Implementing plans is hard for teams. I get it. I see it all the time.

Struggling to implement plans is one key roadblock most teams have in common. I’ve worked with countless teams over the years to overcome planning issues.  I’ve noticed they all seem to get caught up in the same kinds of energy-sapping, time-draining mistakes. Even when their plans progress, they pay a high price in terms of lost productivity, team morale, and often, lost business.

You or someone on your team is likely suffering the consequences of at least one of the five common mistakes I’ve identified. Fortunately, you can learn how to identify them, too – and fix them, so you can recover team trust, time and other scarce resources.

The five mistakes are:

  1. Fuzzy plans
  2. Lack of reporting team progress
  3. Not using tools
  4. No support for task managers (below)
  5. No accountability

In this series of five articles, I’ll be highlighting one of these problems each week. By looking at these one at a time (which is a great strategy to help teams overcome roadblocks: one at a time!), you’ll have the chance to consider how you can implement these fixes at work and with your volunteer teams.  If you’d rather read the entire report immediately, you can access it here. As a bonus, the full report also includes clarifying tips to help you improve your team’s plan implementation!

Last week, I talked about Mistake #3: Not Using Reporting Tools. Click here if you’d like to read that article now. Mistake #4: No support for task managers and status managers (see Mistake #2). I used to work for a supervisor whose favorite pastime was assigning seemingly impossible projects to me. He would stride into my office, drop a thick file folder on my desk, and say, “Well, Kay, you’re not going to like this one bit, but there’s something I need you to take on. Read through this and figure it out. The deadlines are in there. Good luck.” Which I soon learned was his code for, “This is a project that nobody else will touch because everybody is arguing about how our systems aren’t designed to handle this. And nobody is going to give you help or access to anything, either.” Every time it happened, this whole interaction took about a minute and a half, and I was never given a chance to say a word. I only worked for him for a year and a half, and I can’t even count the number of times this pattern repeated. But it was how I learned to ask for the specific support and access to systems I needed, and how I learned to teach other managers to speak up and support their teams. If your task managers and status manager regularly feel completely alone and stressed about plans, then somebody (perhaps even you) is probably making this mistake.

Fix for Mistake #4: Give task managers and status managers moral support and access to team tools.

  1. Pave the way for them. Alert other team members you expect them to respond to requests for information promptly and clearly.
  2. Make sure the task managers and status manager have the right level of access to project tools. I can’t count the number of times I have discovered that someone who was supposed to be serving as a status manager hadn’t been given permission to view, let alone update, project communication tools. Sometimes the fix is as easy as asking IT to check a box somewhere, or even moving the shared wall calendar out of the office that is always kept locked.
  3. Insist that team members use the tools and services designated for managing the project (see Mistake #3). Team members can be reluctant to adopt new tools and systems, so they need encouragement.
  4. Provide training and technical support as needed, and publicly recognize team members who are making a strong effort.

Next week in this series: Mistake #5, no accountability.

Download the complete series if you’d rather not wait for the next article to be published.

Help us Help YOU

Have you ever been asked to manage a project where you didn’t have access to team tools? Leave a comment below to tell us. We pledge to provide you with insight and solutions to help you build success for every one of your teams.

Kay Coughlin, CEO, Facilitator on Fire, is passionate about helping teams make confident decisions and plans in unbelievably productive workshops.


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