Building A High Performance Environment With MS Teams

There are 115 million daily Teams users, the majority of which adopted MS-Teams as an emergency response to the pandemic.  This has left many without the true benefits. If you are wondering what you should do next, this article describes a 3 phase implementation.

Phase 1 – Admin Settings, Basic Rules and Team Structure

Phase 1 includes configuring the governance and compliance settings. Most SME’s will not have complex requirements but will still need to think carefully about permissions for team owners, team members and guests. If you allow anyone in your organisation to invite guests, create teams and connect 3rd party apps, then there should be some rules agreed. It’s a good idea to create a knowledge base where rules can be written. A Wiki located in a big team (more on this later) is usually the best place.

When you begin creating Teams the structure should match how people work (or how you want them to work).  If your company is just 6 people and you want to work closely together, then create 1 team with 1 channel.

If your marketing team has 20 people divided into 3 sub-teams, then create a marketing team with 3 channels (not including the general channel for wider conversations). However if you work cross functionally around projects, then create teams that reflect this.

When working in a physical office people tend to work best in groups of 3-8, so a channel should reflect this. For oversight also add any managers not directly involved in the work.

There should also be one big team for announcements to which everyone is automatically added.

With a basic structure in place, files can be moved to a suitable location. If multiple teams need access to the same files then create a library in the “big team”. You can select who can access these folder/files in SharePoint permissions. You may also need a rule that files should not be downloaded and amended so as to avoid creating duplications. If people are expected to use OneDrive, write down the “rules” in the knowledge base.

Where confusion arises this is often a sign that a written rule is needed, in which case decide on a suitable policy and add it to the knowledge base.

Phase 2 - Adding Apps and New Working Practices

One of the most valuable apps teams should add to their channels is a task management app. If companies aren’t currently using task management software then MS-Planner is a good place to start. It’s also free with most MS-Teams subscriptions.

Initially use MS-Planner to produce a “high level task board” showing work across all projects or teams.

For task management at an individual level: team leaders may want their own team planner. They break down the cards from the high-level board into smaller tasks and assign them to team members.

Bucket Style Task Board
Teams has apps to easily communicate plans and monitor progress in real time.

Boards can be structured in different ways, so you have a few options. Key considerations include how tasks will be sized and described, where to place work within the task management app and who is responsible for updating it. Management approaches like Timeboxing can make it much easier to manage teams, reduce stress and track performance.

Retrospective Example
Retrospective Example

Teams should also schedule a feedback session every 1-4 weeks. This is a chance to amend anything that’s not working. White board apps can be one of the best and fastest ways to do this.  They are also fantastic problem solving tools when used correctly.

If reports are still produced using Excel and PowerPoint, then Power Bi is worth investigating. Power Bi is Microsoft’s analytics tool used to create interactive dashboards and reports. Data from your task management app, CRM and sales data can all be linked and analysed. A free version is available with Teams but the premium version can create real-time interactive displays. This can free people from the drudgeries of compiling reports manually.

Other useful apps include, a template Power App called Employee Ideas which enables people to suggest ideas and vote on the best ones, and Calendar Bots which allow people to see when all individuals are next available.

Power Bi Dashboard
Example Power Bi Dashboard
Employee Ideas Power App
Employee Ideas Power App

Phase 3 - The 21st Century Organisation

Phase 1 and 2 provide a solid foundation. There is now a clear set of guidelines, work is logically displayed and tracked, there is a continuous improvement process and a few time-saving apps have been adopted.

The next step requires a cultural shift and it’s where greatest benefits are found. Most organisations still have twentieth-century working practices (with, in some cases, nineteenth-century management processes). But this outdated approach to work does not fit with today’s fast paced world and values of equality, freedom and flexibility.

The ability to easily track performance means managers no longer need to supervise employees in a traditional sense. People can choose to work any time and anywhere, as long as business needs are fully met. This can mean just 1-2 core hours per day and a much more enjoyable and inclusive work place. By measuring outputs (work done) instead of hours worked, it’s in everyone’s interest to think of smarter ways of getting the job finished in the shortest time.

Better information sharing and the ability to see the impact of one’s efforts, empowers employees to become more creative and have greater autonomy over how they work.  Solving problems and improving the organisation becomes everyone’s domain.

Managers become less focused on “command and control” activities, instead focusing on agreeing goals and supporting teams by removing anything which impedes progress.  They will reward creative new ideas that challenge established practices. Strategy is informed by the rapid testing of ideas, and feedback from frontline activities.

This creates a highly productive company, capable of quickly adapting to changing customer needs.

While it’s not possible to “complete” this phase, striving for these ideals leads to significant increases in productivity and profitability. It’s also a highly effective a way to retain and recruit talent. To expect a 10 fold increase in profitability within 12 months is not unreasonable.

For more inspiration on becoming a 21st century organisation the following books are a good place to start.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Which describes an alternative management process.

Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days
Which describes an approach to innovation and problem solving based on Design Thinking.

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Michael Broadley

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