No matter what size your company is — a three-person start-up or a $500 million enterprise — managing people is one of the most challenging aspects for any business. Even with the best of intentions, it is difficult to establish clear communication between employees, accountability for work and timely and meaningful performance reviews. Without these parameters in place, people can easily become unmotivated, bored and begin searching for other opportunities. So what do you do to effectively manage tasks and assignments? I believe it’s part science and part art and can be implemented by following these seven essential rules:
1.) Define clear expectations.
You must be clear and precise about assignments, including what needs to get done by when, who is responsible for the project and its ultimate outcome and, if relevant, who is part of the team supporting them? Without a clear road map, you are not likely to reach your destination.
2.) Pick the projects that will add the most value and allocate the right people to get them done.
It’s not how much work you get done that matters, it’s whether you get the right work done. And who does the work will determine if you do the right work the right way. Your superstars with the right experience should be assigned the most important work.
3.) Communicate progress and challenges in real time.
There is nothing worse than being notified at a project deadline that the person or team assigned to it doesn’t have enough time or the right information or necessary tools to deliver. Communications at every step of the task and mini-goals, or short steps, should be instituted to identify roadblocks before they become immovable barriers. A high-level of coordination and process will minimize redundancy, delays and highlight challenges, and ultimately prevent tasks from falling through the cracks.
4.) Follow-up and review progress in face-to-face meetings.
We have become so accustomed to email, texts, IM and even Facebook that in-person communications have become a last resort. People find virtual communication less intrusive and more efficient. But there are major drawbacks. It’s difficult to decipher tone and intent in email or texts, and you miss the nuances of expression or body language. And let’s face it, people like to hide behind email when giving critical feedback, which harms their credibility and prevents the discussion from becoming a teaching moment. Don’t fall into this trap. Assemble your entire team to review projects at timely and important moments. Meetings will provide for a deeper and more meaningful conversation surrounding the project, provide a forum to address major issues or suggestions on alternative paths to project. We are social creatures and encouraging collaboration will foster collaboration.
5.) Measure and track key performance indicators.
Decide and measure the key performance indicators (KPI) that will determine the success of the project. Studies have proven that it is virtually impossible to improve or reach a goal if you have no objective way of measuring the process to reaching the goal. It is a two-step process. First, you have to determine the KPIs that matter — a project will succeed if you do X , Y and Z to this level of quality. Second, you need to develop an ongoing process for measuring these KPIs at every step of the project and provide transparency to the project participants on their ongoing grades and completion rates.
6.) Give and receive high velocity feedback.
Whether feedback is good or positive it must be provided as soon after a job is completed. Teaching moments are fleeting; evaluating someone’s performance six months after the fact is utterly inefficient. You won’t remember the details of the assignment and your evidence to back up your points will be vague and generic. It must be done in a timely manner. Feedback allows team members to understand how to execute better and adjust for the next similar task they tackle. In sports, it’s repetition and feedback that enhances performance. Business is no different.
7.) Let people know where they stand.
If you can provide each team member with an updated evaluation based on their project’s KPIs, they will know how well they are doing and how to make continuous improvements.