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9 tips for increasing team productivity

Cathy Reisenwitz

by Cathy Reisenwitz on May 11, 2021

team productivity

Most managers want to know how to increase productivity of team members. When it comes to completing the tasks before you, team performance will often make or break a project. Here are nine tips for improving team productivity and efficiency.

1. Start off on the right foot

It's hard to think of a more important meeting than the project kickoff meeting. A well-executed project kickoff meeting should result in a good working relationship between stakeholders. It should also increase the likelihood you’ll meet deadlines and stay under-budget with minimal issues, scope creep, or change orders.

That meeting should set the tone and agenda for the whole project. Ideally, at that meeting the stakeholders will come to an agreement about the project’s scope, goals, strategy, timeline, and key milestones. Everyone should also be on the same page about what’s expected of them.

2. Encourage all members to speak up

Effective communication norms boost employee engagement and increase the likelihood of success for your projects. One study links “team voice” to positive outcomes including overall performance, sales profits, and task performance. “Team voice” refers to general agreement between team members that everyone should contribute their work-related opinions, concerns, and ideas to the team. Teams where members feel encouraged to share their thoughts tend to exceed expectations.

3. Encourage new ideas

The study also went a bit further, looking at which types of team voice are most helpful. Members of teams with a “promotive” team voice feel encouraged to share new ideas for improving how the team functions. In these teams, workers are encouraged to look for opportunities to improve processes in order to make more progress, faster. They also feel encouraged to experiment with new procedures, methods, or protocols that might improve upon the status quo. The researchers found that a work environment with a “promotive” team voice is more likely to be innovative and productive.

4. Encourage constructive criticism

The same study further found that a “prohibitive” team voice can also be helpful. Teams with a strong “prohibitive” team voice are teams where members are encouraged to voice their concerns about norms, practices, or behaviors that might be dangerous. In these teams members aren’t afraid to draw attention to potential threats and hazards in their work environment. For example, in these teams workers feel encouraged to call out potentially harmful shortcuts. These teams are likely to have better safety records. Members of these teams are more likely to comply with safety regulations, engage in more safety monitoring, and strive harder to meet security-related goals.

5. Keep your teams small

Research shows what is intuitively obvious to anyone who’s ever worked on a team. While each additional team member brings their own skills and knowledge to bear on the project, they also bring additional complexity and coordination costs. “As team size increases, the value of each new member drops off but the cost in terms of collaboration, communication, conflict, etc. increases steadily,” the researchers note. To limit the necessity of more managers and unnecessary meetings, it’s important to keep team sizes as small as is efficient.

Interestingly, one researcher found that the way information flows changes significantly when groups grow to 20 members. “At 20 you see a strong difference in coalition building,” Stefan Thurner wrote. “Smaller groups form and they block each other, which explains why it is exceedingly hard to come up with unanimous decisions when [teams] are large.”

6. Give everyone a job

One way you’ll know whether your team is the right size is if everyone has a specific role to play and a clearly delineated set of responsibilities. The role of a leader is to know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, along with their interests, and divide work accordingly. You also need to clearly communicate everyone’s job to them so there is no ambiguity about who is doing what. This is especially important when it comes to decision-making responsibilities. The time to decide who has the final call on a topic is well before individuals take sides and start arguing for their position.

7. Use team-building exercises

Research shows that organizations with strong, healthy cross-functional relationships are better able to share resources, information, knowledge, and capabilities. Close ties increase productivity and help facilitate information sharing between individuals and organizations. They also foster faster conflict resolution, brainstorming, and problem-solving.

Encouraging teammates to recognize each other’s accomplishments with a quick shoutout on Slack or a thank-you email can boost team-building. Collaboration tools like Disco make it easy for even remote workers to give colleagues praise and recognition for their contributions and accomplishments within Slack.

Virtual coffee breaks can also help build strong relationships. Informal chats not only promote team bonding, but they also offer a nice mental break so workers can recharge and ultimately increase their productivity. At Clockwise, we use Donut to pair employees randomly for “coffee chats.” It’s especially handy for remote teams where not everyone gets a chance to interact on a regular basis.

8. Use project management software

Productive teams don’t waste time. Rather than forcing the team to sit through status update meetings or interrupt each other to get a status update on an ongoing project implement project management software like Trello, Monday, or Basecamp. Not only does it save time and reduce interruptions but it can also help mitigate Zoom fatigue for remote teams.

Project management software should serve as your team’s source of truth when it comes to each project’s updates, statuses, assignees, due dates, files, and more. It should also help you stay on-deadline through pre-set notifications and reminders for due dates and changes. Plus, less need to Slack people about who’s doing what.

9. Take knowledge management seriously

Proper knowledge management is another way to save time, frustration, and effort for your team. Proper knowledge management means less time tracking down or replicating existing work. Here again, software is your friend. Consider using tools like Notion, Confluence, or just well-organized Google Docs to organize, centralize, and share pertinent information with the team.

Going forward

Whether you’re a project manager and you work remotely or you’re a Software Engineering Manager who’s looking forward to meeting with your team again in-person soon these nine tips should help you maximize productivity for your team.

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is Head of Content at Clockwise where she oversees the Clockwise Blog and The Minutes Newsletter. She has covered business software for six years and has been published in Newsweek, Forbes, the Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications.

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