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I’m a big fan of productivity, both individual and team, as regular readers know. And I spend too much time reading about and talking with teams that are struggling. So, in this blog I’ll offer seven concrete ideas that will help you maximize team productivity. And it doesn’t matter which methodology your team is using or what your position is on the team. Obviously if you are the project manager, it might be easier to implement some of these ideas, but not if the others aren’t interested. So, the first suggestion (which is not even part of the seven) is to rally the team around the need to improve your productivity.

Let me first say that I, along with others, continue to be intrigued by large language models and the possibilities that they offer. And the possibilities are many. I hear or read of companies that are using it today in big ways – and that may explain why I often read things that don’t really impress me very much.

I asked both Perplexity and ChatGPT to draft a blog with ideas about how to maximize team productivity through better project management and quickly discarded both. It was mostly a regurgitation of what everyone has been saying for years. And if everyone knows the answer, why are so many teams struggling? Maybe we need more than well-defined goals, effective communication, risk management, proper allocation of resources, and realistic deadlines. So, here are my seven ways to maximize team productivity.

Struggling with team productivity? Check out these 7 concrete ideas to maximize your team's efficiency, regardless of methodology or position. #ProductivityTips #TeamWork #smartprojex Click To Tweet

1. Remember why you are doing the project

Hopefully, your project has a compelling vision – since that can drive your project through during difficult times. And there will be bad times. But all too often, teams get caught up in the details and forget why they are doing the project.

Make no mistake, project management is tedious and loaded with details. It’s not just about creating a new product that will increase profits – though those kinds of projects are important. Higher profits, while great, are rarely shared with people in the trenches, so don’t expect them to prioritize your project when they are dealing with sick children or a dying mother.

What your team needs is a rallying cry – a compelling vision – that they will remember and that will inspire them throughout the project. And if you are the project manager, remind them of this vision when you meet.

2. Identify the big goals and document them visually

If clearly defined goals are the solution, why are so many projects with clear goals not doing so well? I think one problem is that we don’t always understand what it will take to accomplish the goal. So, I begin with a visual arrangements of the goals, rather than simply a list. Whether you arrange them on Trello boards, sticky notes, or assign a metaphorical image, such as a house, where you document the goals, I find that the visual aspect helps most people.

And then, I try hard to identify what’s needed to accomplish each one. Each goal might have a series of activities that are associated with that goal. Think about each one as a discreet activity that you can mark off in a reasonable amount of time. A goal that will take six months to accomplish is too hard to manage without underlying activities that can be marked as done. This process of identifying all the discreet activities that are needed to accomplish each goal is known as decomposing a project.

Consider the type of project that you are undertaking when you decide how far down you need to go. A home building project needs much more decomposition than a software creation project or a change management project. But you should know what the big goals are.

3. Confront the devil in the details

Develop and document a way to manage key details, such as stakeholders, roles and responsibilities, communications, risks, and money. Each of these areas could become a blog itself. But for now, I just want to stress that project management has a lot of details. And you need to have a plan for how you want to manage those details if you want to maximize team productivity.

Everyone likes to talk about communications and keeping open communications. But the more dispersed your conversations are the harder it will be to manage your communications. Sometimes, constraints can help. Think through a plan for how you will manage ALL the details on your project.

4. Decide on and document where, how, and which AI tools might help you

While I’m often intrigued by what LLMs report, I am often disappointed too. It sometimes misses important details in my prompts. For example, I asked Perplexity to compare the fit on two very different lines of jeans and all it offered was information on one of the lines. It completely missed the other name in the prompt.

I asked ChatGPT (admittedly the free version) to provide a chronology of the accomplishments of a particular person, and it was unable to sequence them properly.

So far, I am struggling to find big gains in my consulting work, but larger companies with access to more paid tools may find more gains. And everything I’m reading suggests that companies need to get on board now. I’ve listened and read a lot and been surprised by the numbers of people who haven’t tried any tools.

Even for small teams, consider these uses:

  • Summarize articles, policies, or other documents. Try asking it to give you five points that would be helpful from the perspective of an engineer, doctor, project manager, or whatever you choose.
  • Compare and contrast ideas.
  • Provide meeting summaries and identify action items.
  • Analyze a market for a new product.

5. Be smart about AI

There are many other examples of ways that AI might benefit your project. Experiment. But don’t accept what it churns out as fact. Use your judgement. Question everything and go back to source documents. From my experience these tools are better at making you think of questions you haven’t thought of before than they are at giving you the answers. But after you go through that process, you will likely wind up with a better outcome on whatever activity you were working on. Be careful to consider whether the time invested in that work is aligned with the value of the activity. You don’t want to over research a lower value activity, particularly when your goal is to maximize your team productivity. Do NOT put confidential data into any public tool.

6. Prioritize risk management

As regular readers know I’m a big fan of risk management and have written several blogs with tips on how and why we need to manage risks. I still believe that risk management should be a huge priority.

I do think we are at an inflection point and new AI tools are gradually making traditional risk registers and manual tracking obsolete. Renowned project expert, Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez wrote about this in a blog on new frontiers for project managers. For smaller companies, we aren’t there yet. And I still believe that whatever tool you use the most important step is to spend time thinking about risks in concert with others. Brainstorm these challenges as a group.

We live in a world where geopolitical, sustainability, biases, and culture risks present an increasing challenge. So how will you manage these risks?

Don't just manage tasks, rally your team around a compelling vision to drive productivity. Learn how to harness the power of AI tools and prioritize risk management effectively. #TeamProductivity #ProjectManagement #smartprojex Click To Tweet

7. Use regular and frequent Checkpoint meetings and deliver client value at each one

I’ve written before about Checkpoint meetings, a proprietary concept. I think of them as a combination of the sprint planning meeting and the retrospective. In these meetings, try to ensure that you are delivering something of value to the client. If you want to read more, check out this blog where I proposed them as an alternative to sprint planning meetings.

Conclusion

Just for fun, and to demonstrate the power of AI tools, I used Perplexity and ChatGPT to write a closing paragraph. Which one do you like more?

From ChatGPT 3.5 (free version)

In conclusion, maximizing team productivity is not just about following the same old advice. It’s about understanding the deeper nuances and implementing strategies that truly resonate with your team’s vision and needs. By rallying around a compelling vision, visually documenting big goals, meticulously managing details, harnessing the power of AI tools judiciously, prioritizing risk management, and conducting regular checkpoint meetings focused on delivering client value, teams can navigate challenges more effectively and achieve remarkable results. Remember, it’s not just about checking off tasks; it’s about driving towards a shared purpose with passion and determination. Let’s strive to embrace innovation, collaboration, and adaptability as we embark on the journey to maximize team productivity and success.

From Perplexity.AI (free)

In conclusion, maximizing team productivity is a multifaceted endeavor that requires a strategic approach encompassing clear vision, goal visualization, meticulous attention to details, leveraging AI tools effectively, prioritizing risk management, and ensuring value delivery through regular Checkpoint meetings. By rallying your team around a compelling vision, visually documenting big goals, managing key details effectively, utilizing AI tools judiciously, prioritizing risk management, and delivering client value consistently, you can steer your projects towards success. Embracing these strategies can empower teams to overcome challenges, enhance collaboration, and achieve greater productivity in today’s dynamic work environment. Remember, the key lies in continuous improvement and adaptability to drive success in project management and team productivity.