Status meetings have become a sort of necessary evil in today’s workplace. The project manager needs to know what’s going on and the hope is that teammates will have a chance to collaborate if they keep each other updated on their work. Unfortunately, these meetings are never very effective.
Most employees sit in an hours-long meeting to give a quick, two-minute status update that has already changed an hour after the meeting ends and there really isn’t much time for productive collaboration.
See our infographic "10 Simple Steps to Hosting Meetings that do Not Suck" for tips to make essential meetings more efficient.
Imagine if you could get real-time updates and do away with these meetings. What if you could know exactly what your teammates or employees are working on at any given time, and know that the information you have is accurate and current? With these three steps, this could be your team’s reality.
1. Keep Collaboration and Communication Together
One of the biggest reasons teams struggle with outdated status updates is that each person is using a different tool. Some prefer spreadsheets while others like to use email to track tasks and project updates. When there isn’t one, unified place to go for official updates, it’s impossible to get real-time information.
Using too many tools also wastes a lot of time. In many businesses, employees spend a hefty 80% of their time responding to emails, answering phone calls, and sitting in meetings. That number could be significantly decreased if businesses kept collaboration and communication together in one place.
Using a centralized system to manage all collaboration and communication makes teams much more efficient and makes it possible to get accurate, real-time updates. Jim Shaffer, senior project management consultant at Enable Midstream Partners, recently described how a team can consolidate status updates:
"Ideally, you should find a single tool that can manage all these requests and track the project collaboration as it happens. Then, you standardize your projects with the processes that articulate what you need to communicate and to who."
In a recent webinar, Dave Garber, senior solutions engineer at Workfront, said that this will also allow leaders to make better decisions that are based on accurate information.
“When things are happening fast, you need to have a good handle on the true status of a particular task at any given time in order to be successful and make sound decisions,” he said.
2. Value Collaboration
According to research that studied more than 300 organizations, about one-third of value-adding collaboration comes from 3% to 5% of employees. This insight shows that employees aren’t as engaged and collaborative as they could be.
But, it also illustrates how difficult it is to get current status updates in many organizations. If only a fraction of employees are collaborating, chances are that managers aren’t aware of what most of their employees are working on.
The solution to this is to create a culture where collaboration is valued, encouraging workers to communicate within teams and with managers to keep others apprised of progress—to provide real-time status updates.
Shaffer explained that getting leadership on board can greatly improve collaboration:
"In order to improve collaboration, it must be valued. It helps when leadership recognizes the benefits of a collaborative organization, where great ideas are easily shared and project issues are resolved quickly."
To do this, survey your team and talk to stakeholders to find out what parts of your work processes could be improved with more collaboration. Where are the holes? Where does collaboration end and how can it be added?
But, Shaffer warns that this collaboration should not add more meetings or unproductive communication:
"Instead of adding another email chain or a meeting, establish a process that allows your team members to quickly update their status, review other tasks, and to respond with feedback all in the same place, back to that single tool."
This centralized location will be the go-to source for real-time status updates for managers, team members, and stakeholders.
3. Customize Communication
Communication is vital to teamwork, and it’s what makes real-time updates possible. Different people require different kinds of information in their updates, so you not only need a tool that will keep all communication and collaboration in one place, but will also allow for different kinds of reporting.
Shaffer said that when a team implements a centralized request system, custom communication will be easier:
"One of the biggest benefits of centralizing all your requests and all the projects and collaboration efforts in a single place is you can take that data and build a report for the dashboard to monitor that much effort.
"And dashboards are really a great way for leadership to get a quick glimpse of the overall status as well."
When internal communications are customized, real-time updates will be accurate. Everyone will know what’s going on and managers and leadership can quickly get an idea of where projects stand.
Garber believes that as teams increase visibility in communications, they will also experience an increase in productivity. He said:
"I find it really interesting how quickly an organization can start to be efficient when everyone can see their work.
"It’s almost like that positive reinforcement, because when your updates and your status is visible to the entire team and to your managers, there’s nowhere to hide, so to speak."
Real-time updates will help your team run smoothly so you can take on requests and execute them to perfection. You’ll also provide greater visibility to stakeholders, who will more fully understand the value your team provides as it pushes the company towards its strategic goals.
To see the full webinar that these insights came from, watch “The Digital Cat Rodeo: How to Fix Broken Project Management Processes,” featuring Jim Shaffer and Dave Garber.
About the Author
Heather has enjoyed playing the game of marketing for the past 15 years, at the agency and corporate level, in both B2C and B2B companies. She's run PR campaigns that took her from the MTV Beach House to NASDAQ and many media outlets and content channels in between. She is currently the Corporate Marketing Director at Workfront.Follow on Twitter More Content by Heather Hurst