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Team Productivity

Why Simplifying Collaboration Is the Secret to a More Innovative Team

Laura LaPrad
September 24, 2018
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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.

Reward efficiency

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:

TeamGantt

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

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.

Video chat

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!

Project management milestone examples

Milestones make it easier to keep projects on track by calling out major events, dates, decisions, and deliverables. Here are a few examples of project milestones you might include in your plan:

  • Start and end dates for project phases
  • Key deliveries
  • Client and stakeholder approvals
  • Important meetings and presentations
  • Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 specific examples of how using project milestones can benefit your projects.

Monitor deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables project milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top-level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose because they’re called out in a special way—usually with a diamond—in project plans.

While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.

Here's an example of how Washington Hyperloop uses milestones to track an important deadline in their project.

Spotlight important dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there’s a board meeting you’re expected to attend.

It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.

date milestone in gantt chart

Identify potential project bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.

That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of what that might look like for a client approval.

deliverable milestone in gantt chart

Want to hit major milestones on time more often?

We’ve got a free class to help you get everyone on board with your plan! Register for Plan Up: How to Create and Sell a Winning Project Plan to see why planning sets the stage for project success, and get a free Guide to Project Planning when you sign up.

How to create a project milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt.

Once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick video on how to create milestones:

Project milestones are easy to create and even easier to track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.

How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders

Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Simply follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.

1. Filter your project by milestones.

From your gantt chart view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.

filter gantt chart by project milestones

2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.

Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.

export gantt chart with project milestones to PDF

Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.

share PDF of gantt chart filtered by project milestones

Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?

Hit every project milestone with ease

TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.

You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.

Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍

Give TeamGantt a free try today!

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