Based Project Management. And if you haven’t yet, for heaven’s sake start making all your project management available everywhere. All the stakeholders on your team should have access either to a dashboard or time & milestone tracking from wherever they are, and from whatever device. Take your pick from MS Project 365 & Azure Boards, Asana, Jira, or other products. But get there ASAP.
- PMISes. Finally, I can’t say enough about the value of creating a Project Management Information Site for starting a project off on the right foot and enabling consistency and transparency throughout. Use your cloud PM tools to build a dashboard showing your milestones and deadlines, metrics on time and effort and progress to-date, a project document store, risk management and mitigation databases, and all of your plans. Again, we happen to be big on O365, so Sharepoint makes this easy. And then, when we add our customers as users, this accessibility to information does wonders for transparency and confidence-building.
These are all just habits to add to your approach to project management, and reasons to make the most out of tools you probably already have available to you. They’re your easiest path to integrate digital project management into your team’s “New Normal”. Leverage them heavily and inject them into your project culture, and I think you and your team will be hooked.
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