The purpose of this article is to explain how adopting a project management tool impacted our efficiency.
SMB Compass focuses on transparency and efficiency in all aspects of our process. It’s actually a term we’ve coined "Efficiency by way of Transparency." This methodology has led to great success with clients as we tend to find people appreciate honesty and a concerted effort to not waste time. Within our team, we had an epiphany that while we were providing what we preached to our clients, we weren’t being fully transparent & efficient in our own internal Project Management protocol.
After years of growth and building "on the go" we built some inefficient ways to keep track of our team’s tasks and the way we communicated internally about said tasks. In a typical organization, you’ll find that task & project management tools are either non-existent, or they’re so robust that it easily overwhelms and tunes out team members. Our problem was the lack of a platform where, as a team, we could bypass all distractions and clutter. We need the ability to highlight our most important tasks in a more impactful manner. Our lives are overfed constant distractions and content such as emails, texts, and the last minute requests. All these attention-demanding pings are ripe opportunities to veer from the weekly/monthly tasks and projects you should be working on.
How did we implement it?
After identifying our opportunity for growth, we felt that the most important action we could take as a group was to find the one platform we all felt most comfortable using. The idea was that in order to have buy-in, we needed to use what organically was most practical for all our staff. Between 2 project management tools, email, our CRM and our big whiteboards, the clear winner was our most simple project management tool. We found out that the reason this tool was the most used by the majority was its lack of interconnectivity with our other organizational tools like Outlook and CRM. Most of us were using this tool as our monthly to-do list. While not the most practical and efficient use of a project management tool, we at least had considerable user interaction. We essentially had a platform with user buy-in now it was a matter putting this handy tool to good use.
How we made it work for us
As the majority of us were former lenders, we have a natural curiosity about how and why things work. We dug into why the most simple of tools had the most usage internally. Turns out, it wasn’t so much the fact that this tool was simple to use, but that it was separate from all the other “clutter” or better yet data we used to track our progress and work efficiency. As mentioned earlier, our diminishing attention spans are constantly being pulled in all directions by work apps and non-work apps. We decided to focus on how we could turn this project management tool into a much more impactful part of our everyday work life.
The first step taken to ensure we would go beyond an exploratory and likely futile attempt was to identify how we would all be held accountable for not just inputting tasks and projects into this platform but that if there were deadlines, they were being met and communicated efficiently. There were some critical points we found worked best to make sure we took this tool to the next level. We started with only inputting our most important task that needed to be completed each day. By identifying our most important task, within its own standing platform, we were able to hone in and focus on this one task that mattered most. This task was shared with everyone else in the main "Team Board."
Naturally, each one of our team members started marking off their most important task pretty early in the day. We realized that internally we started to build a larger sense of accomplishment and accountability with our time management. Our days were starting to feel less overwhelming and burdensome. This minor shift in our daily time management was the start of a culture change within our group that has led to the more focused and targeted activity being completed.
The impact on our team
There are some key impacting takeaways from our new implementation of project management. There’s been added accountability that isn’t being forced from the top down. Each one of us prepares their task lists knowing that what’s been logged as an important task is a task that we’ve individually identified as an action item that requires attention. Along with the added accountability, there’s been further attention to detail in the sense that any project taken on, must be a project that matters. In workplace settings, it is easy as a business owner, entrepreneur, manager, or employee to fill your day with tasks that seem like matter but ultimately aren’t driving you closer to your purpose or goal. The attention to the singular goal in mind or the big picture allows for fewer distractions and less time spent on tasks that don’t matter.
Another key aspect of having a project management tool that’s doesn’t interact with the rest of your apps/tools is the segmentation and further organization of your “attack plan”. Within our project management tool we can exclusively communicate (in a way that works for our team) all necessary information to keep projects and tasks progressing. No longer are we intertwining our multiple ways of communication to document progress, but instead, our focus on the progress of our projects happens exclusively within our project management platform. Like all human-related things, there’s no perfection in this segmented and separate communication channel.
We will still veer from time to time to our default text/email follow up communication. The impact is still clear though, as our inboxes and chat channels are now 90 to 95% clear of follow up/collaborative communication. We believe this decluttering of our inboxes also allows us to react more efficiently to our overall process. Our salespeople are less bogged down with emails and thus have the time to spend more time talking to prospects and clients. Our operations staff have a simpler path to keep our transactions and opportunities moving all in a less jumbled environment.
After a couple of weeks of tweaking the process and working within our schedules, we came up with a combination of time and attention needed to plan and schedule all tasks and projects. There’s a balance needed between the time spent planning and organizing and the time spent executing. For us, we believe in a daily 30 minutes of task and project review. Within this time period, our team discusses improvements and tweaks to our timelines and projects. Like any tool or app used in the workplace, there is constant tweaking needed to keep our project management tool working the way we need to. As we continue to grow, we’ll have a larger team to incorporate and blend into our projects and processes. After the experience, we’ve gone through and the culture change internally SMB Compass recommends all our clients to spend time thinking of similar tools or at least thought processes to achieve higher efficiencies in communication and the progression of projects. In our case, it’s led to a much more efficient and transparent approach to our internal communications, maybe it can do the same for your business.