written by
Clayton Conway

Make Your Team a Remote Work Powerhouse With Task Management

Business 5 min read
Collaborating in person requires teamwork and communication and remote working is even more dependent on effective communication. Effective project and task management makes any team better whether they’re in the office or not.

Walt Disney World is the happiest place on Earth. Most people know that. What they may not know is that it’s also the most efficient. “What about the military?” you might ask. Nope. G.I. Joe has nothing on the mouse. They have staff assignments planned on a quantum level. And it’s all due to effective task management.

I know because years ago (way back in 2004) I was a cog in Disney’s happiness machine. It’s a massive operation spanning 40 square miles and 75,000 employees. One would think that keeping every staff member on task from moment to moment would take a herculean effort. But not for Disney.

They built a fairly astounding system they called the “Cast Portal” (we were all considered cast members.) We would log in first thing when our shift started and the system would spit out a printed receipt with our first task of the day. It told us where to go and what we should do when we got there, and for how long. We might be instructed to sweep a corner of the park, stock a specific retail stand, or relieve another worker for their lunch break (which is why the receipt was necessary since you may not even know them.) When we finished our task, or when another cast member relieved us, we would head back to the cast portal for our next assignment. It was task management on an epic scale and this was way back in 2004. I can only imagine how this has evolved since then.

It was brilliant. Employees always knew exactly what to do and their managers always knew where to find them. The tasks varied and were short in duration so boredom and aimlessness simply didn’t have a chance to linger. Everyone was confident in their roles, focused on great guest experiences, and proud to be a part of the team.

Why do I mention all of this? Because companies are currently facing a crisis of confidence. COVID-19 is forcing many into the wild west of remote work for the very first time. Their normal lackadaisical command and control mechanisms aren’t working well and they’re unsure how to keep their staff focused. The answer is a task management system.

Remote Work Difficulties Come Down to a Failure to Communicate

In an office setting, managers can call a team meeting or simply stop by for a quick visit with each of their subordinates. But these lines of communication are strained considerably when everyone is working from home and your overall busyness level isn’t visible from afar. It’s much easier to lose touch.

How do you make sure workers know what they’re supposed to be doing when you can’t stop in to see them? How should they alert you and relevant coworkers when they’re finished? If the project is in flux, how do you quickly communicate changes?

Task management systems are built to smooth these communication hurdles. They automate the process of assigning and communicating tasks so that employees don’t need to rely on manager access to learn their schedule. Disney’s Cast Portal was a task management system. And there are a number of similar tools available to every business.

What is a Task Management System?

Some simple and popular examples include Trello, Asana, and Airtable among many others. These tools allow managers to break down complex projects into individual tasks and assign them to appropriate team members based on their schedule. They also offer tools for management to view and aggregate data that could be used for insights and analytics.

Staff members need only log into the system to see the tasks assigned to them each day, in order of priority. If they have questions or comments they can send them right in the system. As tasks are completed and checked off, managers are immediately notified. If circumstances change, priorities can be modified with ease, and the changes are immediately available to the employee.

Each package offers different functionality at different price points, but they share one common feature. They make it easy for managers to dictate and keep track of what their staff is doing no matter where they are.

It creates an open channel of communication that spans the entire team. Not only will staff members know their priorities, but they’ll also be able to see what their coworkers are working on and be more aware of project dependencies in other departments. They can share files, alert each other to impending problems, and get quick answers to pressing questions.

These tools are extremely useful even in a standard office setting because they allow managers to focus on the bigger picture instead of micromanaging their staff. But with a remote workforce, they’re invaluable.

An Added Bonus: Business Insights

Business insights are basically just measuring different aspects of your business and visualizing how they’ve changed over time. A well implemented task management system provides valuable information that can be measured and tracked and turned into insights you can use to make data driven decisions.

We Know Task Management Tools Because We Use Them Everyday

In a previous post on remote work, we mentioned that our staff here at Puget Tech is almost entirely remote and always has been. We’ve learned how to make it work well. In many ways, our staff is more productive than they might be if they were stuck commuting to the office each day, and our task management tool has a lot to do with that.

If you’d like some help choosing a task management platform and learning to get the most out of it, drop us a line or give us a call. Disney World doesn’t have a lock on happiness or efficiency. We can help you promote both.

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