One of the best tools is structured schedule check-ins: daily, weekly, or however frequently you need it to happen for your culture.
- Today, there are great tools that allow us to collaborate digitally and instantly. I love them and use them, but it sometimes feels like we have lost the art of conversation, as though we want to avoid, at all cost, face to face meetings. Now, before you roll your eyes, let me explain. I believe in in-person meetings that are structured, to the point, and limited. For example, I have an average of 15 to 20 meetings a day with my team, but they often only last a few minutes. So, let's look at some of the productive ways to meet that enhance your efficiency when it comes to scheduling.
Let's start with the biggest key, defining meeting rules. These rules can vary based on the type of work you are doing, but here are some general ones to keep in mind. First, make it a standard that everyone has read all they can, or is up to speed as much as possible on the project you're going to discuss. Second, make sure everyone has questions, goals, or outcomes written down, or ready to go over in this meeting. Third, start all meetings with a timeline and do everything possible to finish early, or, at the latest, on time.
Fourth, all meetings should end with defined next steps for those involved. And, finally, no matter what, end on a positive note. I believe in having three types of meetings. The first is a standing meeting. This is an all hands on deck meeting that takes place in the same day or days each week. For my team, it is a regular meeting every Monday and Thursday. At the hour-long Monday meeting, we look at the week ahead, and update everyone in general about what is happening and what might affect the schedule. This includes highlighting big deadlines, any bottlenecks that week, and coworkers' or clients' time off.
At this meeting, we set up any side meetings that need to take place to keep things rolling. The Thursday meeting is 30 minutes long. It's a quick check-in to see where we're at and set up the following week. We also sometimes share challenges, successes, or work samples that give everyone a general feel of what's happening. We have found these meetings to be great for our culture. We know we have at least two times we get together and connect. Look at your culture and see how this could work for you. The second type of meeting is the check-in. Now, for me, check-ins include the morning check-in, the kickoff, and the progressive check-in.
The morning check-in is exactly what it sounds like. The account team and art director do a walk-around, check on everyone's workload and to-do list for the day. They talk through what jobs they're working on and help identify any questions early, so the rest of the day can be spent on action. It usually only takes a few minutes per person and I have found it's been vital for clear communication. The next type of check-in is the kickoff meeting. It is held at the start of any job and quickly pulls together all team members involved. The team leaders introduce the project and they present the schedule and go over it.
Any questions or missing information is addressed, and, in general, this takes five to 10 minutes. The final version of the check-in meetings is the progressive check-in. This happens at various milestones of the project and are usually highlighted on the schedule. This is as much of a redundancy mechanism as it is a necessary step to keep everyone on the project aware of where things are at. These progressive check-ins are more structured and, ideally, last 20 to 30 minutes. The objective is for all parties of the project to dig in and make sure all parts of the project are in sync.
These meetings can sometimes include the client as well, depending on what type of project it is and what information is needed or given. When thinking of this type of check-in, it reminds me of one of my favorite books, which is Ken Blanchard's One Minute Manager. It is a business classic and a quick read. What I like best about this book is the simple concept of a quick check-in, quick goal setting, and quick praise or reprimand. And when Blanchard says quick, he's not saying it in cheap manner. It's hyperfocused, engaged, and thoughtful. Following this advice has kept my team's conversations and communication open, honest, and deliberate.
This may seem super simple, and you know what, it is. By making sure there is constant communication face to face, I guarantee you you will see your efficiency and your culture change. I would encourage all managers to embrace this concept. As the book states, "99% of all problems are preventable, "as long as you communicate well, honestly, "openly, and early." Get the book and read it, you won't be sorry.
- Creating a balanced workflow
- Increasing productivity around tight timelines
- Delivering bad news early
- Determining when you are most creative
- Daily habits that help you win
- Working with easily distracted employees and team members
- Bringing clients into the schedule