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How Project Managers Can Increase Visibility into Their Team’s Work

by: John Coburn
How Project Managers Can Increase Visibility into Their Team’s Work

Running a project from start to finish requires grit. It requires the ability to both put out fires and prevent them in the first place. That’s easier said than done, though – especially without proper visibility into your team’s activities and progress.

Proper visibility helps you identify and address risks before they become problems. It allows you to clear up bottlenecks more quickly and ensure resources are being adequately allocated across the project. With a strong enough pulse on the project, you can make sure all parties are contributing to the project and that you’re on track to finish on-time and within budget. 

No matter what your specific goal is, increased visibility and greater organizational transparency will get you closer. But achieving it doesn’t require that you act in an overbearing or micromanaging way. Opportunities exist to increase visibility into your team’s work in a way that feels good and that actually creates a better work environment. 

Paint the Bigger Picture and Tie Individual Success to Project Success

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This may sound obvious, but keep in mind that there’s much more to visibility than simple oversight. Creating a culture of accuracy and accountability will foster greater task ownership, which, in turn, will lead to a shared interest in each other’s work. It’s essential for you as the project manager to have visibility. Still, it’s equally important for each individual contributor to feel invested enough in the project to look out for each other and for the project’s best interests.

So how do you create such a culture?

Start by explaining the project to your team. Thirty-seven percent of project failures, by some estimates, can be attributed to a lack of clearly defined milestones and objectives. Explain the project not just in terms of technical scope, but in terms of the business case as well. Help team members understand the goals of the project. Let them know who will benefit and why. If they see the bigger picture beyond their own small portion of the project, they’re more likely to feel vested in the project’s success. 

Most importantly, they’ll understand how their individual milestones contribute to success in the rest of the project, and they’ll be more likely to act accordingly. They’ll care about the timeline and the budget. They’ll want to police each other when the project goes sideways. You’ll get more precise work estimations and regular updates on their progress. Plus, if anything doesn’t go as planned, they’re going to notify you more quickly – and possibly even search for solutions on their own – since they have a greater sense of ownership in the project.

The fastest way to paint the bigger picture is with a presentation. As the project’s leader, you know the project’s impact better than anyone, making you the perfect person to drive project communications. As American scholar and visionary, Warren Bennis, once said:

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Your translation can be as simple as sharing a timeline and showcasing how each piece of the puzzle will come together. For bonus points, try to clearly articulate how each person’s role or tasks contribute to the project’s success.

Engage Everyone with a Strong Communication Plan

Communication is a major factor in visibility – and it’s one that plenty of project managers think they’ve nailed down, but actually haven’t. According to Nobel Prize winner, George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

You talk to your team daily (possibly even several times a day). But while frequency matters, what’s being said – or, perhaps, what isn’t being said – is equally important.

To truly gain visibility and communicate more effectively, you have to listen. If you’re talking, you aren’t listening. If most of the communication between you and your team consists of you speaking or giving direction, then there’s a communication gap. Find ways to have more 1:1 conversations with your team. Create an open-door policy and make your environment a safe space for feedback. Show that you trust team members’ judgment and encourage them to over-communicate with you.

There’s still a time and a place for meetings, but they can likely be improved upon as well. Agree on an agenda ahead of time. Then, open the floor to everyone and any topic or issue they’d like to discuss. After each meeting, designate someone to send out “minutes” or meeting notes in order to create an ongoing log you can refer back to – and to inform relevant parties who may have been absent.

While you’re at it, push everyone to share their calendars publicly with the team. While this may seem obvious, it can be a game-changer if you’re not already doing it. Knowing where people are, who’s on vacation, or what upcoming events people have on their calendar can provide much-needed visibility for everyone – especially if someone’s absence could derail a project or if people aren’t connecting the dots as to who is working where each day. 

Streamline your everyday communications by keeping everything on one channel or platform. Define who will give regular project updates and when, so that everyone is on the same page and knows the chain of communication. For time-sensitive, risky, or emergency communications, put a plan in place so that all relevant parties will be informed immediately and can act accordingly.

Deploy an All-In-One Project Management Software Solution

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According to PWC, digital project management software increases project performance; 77% of high performing projects use project management software. Without a centralized project management software, visibility will inevitably be limited. Far too often, project managers will try to get by using Excel or a disjointed combination of applications and tools. While this may work temporarily, it leaves little room for scalability, integration, and ease of use, and limits team members’ sense of connection from the project’s progress.

It’s difficult to be on the same page when everyone is disconnected. Tasks falling through the cracks can be especially frustrating for project managers, as you’re the one who’s in charge of keeping everything connected and running as efficiently and effectively as possible. A well-chosen software tool can solve that problem every time.

Generally speaking, the right project management software will allow you to:

  • Assign tasks amongst your team
  • Give you a central hub to see what everyone is doing
  • Provide accurate time logs that offer valuable insight into how much time is being spent on specific tasks
  • Store files so everyone is using the most up-to-date versions of each document
  • Facilitate communications so that you can chat in real-time with your team
  • Offer real-time feedback in the form of performance reports

The secret to boosting visibility isn’t just purchasing the best project management software — it’s getting your team to actually use it. You’re only as strong as your weakest link, and if everyone isn’t on the same page using your software, then you’ll inevitably run into miscommunications, mistakes, and possibly double-work. Plus, the right software allows you to keep tabs on what everyone’s doing without coming across micromanaging or seeming distrustful.

Once your entire team is engaged, you’ll reap the benefits of a centralized dashboard where you can track the project’s progress in real-time, track project costs, and share reports with key stakeholders.

Every project manager wants greater visibility, but few actually have it. If you want to keep your team on track and prevent your project from derailment, then you have to paint the big picture to your team. Make them feel invested and excited about the project’s success. Create an environment rich in communication, and deploy an all-in-one project management software solution that’ll make it possible to bring your biggest goals to fruition.

What You Can Do Next

  • Create a presentation or walk-through of a project’s scope and vision for your team. Share the “why” and tie the project’s success to each team members’ individual contributions.
  • Eliminate communication gaps by creating an open-door policy, sharing calendars, and encouraging everyone to leverage your project management software.
  • Help your team focus on what truly matters by taking things off their plate. The fastest way to raise their level of performance is to cut their number of commitments in half.
  • Find and deploy all-in-one project management software like Taskworld to seamlessly manage your project and increase visibility immediately.

Visibility is a simple enough concept; however, it’s challenging to achieve – and downright debilitating when you go without it. With a winning mindset and the right tools, valuable insights aren’t far away. You’re only a few steps away from more transparency, extra free time, and a stronger bottom line.

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