You try your best to keep your team (and your projects) on track. But let’s be honest: More often than not, it feels like you’re chasing your tail.
Important messages repeatedly get missed, information gets buried and lost, and you’re always sliding in just under the wire — or worse, after the deadline.
You know that something needs to change, so you’re keeping an eye out for ways you can boost your team’s efficiency and avoid that dreaded last-minute scramble to get projects over the finish line.
Well, you’re in luck. We’ve pulled together this list of problem-solving tools that will address some common team roadblocks and increase productivity within your business.
Problem: You can’t figure out task dependencies
You like to think that your project workflow is highly coordinated and efficient, yet things always seem to run off the rails.
Ask yourself this: When planning out your projects, are you accounting for dependencies between different tasks? If one task falls behind, do you understand how it will impact the rest of the project?
If you don’t have a solid grasp on how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, you’ll inevitably waste a lot of time tracking down missing details and adjusting timelines — and ultimately, that can lead to project failure.
According to PMI’s 2017 Pulse of the Profession Survey, 11% of organizations cited task dependency as the primary cause of projects that failed within the previous 12 months.
Use this problem-solving tool: Gantt charts
A Gantt chart allows you to easily spot those task dependencies in the planning stages of your project. That way, you can account for them upfront rather than allowing them to throw a wrench in your timeline.
If there’s a delay along that critical path, it will set the whole project back. With this information, you not only understand how tasks are connected but also which tasks have some wiggle room for delays (without extending the duration of the entire project).
Beyond proactively planning for dependencies, Gantt charts can solve numerous other project problems including coordinating handoffs and offering visibility into the entire project workflow.
Problem: Everything feels like a pressing priority
Your team is juggling a lot. So much, in fact, it often feels like you’re trying to keep dozens of different balls in the air — with a blindfold on and one hand tied behind your back.
Almost everything feels like a priority, which can be paralyzing. You spend so much time figuring out the best place to get started, and you know you’re wasting precious hours and energy just trying to sort through all of those seemingly urgent assignments.
Use this problem-solving tool: Eisenhower Matrix
When it comes to problem-solving methods and tools, an Eisenhower Matrix can help you quickly identify the most urgent and important tasks currently in the pipeline.
Here’s how it works: Sketch out a square that’s split into four quadrants. Along the left side, label one square with “important” and the other with “not important.” Along the top side, one square should be labeled “urgent” and the other should be titled “not urgent.” You’ll end up with something that looks like this:
Now, plot tasks in those squares accordingly. For example, is that blog post important but not urgent? List it in that corresponding square. Are those webinar graphics urgent and important? Place them in that square.
With all of your tasks categorized, you can figure out what needs to be taken care of immediately, what can be delegated, and what should be put on the back burner.
- Important and urgent: These should be at the top of your priority list.
- Not Important and urgent: These should be second in line or delegated.
- Important and not urgent: Plan some time on the calendar to get these taken care of when your team isn’t so swamped.
- Not Important and not urgent: These don’t even need to be a concern for you at this point.
You can scribble your own matrix on paper or even create it directly in Wrike — whatever works best for you. Either way, it’ll only take you a minute to sort through that tangled mess of tasks and figure out where to start. It’s proof that sometimes the best business problem-solving tools really are the simplest.
Problem: You know your team isn’t using hours effectively
Here’s a frightening statistic: For the average worker, only 2.8 hours each day are actually spent on productive tasks.
Yikes! Why is such a small percentage of our workday dedicated to our actual work? Where the heck is the rest of that time going and how can you make better use of your team’s hours?
It’s tough to know unless you and your team are closely monitoring your time.
Use this problem-solving tool: Time tracking
When you’re exploring different types of problem-solving tools, a time tracker should be on your list. This analytical tool for problem-solving can help you identify distractions, figure out which tasks are taking more time than they should, and generally help you be more effective with the hours your team is working.
One pitfall to avoid is diligently tracking each team member’s time and issuing criticisms and reprimands. Instead, encourage team members to track their time individually and then host group discussions about trends and potential improvements. This will help everybody be more conscientious without fostering an atmosphere of micromanagement.
Problem-solving software tools are everywhere, and time trackers are arguably the most prevalent among them, which means you have plenty of options at your fingertips. A few of our favorites include:
As a bonus? All of them integrate directly with Wrike for a streamlined experience that boosts your productivity even further.
Problem: Your meetings are unfocused and unproductive
Meetings are a necessity in the working world, but they can also be silently sabotaging your team’s productivity. In fact, the average worker attends up to 62 meetings each and every month. Even worse? 37% of them are deemed totally unproductive.
You’ll never do away with these conversations and brainstorming sessions entirely. However, if you’re currently exploring some problem-solving tools and techniques for upping your efficiency, it’s time to turn a discerning eye to your meetings.
After all, if you aren’t making effective use of that time, you’re only taking your team members away from what’s most important: their work.
Use this problem-solving tool: Meeting outlines
Keeping conversations focused can be a struggle, but a meeting outline can certainly help you accomplish what you set out to do during that discussion.
Create a templated meeting outline or agenda that you can use repeatedly so that every single meeting has a clear structure and plan of action. Exactly what you want this template to look like is up to you, but make sure to include:
- The goal of the meeting
- Who should be attending the meeting
- The topics that will be covered
- Who will be leading the discussion of each topic
- An allotted amount of time for each topic
While on the topic of meetings, it’s also helpful to re-evaluate any recurring meetings currently on your team’s calendar. Doing so ensures that those conversations are still valuable and haven’t turned into glorified catch-up sessions.
Problem: Team communication is all over the place
Anybody who’s worked on a team will tell you that communication is often one of the biggest hurdles. Important notes and messages get scattered everywhere, wires get crossed, and project progress takes a major hit.
According to a 2018 survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. employees, 49% of respondents said they have trouble locating the documents they need at work. A separate survey found that 86% of respondents actually blame lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.
Yep, there’s no denying that there’s a prevalent communication problem among teams, and it’s up to leaders to explore various problem-solving methods to streamline these conversations and updates.
Use this problem-solving tool: A real-time communication platform
Communication will continue to be a jumbled mess if you don’t provide your team with a centralized place to converse with one another.
Start by implementing a real-time communication tool (Slack is one of the most popular) that allows team members to talk about everything from status updates to casual conversation while still documenting what was discussed.
Additionally, a collaborative work management platform keeps everything — from documents to revisions to comments — centralized in one convenient place so employees can search and refer back to that information when they need it.
Wrike integrates directly with Slack so you can move fluidly between both platforms and avoid those dreaded crossed wires.
Problem: Mundane tasks are eating up too much time
Another thing that you might not realize is stealing way too much of your team’s working hours? Mundane, repetitive tasks. Sure, those are technically productive, but those mindless assignments likely aren’t the best use of everybody’s skills and capabilities and they’re wasting valuable time. Just think how much more your team could accomplish if you could remove some of that busy work from their plates.
Use this problem-solving tool: Automation
The word “automation” alone might inspire visions of robots and complex workflows, but rest assured, this doesn’t need to be anything complicated or overwhelming in order to be effective.
A solution like Zapier (which integrates directly with Wrike) is one of our favorites. Using Zapier, it’s easy to set up repeatable workflows for common tasks. For example, you can automatically create Wrike tasks from Google Sheets rows or create calendar events from Wrike tasks.
Without having to sink hours into those types of responsibilities, your team can channel more effort and energy into the important and creative work you want them to focus on.
Use these problem-solving tools and boost your business productivity
Understandably, you want your team to be working to their full potential and operating like a well-oiled machine. But that doesn’t just happen. As the leader, you need to identify any hang-ups and then implement some problem-solving approaches to keep things running smoothly.
There certainly isn’t a shortage of quality problem-solving tools available to you, but we recommend getting started with the following:
- Gantt chart
- Eisenhower Matrix
- Time tracker
- Meeting agenda
- Real-time communication tool
Put those (and whatever else you find!) into action, and you’ll remove a lot of hassle while simultaneously boosting the efficiency and productivity of your team.
Want to continue getting more done in less time? Start your free trial of Wrike to take your team’s productivity up a few more notches.