Why Simplifying Collaboration Is the Secret to a More Innovative Team
There’s no doubt collaboration enables teams to get more done together. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
In her TEDx talk, Lisa Bodell describes thinking as “a daring act” because companies too often prize doing over thinking. This drive to “do” leads to meeting and email overload, and it’s getting in the way of meaningful work.
Research backs her up: Workers in many companies say meetings, phone calls, and emails eat up 80% of their time in a typical week. That leaves just one day a week to do work that actually moves the needle!
Something’s got to change.
Lisa says the road to innovation starts with simplification—and we couldn’t agree more. At TeamGantt, doing more with less is how we got our start.
When cofounders Nathan Gilmore and John Correlli built TeamGantt back in the day, they had just 4 hours a week to get the job done. They discovered making progress is a whole lot easier when you keep collaboration simple.
Creating space to do the work is a core principle that still guides our team today—and the only way TeamGantt has been able to grow to serve thousands of customers with a small team and no investment money. We’ve talked about why it’s key to helping your team achieve work-life balance. Here’s how to put it into practice and make room for innovation too.
Cut meeting waste
Meetings are the catch-22 of collaborative work. You can’t live with them. You can’t live without them.
Thankfully, you can cut the waste and make meetings more effective for your team. Score a few quick wins with these meeting tips.
Budget your meeting time
Meetings have a sneaky way of piling up without anyone noticing. So how do you prevent calendar creep?
Michael Mankins recommends creating a zero-based budget for your team’s meeting time. Basically, you cap the number of hours available for meetings each week. If a new meeting pops up, another one has to come off the schedule.
At TeamGantt, we love the creative power constraints bring to the table. Limiting meeting time not only encourages our team to find time-efficient ways to work together. It also empowers them to say no to meeting fluff.
Nix unproductive meetings
Just because a meeting feels important doesn’t mean it actually is. Before throwing a meeting on the calendar, take a moment to consider the value it brings to the team.
- Will the meeting move the needle?
- Is it worth everyone’s collective time?
- Can you accomplish the meeting’s goals in a simpler way?
These questions don’t just apply to new meetings. Challenge yourself to evaluate recurring meetings by the same standard to ensure the status quo isn’t bogging your team down unnecessarily.
Set the stage for action
No one likes wasting time in a meeting that ends up in the same place it started. So clear the way for actionable conversation from the get-go.
- Clarify goals. Share the meeting’s goals and agenda before everyone gathers at the table so you don’t have to spend valuable time getting attendees up to speed on why they’re there.
- Limit invites. Only invite people who will actively contribute to the conversation. Meeting notes will do the FYI job just fine for everyone else.
- Mind the time. Keep the meeting goals and agenda handy during the meeting to ensure the discussion stays on time and on track.
- Don’t leave empty-handed. Make it a point to walk away from every meeting with some sort of action or decision.
If a meeting’s a must, why not motivate folks to finish early? TeamGantt cofounder John Correlli recently moved our dev team’s biweekly sprint planning meetings from mornings to the end of the day.
“The cool twist I put on it is, when we’re done sprint planning, we’re done for the day. We don’t need to go back into any more work,” John explains.
Having that reward has encouraged his team to limit side chatter and land on decisions more quickly. “We’ve been able to cover the same ground—plus an extra 2 weeks of work for a new team member—and still get done 30 minutes quicker,” John says.
Optimize your collaboration stack
As a 100% remote team, we’re always on the lookout for collaboration tools that help us communicate effectively without distracting from the work at hand.
Here’s what’s in our stack and how we use it:
Spoiler alert! At TeamGantt, we channel all our project-related files and discussions through—you guessed it—TeamGantt. This enables us to document important conversations and keep everyone in the loop on the tasks that matter to them. Give TeamGantt a free try to see how it works for your team.
Slack is our go-to for quick “deskside” conversations. As a team, we’re intentional about keeping Slack chats focused on productive work, though funny GIFs do make an occasional appearance. (We’re only human!) Snoozing notifications is encouraged if someone needs to quiet the chatter and focus on a big project.
Collaborative creative tools
If you’ve ever emailed a file to a group of stakeholders for review and ended up with 5 conflicting sets of feedback to reconcile, you know how time-consuming it can be. That’s why we’re big fans of collaborative creative tools like InVision, Frame.io, and Google Docs. They put an end to approval loop madness by enabling our team to collaborate on design, videos, and content in real time.
Since our team is scattered across the US, we host team meetings remotely via video chat. Google Hangouts is our primary go-to, though we also use Slack calls and Zoom from time to time.
Up next: Easy ways to set your team up for success
Freeing up your team’s time can open up a world of possibility. So how do you position them for success? Discover practical tips for helping your team reach their full potential.
In the meantime, keep the learning going, and join one of our free classes. We’re always adding new topics to the schedule and would love to see you there!
Want to help your team work smarter?
TeamGantt makes it easy to eliminate confusion, streamline communication, and beat project deadlines. Even better, you’ll save time and energy on project setup so you can focus on doing the work that matters most.
Of course, don’t just take our word for it. Sign up for a free TeamGantt account to see for yourself!