School team management can be a difficult job. Especially when your team members span multiple projects, various departments and sometimes even different locations.
School Team Management Techniques for Effective Teamwork
Having systems and processes in place that are quick, simple and reliable will help to reduce the workload, stress, and time requirements of you and your team. While also making projects that bit simpler to manage.
At MakerLabs, we’ve tried and tested a range of strategies which are neither expensive nor complex but really work for teams. In this article, I’d like to share some of the most noteworthy school team management techniques with you. Most of the examples I give are in relation to school team management yet many of these project and team management methods are applicable across sectors.
In this article I’ll cover:
- The concepts and ideas I have found work for managing teams and projects, relying on accountability, transparency and communication.
- Disruptive ideas which provide different ways to think about your current setup and ways of working, such as the online tools your team are using.
With that in mind, let’s begin with our 5 step guide to effective school team management.
1. Encouraging positive accountability
There are so many books, videos, white papers, and speakers who can talk at length about ‘people management’ or ‘increasing accountability’.
By definition, accountability is essentially taking responsibility for something. In my experience, this is a lot easier to encourage when there are no hidden agendas, no confusion over the main aims of a project. Simply put, where everything is on the table.
Fostering an environment where there is clarity, where team members can see everything, and where there are clear lines of communication. These are the optimal conditions for allowing staff to be responsible and achieving positive school team management.
Essentially, treating everyone like the professional adults they would like to be.
The idea of transparency has always fascinated me. A lot of people, from politicians to CEOs, point out that they are transparent or have transparency in their business. But while this sounds impressive I’ve always wondered, what does that actually mean?
In my opinion, there will always have to be a level of private discussion within teams. Certainly, HR elements, for example, shouldn’t be broadcast to all and sundry.
When looking at school team management however, I feel there is certainly a lot that can and should be done to enable every level of your team to understand what’s going on. Having clear lines of communication in any project is the key.
We use MeisterTask for that. All team members are able to see which tasks are needed, done, or under way, as well as who’s responsibility it is to see each task through.
Kanban – tasks, columns, and flexibility
Kanban literally translated means signboard or billboard in Japanese.
It’s a really simple scheduling system developed by an industrial engineer at Toyota to increase efficiency within production and design lines. Essentially a corkboard for tasks (think Post-it notes) whereby each task is moved across boards as processes are completed.
The concept has been adopted enthusiastically by software development teams, and large corporates alike, mainly for its ease of use and simplicity.
Using the Kanban method
Of course, there are various evolutions of the Kanban method, but each retains the fundamental principles of columns, tasks, and flexibility. At MakerLabs, we use it for effective school team management.
We use MeisterTask by grouping tasks into columns and then rearranging tasks by level of importance, with the highest at the top of each column.
Each column references our methodology for improving schools, focusing on; Leadership, Systems, and Processes. Tasks within the columns relate specifically to each of these themes and allow us to track developments and tasks as they happen.
For projects that need a broad overview, we manage tasks by using column headings for each part of the project framework. Where even greater focus is needed, we create a project around one specific task. This allows us to use the Kanban methodology of Open, In Progress, Done.
For example, if we were working with a school to audit and overhaul their IT systems, we would revert to raw Kanban methodology. We’d create a project around a broad set of tasks, for example, Server Migration, heading up columns with Open, In Progress, Done. This way we have a clear overview of tasks and can monitor the project in much finer detail.
If all of your team members can have this level of visibility over the project, while also understanding the part they are playing at any given time, you will foster a sense of responsibility. This responsibility leads team members to want to be accountable. This is the basis for positive and accountable school team management.
A central system – open and shared communication
A project lives and dies by the way the project’s team members communicate. I’ve worked on several projects that have been managed by contractors or outside agencies. Each have been highly stressful for me and my team. The reason for this is simple – poor communication.
One particular project comes to mind. We were advising on IT changes that linked with various contractors including builders, architects, governing bodies, education authorities and on-site teaching staff. The project manager used three different emails, two mobile phones, instant messaging apps, and various hand-written note forms to communicate with different people within the project.
In addition, every member of the project team used their own preferred method to communicate. Those using email only on a desktop, wouldn’t get notified of late-notice changes to plans. Simultaneously, others were bombarding members with instant messages. The project was highly chaotic and highly stressful. The majority of my team’s time was spent tracking and checking messages rather than using our expertise in school change. Frustrating to say the least.
Having a system which is simple and quick to communicate through, while also allowing any user to orientate themselves quickly to changes or discussions, is crucial.
Using one central system
MeisterTask does just that. Team members are able to leave comments and replies within each particular task. Team members can also filter out discussion threads which aren’t relevant. As a result, conversations are focussed and it’s simple and quick for managers and team members to catch up on the latest, important information. All communication related to school team management is streamlined.
Your team management system needs to integrate with the software that you and your team use every day. From spreadsheets and word processed documents to PDF’s and CAD drawings. MeisterTask has integrations which allow you, at a click of a button, to integrate Office applications, instant messaging, or time tracking applications.
Being web based, MeisterTask natively allows you to link to URLs (websites, videos, online documents like Google Drive). You can do this by simply pasting the website URL into the notes of comment section of a task. There is no need to hyperlink or open copious browser windows because it’s all managed within the application. Users on any device will then have instant access to files and documents, within a tap or a click.
Within each task, team members can quickly attach documents from their desktop, and third party services like Dropbox or Google Drive. As a result, all of this is done with minimal fuss. Again, there are no conversions, no multitude of clicks and no lost uploads. In summary, very simple.
Notifications and Alerts
Your staff are all individuals, have different skills, different ideas and different ways of working. It’s important to allow your team members to work and interact with projects, engaging with the project content (discussions, tasks, time tracking, documents etc.) however they feel comfortable to. It’s also important to ensure that team members won’t miss out on important information.
Virtually all staff will have access to a desktop and some may also use mobile phones or tablets. Schools we work with often purchase either a TV or large monitor and place it in the staff room. On the monitor teams display their school improvement MeisterTask projects for all to see. Regardless of what device a team member wants to use, the project management system needs to work. Importantly, the system needs to work in a similar way across all devices. You don’t want to invest time and money training team members on different versions of the same tool.
MeisterTask works in exactly the same way across all platforms and devices. From small screen smartphones, to large tablets and PCs – the experience is the same. Notifications across devices are also similar, but can be set to whatever suits the user. This means your team can choose to be notified with updates on the project in whatever format they’d like. From email to push notifications on their smartphone. All of this means that team members can remain connected to the project, stay informed, and be involved. Additionally, it means your school team management method doesn’t need to be a pain for your team. Team members can choose to work in a way which works for them.
- To encourage positive accountability while making your project management as transparent as possible
- Having a central, simple, quick to interact system will mean your staff will have fewer barriers in front of them when engaging with the project
- Using a project management tool which natively works on many devices, across operating systems, while remaining the same on all, is vital to saving time and money on training.
So there’s our advice for simple school team management. In summary, provide your team with a simple and easy tool with a framework for transparency, communication and work sharing. At the same time, enable team members to set their own notification and communication settings allowing team members to work in whichever way works best.