Must know rules for team productivity

Personal development coach Paul J. Meyer once said, “Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.”
That means productivity doesn’t happen on its own. You have to make it happen.

As a team leader, your job isn’t just to stay productive. You also need to manage the workload and output of your team. Ensuring that everyone is managing their time and producing to their potential is critical for the success of your department.

Furthermore, productivity isn’t something you achieve. It’s an ongoing process that improves your output over time. There are always ways to optimize your work to get more done. Investing early in productivity techniques compounds your overall production.

The nature of conversion rate optimization work requires keeping a careful eye on productivity. Small changes to micro or macro conversions can dramatically affect sales. You can’t spend days mindlessly thumbing through data or playing foosball. You have to continuously generate ideas, run experiments, and push changes to production.

Developing a productive CRO team doesn’t mean hiring new people or sending your employees to expensive training seminars. A few simple changes are all you need.

Quit micromanaging

Productive people know which tasks should be delegated to others and which tasks can be eliminated altogether. After all, the people doing the work know how to optimize the job best (providing you hired competent, results-driven people – which should be your standard for conversion rate optimizers).

71% of non-managers report that micromanaging hinders their performance. It take the “I accomplished something today” feeling away from your employees.

If you micromanage every minute of their day, you’ll rob them of the ability to do their job best. Instead of decision makers who choose the smartest path (which is a metaphor for CRO if I’ve ever heard one!), you’ll end up with robots who just follow instructions.

Therefore, the most productive employee has autonomy – the leeway to make their own decisions. Give your employees permission to attend meetings they weren’t invited to, or skip meetings they were. Encourage them to block off chunks of their day for uninterrupted work and respect those separations.

Do you need another meeting?

Meetings are a necessary evil. We need them to collaborate, share ideas, and make group decisions. But often they are used in place of actual work, as an excuse to spend more time deliberating than taking action. Sometimes meetings are used to appease management; a useless check-in to make sure people are progressing. In many cases, the contents of a 30-minute meeting can take place over email.

Even when meetings are necessary, they are often organized poorly. Bob Pozen, productivity expert and lecturer at Harvard Business School says, “The fact is people haven’t thought about how to run a good meeting, or they’ve never been trained, or they’re simply too busy.”

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Image source: beesapps.com

If a meeting can’t be eliminated, make it shorter and purpose-driven. Here’s how:

  • Define a goal. Send out related material and an agenda at least a day before the meeting.
  • Limit the number of attendees to the people who actually need to be there.
  • Be open to input. A meeting is not a lecture. Set a collaborative tone.
  • Stop tangents and cut off ramblers. Don’t let people get off track.
  • End with action steps. Everyone should know what’s required of them.

(Pro tip: Here’s a great list of other productivity killers you should avoid.)

Use comprehensive, collaborative tools

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You wouldn’t pound a nail with your fist, would you? No, you would use a hammer because it’s the right tool for the job.

Many conversion rate optimization teams are making a similar mistake: They’re using a variety of tools to manage their projects and their team. They have a project management tool, a communication tool, an A/B testing tool, an analytics tools, spreadsheets, and dozens of insight tools (heat maps, session replays, chat logs, customer interviews, etc.).

Using multiple tools, however, doesn’t improve productivity. It actually creates barriers that hinders your output. Wherever possible, CRO teams should use comprehensive tools that solve as many needs as possible.

A single tool simplifies your workflow and keeps everyone on the same page. You’ll spend less time digging through applications for the answer to a question or sending updates to the team.

(Shameless plug: Our software, Effective Experiments, was designed to put multiple CRO tools under one roof. You can track your tests from ideation to experimentation, generate reports with a single click, integrate with other services, and collaborate with your team, managers and stakeholders. Check it out.)

Clarify your expectations

A team without a clear purpose can’t achieve success. What are your expectations for your team (beyond improving conversions)? Do you want to improve data accuracy? Increase communications with stakeholders?

Each team member needs to understand the team’s vision and how their role fits in. Every project they undertake and task they complete should support that purpose.

Meet with team members individually to discuss their focus. Tell them what you expect them to accomplish and what they should consider a priority. Tell them how you’ll measure their success so they know how to please you. Set realistic, attainable goals for them to achieve. Prevent team members from becoming overwhelmed by breaking projects into smaller, easy-to-manage pieces (but again – don’t micromanage.)

Be explicit about your expectations. If you want a regular flow of testing ideas, show examples of an idea pipeline. If you expect them to update managers or stakeholders, show them what proper communication looks like.

Give your employees a target to hit, but don’t micromanage. Show them what quality looks like, but don’t assign arbitrary rules (“I want 5 testing ideas each day”) or deadlines (“Submit your ideas by Wednesday 3 PM”).

Group tasks into batches

In the 90s and early 2000s, we heard about the importance of multi-tasking. “A productive person can do many things at once,” they said. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Repeated studies have shown that multi-tasking handicaps productivity. Each time we change tasks, our brains have to reorient themselves, which can take as long as 15 minutes. This creates stress and fatigue, which drops productivity by 40%.

We’re constantly allowing ourselves to be distracted. We repeatedly respond to the needs of other people, often letting people or tasks supersede our priorities.

Batching is a method of time management where you group similar tasks that require similar resources. It helps you concentrate and remove distractions. The result is enhanced productivity, focus, and creativity. It also helps reduce stress and mental fatigue.

The best method of batching is the Pomodoro Technique. Here’s how:

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Image source: elvindantes.com

  1. Write down and prioritize the tasks you need to complete.
  2. Batch your tasks according to the skills they require, not the mechanics. For instance, “Daily reporting” might include digging through numbers and sending emails, but they both require an analytical mindset and a temporary familiarity with the data.
  3. Set a 25 minute timer.
  4. Complete a group of similar tasks.
  5. Take a 5 minute break.

That’s one batch. Complete four batches (each 25 minutes of work + a 5 minute break), then a 20 minute extended break. You should see immediate productivity improvements.

Final advice: Spread the work

The beauty of working on a team is that you can lean on one another. This helps alleviate bottlenecks, burst through emergency projects, and enjoy a vacation once in awhile. Even if your team is filled with specialized professionals, everyone usually has enough skill overlap to pitch in when it’s needed.

If one person is struggling, redistribute the load to someone else. If you keep an eye on everyone’s to-do list, you can juggle work so no one is overwhelmed or feels like they’re being treated poorly.

If your CRO team is struggling with productivity, request a demo of Effective Experiments. We’ll show you how to improve your process and simplify your life.

Manuel da Costa

A passionate evangelist of all things experimentation, Manuel da Costa founded Effective Experiments to help organizations to make experimentation a core part of every business. On the blog, he talks about teams, CRO workflow, CRO management as well as running the podcast Conversionations and the Effective Experiments Shorts video series.