And if you're rolling out a new system or just introducing tracking work in a more kind of comprehensive way, the conversation has to start with, we want to bring these benefits to you. And so we're going to explore tracking our work. You see how I framed that? I didn't say we're going to track our work and wait for objections and then go, no, no, it's good for you.
Start it with what's in it for them. Then introduce the system and then go from there.
Welcome to the Managing Made Simple podcast, where I bring a decade of experience working in some of the most influential companies in tech to help you navigate the ins and outs of being a people manager from conflicts to feedback, to delegating and more. We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to what makes us love managing, kinda hate it, and everything in between.
Doesn't matter if you're a new manager looking for some tips, or a seasoned manager looking to up their game, everyone is welcome to hang out with Managing Made Simple. Let's go. I know you're here because you want to be a better manager. But I also know it's often easier said than done. That's why I put together a scorecard of 20 things that you can do this month and every month to show up better for your team as a manager.
From positive feedback to recognition, to honoring those working norms that we know we got to do, but sometimes forget. This scorecard serves as a checklist and accountability buddy to remind you of all those things you've got to do to be a great manager. Download your copy today at liagarvin.com/scorecard.
Welcome back to the show. Today, we're going to talk about tracking our work first, how it saves you money in your business, and then how to implement or refine a work tracking system. If you're just getting started or you have a system that's not really working. Now, why talk about this? Because should I track work to what level of detail?
What's the real importance of this? These are questions I get from managers and business owners all the time. And when I was managing work tracking in the corporate world and figuring out what system to use and how folks should use it, these were questions that came up all the time. Why do we have to do this?
You know, what should we enter? All these things. And there was so much friction here. So I want to set the record straight once and for all right here, that tracking our work is a really valuable, worthwhile thing to do. Even if you only have a few employees, tracking our work in a system that everybody is using the same things, not where one person's using post its, one person's using the notes app, and one person's keeping it on their head.
Yeah, there may be tracking work, but I mean in a unified system. This is critically important for a number of reasons. First off, it gives people a backlog of things to work on when they finish things. And a huge, huge time and money suck on teams is when people are sitting there waiting idly for the next thing to do.
And they're waiting for a meeting or they're waiting for someone to hand something off. We always want to have a backlog of what are the things that someone is chipping away at and have that backlog sorted in priority order. So people are working on the right thing next. Now, tracking our work also gives the understanding on how much time is being spent on things.
So this is critically important for forecasting, resource planning, knowing when to hire for better estimating bids. If you're doing work with clients, all of that, this is critical. We know when we are understaffed, when our busy season is so we can bring more folks on. Tracking our work is going to show us all of that data.
So it's really important from that planning aspect as well. Last, it removes duplication of efforts. When we're not tracking our work consistently, you run the risk of having multiple people working on sort of the same things, but we just haven't realized it until way late. So if you have everything in a system, the same place, we can look at, oh, these tasks look really similar.
What's involved here? And you can get to the bottom of reducing redundancies really, really quickly. All of that together. This saves you countless hours every single week, which translates into hundreds, if not thousands of dollars every single week that you can reinvest into your business by having a simple tracking system.
Now, when I say simple, I really mean it because this is where folks go wrong. They get some really robust system that tracks work in a thousand different dimensions. It takes months to set up and no one follows it. And I would say first and foremost, when figuring out what system to use and how to use it, our first principle is simplicity.
But before I talk about what to choose for system, I want to start with When you are going to roll out any process on a team, especially with tracking work where there's a lot of baggage, maybe folks feel like they're being monitored or you are micromanaging them by tracking it, or they're a little bit uneasy about it.
First and foremost, you've got to land why you are tracking the work that has to land and it has to be framed in what is in it for your team members. Okay? This is things like we're tracking your work so we can better understand how to support you and doing your job. We want to better understand how to bill our clients so that we make sure we are bringing in more revenue to pay you more.
We want to track how long things take so that you are not getting burned out so that we know when to hire more people for the team. We want to understand, you know, your bandwidth so we know when it's time for promotion, how much work you've been doing, when you've been going above and beyond. Right? This is the way we frame it and it's not BS.
It's true. That is why we track work. We also track it to get really important business insights, but at the very base of it, I hope all of us are doing these things to better support our employees. That's gotta be the leading belief. And then from there we use data to reach better profitability, grow our business, whatever.
But at the foundation, we track our work because it helps bring clarity to our team members. And if you're rolling out a new system or just introducing tracking work in a more kind of comprehensive way, the conversation has to start with, we want to bring these benefits to you and so we're going to explore tracking our work.
You see how I framed that? I didn't say we're going to track our work and wait for objections and then go, no, no, it's good for you. Start it with what's in it for them, then introduce the system and then go from there. And if you already have a system in place, maybe you're in a bigger company and they use a specific system and everybody has to use it, We still frame it in what's in it for them.
Hey, we're using this bug tracking software, or we're using JIRA, or whatever it is, because it gives us these benefits. Once we explain that, now we can talk about if people aren't on board, well, what are the pain points? Is it because we're entering into information? Is it too complicated? And I'm going to get to a little bit of that in a second.
Once you've landed the why, Now, a question often I get is, well, what system should I use? So this is especially if you are looking at changing the system or introducing a new system. And this question also applies if you have a system in place that just isn't really optimized. So let's say you have a bug tracking system in your company and people have to use it, but they're all using it very differently.
This question still applies. What system do we want to use? To answer this question, we want to think about what is the goal of tracking the work? Is it to understand our billing rate for clients? Is it to understand the status of projects? Is it to track dependencies? Is it to understand overall workload and resource planning?
All of these things show up really differently depending on the tool you use. And this is where things get a little bit complicated. Because if we say, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I want to track all of those things, I need the most complicated system to track all of that. Now we are running across too many variables where it can become feeling really complicated for folks.
So I would suggest to pick what are the one or two most important things that you need to answer by tracking the work. And often I think it is understanding the status and the workload, like the bandwidth of folks. Where are things at? And am I over capacity? Because I think if you answer those two questions, you can sort of project out the rest of them.
Okay, you understand now is there a duplication of efforts because you see where the, where things are in the pipeline. And you understand if you are short on resources because you'll see if tasks are at risk. So that's what I would suggest is starting with overall status and capacity planning based on the task tracking system.
If you feel like there's another set of questions in there that are better answer for you, then go for it. But again, I would really narrow in on two, maybe three variables max. Then the question becomes, well, what level of detail should we track our work in? And I think it's now again, based on the answer to the previous question of, well, what, what are you trying to answer with?
Tracking the work, because as I've said, if we are asking for so much information to try to run all these kinds of reports and all these forecasting, all these different things, what's going to happen is people aren't going to enter that information. And then we've just created the perception of a lot of organizational overhead, a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of headaches.
And people aren't even following it anyway. I went to a conference recently and they introduced a tool for team coaching and it had all of this information like you understood what, what your teams are running into the second they feel stuck and you know, what kind of coaching to deliver and was it live or real time?
Is it trainings? Like it had all of these offerings, but it required employees to enter in every single thought they had literally moment by moment throughout the day. And I thought to myself, This tool is freaking useless because without people entering in every single thing, which they're absolutely not going to do, the tool actually doesn't really do anything.
And so we can get really, really tricked by all these features and all these things that something can do. We want to first figure out what is the minimum viable product here? What is the baseline of information I need to know? And then ask people to enter that. If you are asking people to enter every thought that comes across their head, way too much.
And if you're asking them to enter, you know, I'm working on this three month project, this one and that one, that's way too little because we don't know the status of it. It's either done or not. So I suggest breaking projects down into kind of the progression of the work. What are the bigger chunks that make sense?
Um, and it, and it looks different for every kind of role, but play around with some different things. Stuff that maybe takes a few hours or a day. I wouldn't have every five minutes being its own task. Things like that. And you'll experiment and you'll find the right level of detail. But again, you want to find something in the middle and you want everybody in your team using that same metric.
So if we're saying we track tasks and the types of projects, things like that, that take about, you know, two, three hours, whatever, everybody should be doing that. One person shouldn't track things in five minute intervals and one person in five day intervals, or it doesn't really help you. So the key here is same level of detail across your team, erring on the side of a little bit meatier chunks so that it doesn't feel too heavy handed.
It's okay to have a task that takes a whole week. Okay, there's like a rule to kind of think about. It doesn't have to be every hour is shifting and moving it through the system. Then we want to figure out, well, what do we do to review this? Because this is another place this goes wrong, is we introduce a task tracking system, some people use it, and we never look at it again.
And I would suggest looking at your task on a weekly basis and having a team norm that, hey, we update everything by, I don't know, Thursday afternoon every week so that we have a clear plan going into the following week. And we look at the tasks on Monday, whether it's someone sends out, you know, a quick update for the week, or you have it in your team meeting, or it's part of a standup.
We want to make sure we don't really go over a week or two without updating stuff. Otherwise, it quickly gets out of date, and then the real hard work is just in managing and updating the system. To summarize, you know, you see how it saves you time and money because we don't have those redundancies. We have that clear backlog of things people can jump on when they finish something.
So there's no idle time, no waiting around. And we understand how much time is being spent on things so we can better forecast, we can better figure out what we're charging folks. This is why it is such a critical piece of the Ops Playbook program that I do with small businesses because if we don't have a sense of where things are at and how long they're taking, then we don't really understand how we can optimize our team and better support our team members.
Because a lot of times what happens is when we don't have that sense, we keep adding more and more and more. Then projects start slipping, then we miss deadlines, then our clients aren't happy. And we kind of wonder, well, what happened? A lot of it stems on the fact that we didn't have a clear picture of everything going on.
Or we had too complicated of a system in place, nobody used it, and it didn't really help us. So when I roll out the Ops Playbook with Teams, I always figure out what is that sort of small unit of measurement that we want to use to track work? What is a simple system we can use to answer some of these key questions?
And then when are we going to check in on it so that we make sure it's really being utilized. And when we do that, the possibilities for growth are endless. With all this said, if you want to learn more about bringing the ops playbook to your team so that you can save about 30 hours every single month, which translates to 10, 15, 000 a month that you can reinvest in your business.
Send me an email at hello at liagarvin.com. See you next time. That's all I have for today. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Managing Made Simple podcast, where my goal is to demystify the job of people management so that together we can make the workplace somewhere everyone can thrive. I always love to hear from you, so please reach out at liagarvin.com or message me on LinkedIn. See you next time.