How are you managing your remote teams and ensuring that they’re at the maximum level of productivity? Today I’m going to provide some insights on that topic.
Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO.
Recently, we talked about the Ivy Lee Method, which ensures productivity on a team by focusing on individual performance. The method centers on six key activities. It’s similar to a to-do list but is limited to six items that must be completed during that day to maximize productivity. These items are also weighted from most important (one) to least important (six). Suppose you do complete all six items in a given day. That’s great. The following day, you generate six new priorities to focus on. If, however, any of the six things aren’t completed that day, they’re rolled into the next day in order of importance, and these items are completed in order of priority.
Today, I want to share my insights on a leadership technique that I’ve been using for years. I’ve found the results compelling. It’s also a great tool to leverage when working in a remote environment with global teams. It’s called the Top 5. It originated, in part, from the Ivy Lee Method; however, instead of six priority items, the Top 5 focuses on five significant classifications of work:
- Top five issues you’re facing (e.g., project-related start with project name)
- Top five business partner updates (i.e., scientists, stakeholders, and internal or external customers)
- Top five accomplishments
- Top five accomplishments planned for the following week
- Project or product status
Now, let me go through each of these quickly.
First, we have issues. These aren’t the typical issues you’d find in a risk register or a public-risk tracker. These items are the quiet and unheard issues that create team dysfunction. They include personal disagreements among individuals and political aspects impacting team performance. These issues are never going to make it into an official risk log. This is why the concept is so powerful. You, as a leader and a supervisor, need to understand what’s genuinely creating obstacles that prevent your team from performing at their maximum level.
Second are business partners. This section tells me what I’ll hear if I get a call from a business partner or a customer. Am I going to hear something positive? Did something happen that will create friction; e.g., a poorly run meeting, deadline missed, resource performance problems, etc. Regardless, I want to know how that conversation will unfold, and I want some talking points before I receive a call. This helps me stay on top of the latest business-facing concerns.
The third classification is accomplishments. What did the team complete last period? I don’t care what the manager or leader did. I care about the team results and the leader driving the team results.
Fourth is accomplishments planned for the following week. This step forces the individual to think ahead and anticipate change. If items are missed (this is similar to the Ivy Lee Method), they roll along to the following week. This helps to narrow in on soft delays. These are last-task completions, but they don’t necessarily impact the project’s go-live.
Fifth is the product or project status. I’ll go into more depth in another article about activity status because it’s a bit more complicated. This section has three main areas:
- 5’ONs: Schedule, scope, quality, value, budget
- Red, amber, green
The 5’ONs are either “ON” or “OFF.” If they’re ON and green, that’s great. However, any of the 5’ONs that are red or amber require an open issue to be logged. The individual can determine if a risk is created or not. However, at least one single issue must be created to show how the item is driving the status. For example, if the schedule is OFF and amber, this is how that line item would read:
- Schedule (A): Issue 199234. Based on initial timelines, the schedule may be impacted by two weeks for the SOW approval delays.
This tells me the schedule is impacted, there are action and mitigation plans in place, and it identifies that, if resolved, these would bring the project back to green. Think what getting the project back on track looks like or, said another way, think about “the road to green.”
Leveraging these five buckets allows the team to focus on the burning imperatives. It also removes the need for the leader to be a micromanager. Teams hate being micromanaged, and as managers, supervisors, and executives, we hate micromanaging. Yes, sometimes it’s a necessity. However, generally, this approach affords the leader a bird’s eye view of how the team is performing.
The Top 5 solves these questions:
- Which individuals need support?
- How can I, as a leader, be most impactful for my team?
- What obstacles does my team need me to remove?
As you run Top 5 weekly reports with your team, you’ll quickly find patterns and common issues among individuals’ Top 5’s. There will be overlap, and there will be similarities. This is precisely what you’re looking for—common themes that are affecting not one leader on your team but many. These are the core challenges that you, as an executive, need to spend your time resolving. For you, as a leader, this removes the guesswork, because you now know exactly where to get involved. This ensures you’re removing the most critical roadblocks first and keeping your team performing at their best.
Think for a minute as you jump into this new week: Do you have a clear understanding of the roadblocks your team is experiencing? If you can’t answer which roadblocks that surfaced last week are common to more than three team members, you might want to consider implementing a Top 5.
If you’re interested in receiving a copy of a sample Top 5, no problem. Please message me on LinkedIn, and I’ll be happy to share an example with you.
I’ll offer up an additional idea regarding managing and leading remote teams. It’s called a WHIP.
Q: What’s the number-one problem with remote teams? A: Engagement.
A WHIP solves this challenge. Here’s how it works. Let’s say you have 15 people on the team. You queue up an idea—for example, “What’s the single most-impactful change we could make for 2021?” Then you allow each member of the team 30 seconds or less (timeboxed) to offer their idea. If they can’t come up with something in three or four seconds, they’re skipped and you WHIP around them and circle back at the end.
Why does this work? It works because it forces people to think of answers they don’t have—unlike, “Tell me about your last product meeting,” which is about memory recall. This method requires zero preparation time. A WHIP is a new idea that takes a minute to think about. It goes without saying that no ideas can be repeated within the WHIP session.
Are you looking for better engagement during your next remote team meeting? Try a WHIP!
Curious about what the Top 5 template looks like? Download it here.
Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO. If you liked this article, please like or comment below, and have a great week!