Team Efficiency

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To become a real driver of success in any organization, team efficiency needs to be closely linked with optimal performance, productivity, and profitability.

While the broad definition of efficiency usually hovers around the concept of “getting more things done with less time, money, and effort,” this does not necessarily get to the core of its meaning.

Efficiency is about making the best possible use of available time and resources. When teams work efficiently, they are challenged to carry out their tasks with skill and creativity in order to maximize results and minimize waste, thereby delighting the clients and helping grow the business.

Team efficiency is not about working harder but working smarter.

And in order to achieve this, team leaders need to understand that the best way to manage efficient teams is by empowering team members to effectively manage themselves.

Common Barriers to Team Efficiency and How to Avoid Them

Improving efficiency ranks high on the wish list of every project manager. Therefore, it pays to be aware of the most common obstacles to team efficiency so that you can resolve them immediately, or better yet, prevent them from happening:

Job Burnout

The Mayo Clinic describes job burnout as a "special type of work-related stress -- a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity."

The report further states that job burnout can result from various factors, including lack of control, unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, extremes of activity, lack of social support, and work-life imbalance, among others.

All these issues are the very same conditions that impede team efficiency. While burnout is not always related to one’s job, dissatisfaction with conditions at work has been cited as a major source of burnout, which in turn results in disempowerment and loss of motivation. While most employees are willing to work hard for something they find meaningful and fulfilling, when they are constantly stressed and exhausted, they begin feeling negatively about their jobs and eventually experience burnout.

Solution: One of the most common triggers for job burnout is excessive workload, including frequent overtime work. This can be prevented by implementing a workload management system that allows for assigned tasks and responsibilities to be accomplished successfully within the available amount of time and resources.

To maintain a healthy balance in the amount of work assigned to each member, a team leader must be familiar with their individual strengths and weaknesses.

Allocate resources based on team capacity and, unless your members are extremely talented and flexible, avoid multitasking. Prioritize important tasks and handle difficult things first so that people are not too frazzled at the end of the day.

Using a collaborative work tool helps organize task management. Aside from assigning tasks, it allows project managers to monitor progress in real-time and adjust workload as needed.

Excessive Meetings

Meetings are certainly important -- but they can also become huge time wasters when done excessively and unnecessarily.

Basically, you just have to ask yourself: Would you rather use all that time to actually do the work or just talk about it?

Solution: If you really need to call a meeting, make sure you have a clear objective and an organized agenda. Invite only the people who are directly involved and provide them with the agenda so that they can prepare ahead of time.

You may also consider using alternative platforms to replace team meetings. With the right project collaboration software, you can optimize team efficiency by having everyone communicate and collaborate in a centralized hub. Planning, brainstorming, and sharing updates can be accomplished with more flexibility throughout the project lifecycle, so you can spend more hours working and less time talking.

Poor Time Management

Time is a valuable resource in team efficiency and has to be managed well for peak performance, productivity, and profitability. While some people can still deliver good work on poorly managed time, the delays and lack of focus will eventually catch up with them and affect the team adversely.

Symptoms of poor time management include: tardiness, rushing, impatience, poorly defined goals, procrastination, decline in performance, lack of energy, perfectionism, indecisiveness, getting lost in excessive workload, and doing everything by one’s self.

Regardless of the amount of work that is accomplished in the end, none of these behaviors directly contribute to team efficiency and effectiveness. People often mistake being busy and having a full schedule every day as a sign of good time management. Often, it is quite the contrary.

Solution: Two of the most important factors in improving time management are proper planning and taking scheduled breaks. Studies have shown that when engaged in goal-oriented tasks that require focus and concentration, periods of rest can be directly linked to greater work productivity.

The encouraging news is that there is a profusion of time management systems to choose from. Current favorites like the Pomodoro Technique, Timeboxing, and Flowtime Technique build productivity around a combination of work sessions and breaks, allowing users to prioritize their tasks and feel more in control of their workflow.

Unfavorable Work Environment

Whether you report to an office or operate remotely, the space where you spend most of your working day greatly influences your ability to focus, process information, and ultimately, deliver your best work.

There are several factors that affect productivity in your work environment -- clutter, background noise, exposure to distraction and interruption, ergonomics and design, even the quality of lighting, temperature, and ventilation. All of these are productivity killers that can hamper the creative flow and diminish motivation.

Solution: In considering the best office layout for productivity, especially when designing for multiple employees, experts advise to take into account how they will interact with the entire workspace. Take note of where all the essential facilities and equipment are located and consider how they will impact the way your people will move through the day. Always maintain a clutter-free workspace, whether it’s the entire office or individual workstations. Common spaces should always remain clean and tidy. Ensure ample lighting, mild temperature, and good air quality for increased comfort and wellbeing.

To minimize distractions and interruptions, encourage employees to put their mobile phones on silent and to step out when taking calls, especially in smaller spaces. Avoid group chatter during work hours and advise against frequent "table-hopping" or ambushing colleagues for unplanned meetings or consultations. Individuals sensitive to background noise might want to invest in noise-cancelling headphones to avoid distraction.

Decentralized Files

Teamwork becomes more difficult when there is no centralized space to safely store and share all the files you need for your projects and tasks. A study released by Brothers International reports that over $89 billion is expended annually due to workplace disorganization. Survey findings also indicate that 46% of office workers have lost at least one work-related item in a given year, with three out of 10 employees particularly losing a file folder.

Solution: These days, when most project files are in digital form, it makes sense to invest in a collaboration software that consolidates all documents and information in a single location. With one communication and collaboration platform, you can better align your resources and maintain a safe and accessible storage for your shared files.

6 Secrets to Highly Efficient Teams

Set up your people for success with these tried and tested secrets to managing highly efficient teams:

1. Keep it real. Set attainable goals and sensible deadlines. Clearly define the roles of team members and make sure that you are not stretching their capabilities or giving them more work than they can execute.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Allow for a free-flowing exchange of ideas. Level expectations, break silos, and impart knowledge. Use communication tools effectively to continuously inspire and motivate each other.

3. Use project management tools to centralize project-related collaboration. It’s so easy to get lost in a quagmire of spreadsheets, emails, and chat messages. With the right project management solution, you can keep all your files in a centralized space, and at the same time, allow everyone to keep up with the overall project status as they go about accomplishing their tasks. A robust, cloud-based solution like Mavenlink also enables team members to work safely and productively from home while COVID-19 social distancing protocols continue to be enforced.

4. Develop a culture of trust and encourage constructive feedback. Giving constructive feedback is a valuable tool for continued growth and improvement. Whether positive or negative, it is important to present feedback in a factual, respectful, and non-hostile manner that promotes a culture of trust among team members. Timing is also crucial when giving someone relevant feedback about their work. Don’t delay the conversation so it remains top of mind.

5. Track the metrics that matter. To maximize team efficiency, team leaders need to closely monitor and evaluate how well their members are achieving goals and hitting deadlines. Project metrics can help act as an early warning system that helps you optimize your team’s performance, make data-driven decisions, and avoid setbacks. Taking the right action depends on getting the right information. By keeping track of project metrics, you can gain better control over project outcomes.

6. Reward good work. Everybody needs a little pat on the back for a job well done. Create incentives that will encourage the kind of performance and attitude you want to cultivate in your team. Reward specific actions or behaviors that have made a difference to meeting your productivity goals and whenever possible, celebrate these wins as a group.

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