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Every Monday I set about planning a new ‘Sprint’ for my small marketing team. If you’ve never heard of this term before, it’s a term used the Scrum software development methodology. In this methodology you have a planning stage, an implementation stage (that’s the Sprint), a daily huddle or standup meeting, and then a retrospective.
I don’t follow Scrum exactly because I have a small distributed team, with team members in Australia, Philippines and Eastern Europe. I find it difficult to have a daily huddle for example across such different time zones. (I’d like to have one though; definitely something to work on).
I do however have a very detailed planning time at the beginning of the week. I find that being very organised prevents fires and saves time on rework due to miscommunications. I really don’t like urgency and dramas. (Who does??)
I start by going through all the tasks that have been marked as ‘Done’ on my weekly sprint board. (I use Monday.com for the board). Time for a quick review of the comments that my team input into the system. I ask questions like:
- Is this task really “done”?
- How long did it take?
- Does my team require further training or better systems to complete this task more effectively and/or faster?
- Are there any new tasks that have come out of this task?
These Done tasks get filed against my client projects and shared with the client for full transparency.
Any new tasks are captured in the next sprint, or on the individual project boards which I use as a repository of future and completed tasks for a project.
I then brainstorm any more tasks that might need to be completed in order to move the whole project forward, and/or I refer to previous lists of tasks I may have planned out when planning the project. I also go through all my emails that have been tagged as containing outstanding tasks. Its surprising how many little tasks can become lost and forgotten in the never-ending sea of email.
All of the tasks are divided up by task type. I currently have internal tasks (admin, internal sales and marketing and process development), account management tasks (customer service), and then the separate main services split out – Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Data Studio. I train a team member in my processes for each of these categories, but since there is cross-over I allocate a team, a specific person if only one person is relevant, a project or client, and a due date (everything due at the end of the week so that makes it easy).
By planning one week at a time it forces us to become granular enough to come up with tasks that can be completed within a week, which is helpful because bite-sized tasks are easier to digest and complete.
I do also have a column for estimating how long a task should take, but lately I have stopped using it. I started to find that the planning was taking too much of my time and I found it easier to have more of a birds-eye view of all the tasks rather than trying to plan out how long each thing would take. You need a balance between planning everything out and letting some things happen as they happen. To some degree it always “takes along as it takes” – a phrase that infuriates project managers to no end 😊
At the moment we’re still a small and nimble agency with around 2-3 FTEs, so it will be interesting to see how this planning process changes over time as we grow. I like this system because the different tasks are grouped by the software being used more so than the project, which enables more efficiency if you can do several tasks of the same type one after the other.
Another way that we try to improve effectiveness, both in the planning and in the doing, is by limiting ourselves to a small range of projects. That way we can grow our expertise in those projects. We purely focus on Google technology, and we focus strongly on collecting, using and understanding data to make our decisions.