Tag Archives: productive work environment

Another 7 ways to increase meeting productivity.

It’s common knowledge that meetings are costly. Time is valuable and assembling a large group in one place is expensive by any definition. The financial impact of upsetting the workday rhythm is even costlier, and small businesses are hit hardest.

Some people are at their most productive at the beginning of the day, greeting the morning’s tasks with immediate energy. Others (myself included) may need about an hour of preparation before they’re ready to get moving. When a meeting begins, however, personal wants and needs fall by the wayside. Meetings force us to relinquish one of the basic components of any creative task: autonomy.

There’s no way to do away with meetings altogether. Admittedly, a meeting’s benefits sometimes outweigh its drawbacks. There’s no question, however, that a more intelligent approach is possible.

Let’s look at some ideas for meeting effectively picked up from highly productive workplace teams:

  • Steer Clear of “Informational Meetings”: If a meeting ends without action steps, then the meeting’s necessity – especially if it’s a regularly scheduled event — requires questioning. A group gathering simply to update information is better handled via voice-mail or e-mail.
  • Kick the Monday Meeting Habit: Meeting just because it’s Monday is a purely nonsensical practice. It’s time better spent tackling that overstuffed inbox. Almost always, regularly set meetings turn into “posting” sessions.
  • Conclude with a Rundown of Captured Action Steps: As every meeting wraps up, do a quick check of the “action steps” captured by each employee. The practice takes less than half-a-minute per attendee and will almost always uncover several neglected action items, as well as fostering a greater awareness of accountability. Once announced to the room, effectively completing an action step is much more likely.
  • Classify All Meetings as “Standing”: A smart idea I saw in some groups was the idea of a “standing meeting” – literally. In these, employees would remain standing throughout, removing the relaxation element which fills “sitting” meetings with unnecessary repetition and commentating instead of content-creating. Standing meetings are more action-oriented; people get to the point more quickly when they’re feeling weak in the knees.
  • The former chief of MTV Digital Media and current MySpace Music topper, Courtney Holt, swears by standing meetings’ positive effect on his employees. “I try to make every meeting – especially those that are called last-minute – a standing meeting, ideally each meeting finishes as quickly as it can.”
  • Most last-minute meetings, usually to quickly get the team up to speed or handle a problem situation, can take place in under 10 minutes.
  • Clarify Every Meeting’s Purpose at its Start: Brittany Ancell, chief of operations for Behance, advises beginning all meetings with a basic question: “Why are we here, and what are we supposed to accomplish?” As she elaborates, “Laying out the objective and setting the meeting’s tone is one of the leader’s key responsibilities.”
  • Reestablish Transit Time: Accounting for travel time between meetings of 10 or 15 minutes helps substantially lower anxiety. In the Harvard Business Review, David Silverman, a business writing instructor and entrepreneur, effectively argues that, as grade-schoolers, we knew the school bell signified 15 minutes until our next period. “Why is it,” he wonders, “that when we graduate, they take away our bells, replace them with an irritating ‘doink’ sound signaling ‘5 minutes until your next meeting’ and assume we can now teleport to the location of same? What could cause such madness? In two words: Microsoft Outlook.” It appears that the basic philosophy of corporate time-keeping has stolen that much-needed sanity-preserver – travel time – from daily schedules. For a return to sanity, Silverman proposes scheduling hour-long meetings but limiting them to no longer than 50 minutes.
  • Schedule Unavoidable Meetings for 3:00 PM, Tuesday: In a Lifehacker article, online scheduling service “When is Good” reported that, upon studying more than 100,000 replies to 34,000 invites on their site, they concluded that the time with the most “availability” for participants was 3:00PM on Tuesday. The results imply that there are probably specific times of day (and days of the week) which are the most convenient for all involved, in spite of personal work-flow differences. It’s far from a scientific conclusion, but it’s a result worth noting.

Respected employers acknowledge that determining a meeting’s worth is important. While researching for my blog, I noticed that the highest-achieving teams and bosses were, more often than not, inclined to view most potential meetings with a healthy helping of skepticism. The tips outlined above offer an easy way to protect your small business from the resource-wasting and time-consuming danger of unnecessary meetings.

Up Next: “Getting the Most out of Conferences”

Building Effective Teams: How to Create a Successful Work Environment

The Twelve C’s to Building Effective Teams

building effective teamsWhen building effective teams to create a successful working environment, managers need to understand that being a part of a team is a different experience all by itself. Members of a team are part of a larger whole with an espoused mission or objective and contribute to the overall success of an organization. A team is responsible for producing results that achieve those successful objectives. Team members usually represent different departments in an organization or are comprised of one department. Members are tasked with specific functions that drive the bigger picture.

It is extremely important to examine the objectives of a team. Is it merely to be effective in the workplace or focused on accomplishing a specific goal? Team building seminars, retreats and other activities are useless when the objective is not clearly defined early on in the process. If managed properly, a team is a useful tool for involving employees in the success of a business. They help to increase profits by improving a customers’ experience through improved products, services, and connections.

When a business has been unsuccessful in team improvement efforts, it should evaluate its methods through a list of team building techniques known as the Twelve Cs. This self-diagnosing list focuses on twelve areas that will not only improve the communication and functionality of a group but provide a clear understanding of the group’s purpose for the future.

1. The first concept that a team must understand is Context. The team should be able to answer specific questions, such as what is its purpose? Where does this team fit in to the scheme of things? Are the values, mission and objectives in alignment with the organization as a whole? Why have particular people been chosen to be a part of the team?

2. The second concept is Clear Expectations. Has the management communicated to the group its expectations? Do team members know why the team was formed? Do members understand what will happen if the expected outcomes are not achieved? Does the team clearly understand the resources that the organization will provide?

3. Keep in mind when building effective teams, it needs to have Competence. Are the right people on the team? Are they the best representative from their department? Do the members have the necessary skills and knowledge needed to handle any issues that might arise? Are they capable of dealing with problems and if not, do they have access to someone who can provide them with resources? Do members of the team have confidence in each other?

4. The team members need to have buy-in. They need to be Committed to the team mission. Do they feel that they bring a valuable resource to the group? Do they expect this opportunity to provide them with professional development that will help them advance in their careers? What kinds of incentives encourage the team to do well?

5. The team needs to feel that is has Control. Does it have the freedom to feel ownership of its goals? On the other hand, does it understand the boundaries that it must stay within? What are the limitations that the team identified when it looked at its context in the organization as a whole? Is there a process that allows it to review its current practices and implement a checks and balances system? If members do not perform their functions in a timely manner or follow the assigned timetable, are they held accountable? If so, what does that process look like?

6. Although the group is part of a larger whole with intended outcomes, has it designed its own strategies for goal setting? What is the team’s Charter? What is the design of the team? Has it defined how it will measure the outcomes and does the main leadership support its goals?

7. One of the most important and yet misunderstood concepts in team building is Communication. Members need to be clear about the priority of tasks and have a method of providing feedback in an honest yet respectful manner.

8. Without Collaboration, a team will ultimately fail. There are several stages of group development that are important in creating teamwork results that are productive. Groups go through several stages of development. Tuckman’s model maintains that four stages known as forming, storming, norming and performing are essential and inevitable in order for a team to grown, tackle challenges, find solutions and deliver results. Do the team members understand their role in the team and the group process? Do they know the established norms and conflict resolution and decision-making strategies?

9. The Culture of a group also effects their communication and collaboration. Although a team is a smaller part of a larger group, this does not mean that the culture of the group will be the same. Members of the group need to recognize this possibility and adapt to possible changes. The team may be responsible for implementing cultural changes into the larger organization if it finds that those strategies work well within its group.

10. Teams need to recognize the possible Consequences. Is there an established system based on rewards and recognition? What is the expectation when negative results are achieved? What about positive results? Will the success of the group be shared individually with members or only with the organization as a whole? Will the group members be able to see how their accomplishments impact the organization?

11. How is the group Coordinated? Is there a central leadership team that assists the group? Does the group have an established leader that reports to central management? Who do they go to if they need assistance? Is a hierarchy in place or does it need to be developed?

12. Without Creative Innovation a team will not be able to act as a change agent. The group must value creative thinking, new ideas and unique solutions to problems. Members need to be rewarded when they think outside of the box even if the idea does not always come to fruition. Members should be stimulated with training and have access to resources that encourage new and creative ideas.

By evaluating a team using these twelve criteria, business leaders will ensure that their teams contribute effectively to the success of their organization. Team members will feel valued and their success will fuel the company in a positive manner. Empowering employees to feel ownership in the company and its successes only increases those successes in the future.

Building Effective Teams is only part of an efficient workplace!

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Increasing your workflow with The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

I’ve planned out my work session and set my timer. Now I have to get to work – the timer is ticking away, so there isn’t a moment to lose! Since I’ve given myself a limited time frame in which to accomplish as much as possible, I want to be as productive during that time as I can. Probably more than any other aspect of The Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, methods for maximizing productivity will vary from person to person. However, the creators of these techniques offer a few suggestions for increasing productivity within your work time.

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

Francisco Cirillo, the creator of the Pomodoro Technique, offers a suggestion for structuring each work session to keep you on track. He recommends using the first 3 to 5 minutes of the session to review what you’ve accomplished on the current task so far. This keeps the task fresh in my memory and cements what I’ve already learned. Reviewing what I’ve already done can also help me clarify what steps should be taken next.

Using this structure, I would work on the next steps in my task for 15 to 20 minutes after reviewing my previous accomplishments. Then I use the final 3 to 5 minutes of my work session to review what I’ve accomplished during this work session. Cirillo recommends starting the review at the end of the work session and working back to the beginning. He calls this an “effect-cause procedure”; I determine what I accomplished at the end of the session, then work towards the beginning to determine whether that’s what I actually intended to accomplish. This helps me to evaluate whether my work flow is helping or hindering my productivity, and I can tweak it to accomplish more next time.

In “The Accomplishment Zone” of the Results Curve, Pierre Khawand states that accomplishments occur when we are focused on a task. The resulting suggestion is simple: I must stay focused on a task long enough to get into the “zone” where my productivity increases. Khawand suggests that it takes around 30 minutes to reach this zone, but it’s been my experience that I get there much faster when I’m working on a task that I truly enjoy and find interesting. It might take the entire 30 minutes, or even longer, if it’s a task I don’t particularly care for.

At first glance, it appears that the work structures from the Pomodoro Technique and the Results Curve contradict each other. The Pomodoro Technique asks us to set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of each session, while the Results Curve encourages us to focus on one task for as long as possible. However, it’s my opinion that these strategies actually complement one another. Reviewing previous work at the beginning of a session can plunge my brain into the middle of my task and help me get to that focused, productive zone more quickly. Once I’ve reached that zone, I don’t snap out of it when I perform the review at the end of the session; instead, my high level of concentration helps me to evaluate my work flow and quickly form ideas for how to make the next work session even more productive.

With these time management methods, you can effectively complete tasks at the intended time and be more productive. As you are refining your workflow using task lists, you can also clean up your Outlook, Mac, Gmail or Google Apps address books by removing duplicate contacts using the Scrubly duplicate contact remover tool. You can scan your contacts free by visiting http://www.scrubly.com.

by utilizing the Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve, you will soon be on top of managing even the most daunting projects!

Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve Pomodoro Technique and The Results Curve

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