How to manage teams from home during Covid-19

Team meetings can be tough to get right. They can feel:

  • Boring – if a small number of participants seem to be droning on about the amazing things they’ve been doing.
  • Confusing – if there’s no clarity about the agenda or the concrete steps to be taken following the meeting.
  • Frustrating – if the people who need to contribute to the meeting aren’t there (or are late), and it feels like the rest of the team is just hanging around.
  • Disheartening – if issues which are clearly important aren’t being identified, discussed and resolved.
  • Pointless – if the meeting is just reviewing information which could have been communicated more efficiently in writing, or if there’s no clarity about what the team’s strategic goals are.

It can be even harder to hold effective team meetings from home on a ‘virtual’ basis, notwithstanding all the technology available.

At LCN, we’ve always been a ‘virtual’ team, in the sense that we have no central office. I thought you might be interested to hear about the system which our CEO Xiaofang introduced around 18 months ago, and which we’ve been using to run our weekly team calls. These calls are very much the heartbeat of our company.

We wouldn’t profess to be business management gurus, but I’m convinced that this system been a major reason why our financial results for 2019/2020 have been the best ever, whilst also having launched a number of significant new offerings (including our online course on intercompany agreements and our document automation platform).

I’ve set out a typical agenda weekly below. It’s adapted from a book called Traction by Gino Wickman, which I would highly recommend.

Although the system was originally designed for entrepreneurial businesses, it’s equally useful for teams in larger organisations (I wish I’d known about it during my time at KPMG and Pinsent Masons).

If you’d like to hear more about this system and our experiences of it in future newsletters, please let me know. Equally, if you’d like to share what systems you use, I would be very interested to hear about it.

Best wishes

Paul

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Sample agenda for a weekly team call (total duration 90 minutes)

1. Good News – 10 minutes – one item of personal good news and one item of business good news from each participant.

2. Weekly Scorecard Reporting – 5 minutes – a review of our scorecard numbers from the previous week. If a scorecard target has not been achieved, this is identified as a potential ‘issue’ to discuss at item 6 of the call.

3. Rock Review – 10 minutes – a ‘Rock’ is the term used in the Traction book for a major strategic task to be achieved in the quarter (e.g. creating and launching a new resource). There should be no more than 3-7 ‘Rocks’ in each quarter, and the review consists of self-reporting by the ‘owner’ of each Rock as to whether they are “on track” or “off track” for completing the task by the end of the quarter.

4. Headlines – 15 minutes – consisting of brief reports from around the team on notable developments. In our case, it includes live and forthcoming projects.

5. To Do Lists – 10 minutes – a review of the agreed ‘to dos’ from last week, and whether or not they have been completed (yes or no – no waffle).

6. Identifying and resolving Issues (IDS) – for rest of the meeting. This is an opportunity to list and discuss (in order of importance) any issues, with a view to resolving them. This can include blockages (or a ‘Rock’ being off track), and also opportunities. This is probably the hardest part of the meeting to get right consistently, because of the temptation to finish the meeting early and get back to our busy work.

7. Recap and To-Dos for the next week for each participant. We circulate the to-dos as soon as possible after the end of the meeting, usually within the hour.

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