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A team member who manages a small team has asked me for ideas to help her better manage what her team is doing. I'm trying to pull examples together that wouldn't require a lot of overhead but will be effective at helping her keep track of what her team's action items and deliverables are, who is assigned to them, what their state is, etc.

Does anyone out there have any creative suggestions beyond Kanban boards and Excel tables?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

She should try daily stand-up meetings.

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Not having a Kanban board is a good idea, because it for something else, and an Excel sheet just kills collaboration.

I would suggest to have a coffee with her on a daily basis, maybe after the daily meeting - if her team has a daily meeting -, and talk about the team from a team leader perspective. If you would like to help her, you need to learn more about how that team is working, and I'm sure that it won't happen if the information is in a document. You need to be there.

A frequent discussion doesn't take too much time, and provides a short feedback loop. You can define small steps she needs to do, and you can retrospect on them the next day. It's like a student-mentor relationship. For example, you can review the board or plan and talk about how to help the team move forward.

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I agree that talking to the team is a great approach and I am going over options with her in person in a few days. But I'm not sure what you mean by saying Kanban boards are for "something else"... wouldn't they provide visibility on who is doing what in her group, what stage the work is at, etc? – Doug B Nov 5 '12 at 14:19
There's a visibility thing in Kanban, but its power is in the WIP limit and inventory handling. Most of the organizations creates so called Kanban boards for visualization and stops there, way before the Kanban method can do its magic. Don't get me wrong, we also have "Kanban boards", but actually they are nice TODO lists. The moment when team members start to limit WIP on these boards, we can talk about Kanban. This is what I meant. – Zsolt Nov 5 '12 at 14:47

I like Mark’s suggestion of stand-up meetings, but in my experience, holding them once or maximum twice a week (if we are not talking about an urgent project that needs constant monitoring) is more efficient. This way, you can get a focused review of everyone’s progress and not waste their time. I also would suggest keeping all the tasks logged in some project management software. My team and I use Wrike. I can always see who’s assigned to the task, track their progress and, if needed, discuss any issues right in the task’s Activity Stream. I guess that’s also the reason we have stand-up meeting only once a week – we all know what’s going on in all our tasks at any time ;-)

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