With today’s abundance of team project management applications and project management software online, how would anyone know which options are best for their team? Which team management skills and tools will help create the best working conditions for a diverse and dispersed group of people? How do you keep accountability with a group of volunteers to keep a project moving forward? These are questions that One Community has had to answer to create and maintain a productive, pleasant work environment.
The task of developing a smooth running system was not simple. It took about 2 years of consistency, passion, and dedication to bring One Community to where it is now. Although One Community’s method may not work for everyone, we believe that others may benefit from us sharing our journey and evolution.
Team Collaboration and Communication
When One Community began coming together as a team in 2011, members kept in contact and collaborated via email. Each time there was a change to the team, we each had to update our own personal “One Community” email list.
As time went on, the team started to grow larger. We had to become more efficient, so One Community created a Google Group, which we still use today. It allows an administrator to easily add or remove group members.
Now, instead of each individual needing to update their email list every time there is a change to the team, the administrator changes the group list. When we send an email to our Google Group Email Address, everybody that is on that list will receive an email! Email only goes to people they are intended for because once someone is removed from the Google group, they no longer have access to past or future emails sent to the group list. This saves a lot of time and helps consolidate emails via discussion threads.
Not long after implementing the email solution, we encountered another obstacle…
We reached a time when we could receive over 100 emails a week! We each had emails for discussion threads, logistics, brainstorming ideas, projects, and more. They all added up pretty quickly and it became very difficult to organize and keep up with. We needed a team project management solution.
Through our collaborative efforts, we brainstormed on solutions. The winning idea was to use team project management software online so everything would be conveniently organized. This would eliminate sifting through hundreds of emails. The two options we tested were Google Docs and Hotmail’s SkyDrive.
In testing, we found that, for us, the only benefit SkyDrive offered over Google Docs was the Notebook application that provided organization. However, it was not reliable for us. At times, the page would freeze or crash and sometimes caused lost data.
We decided to use Google Docs because of that, and are still using it as of the date of this post. We find it is very easy to use. Changes are saved as instant live updates, multiple users can work on the same document simultaneously, and each person has their unique username so you can see who else is working on the document.
Other benefits provided by Google Docs to our team project management include variety, storage, security, and cost. Different types of documents are available including word-type documents, spreadsheets, and forms. The Google Drive feature offers the ability to store and link to live documents online, and is connected to Gmail, which we are all already using for team emails. You can choose to make a document public or to limit access to only those who are invited, which provides security for sensitive documents. You can also change the permissions of each user, which would allow them to have either editing capabilities or to access a document as ‘read only’, which prevents accidental changes or undesired changes. We get the benefits of expensive programs, but Google Docs and Drive are free! Google has been a very smooth platform for our team to collaborate on because of all of these features.
After integrating Google Docs, we discovered something was still missing. We needed a way to track, assign, and manage projects and tasks.
After researching team project management software online, we chose to use Asana. What caught my attention the most was that it was created based off of the concept in David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done.” Many productivity applications try to integrate his concept, and Asana seems to do it well.
To start using this team project management software online, we created our account, made project categories, and input all the tasks for the present and future. In Asana everyone can see the projects and tasks they are invited to, and we can set due dates and assign tasks to specific team members. Three additional benefits are: it runs online (so there is no need to install any programs), applications are available for mobile devices, and it is free to use for small to medium sized groups. It is one awesome piece of software!
However… there was one downside…
Asana is intuitive for some of us to use… the ones used to technology. For those who aren’t as tech savvy, using Asana can be very difficult. Although this software is very versatile and can be utilized in many ways, the amount of functions can seem overwhelming for new users. Some of us use Asana for our own tasks and for personal use, but it was not quick or easy to teach.
If only some of us are able to use the team project management software online, it is not a working solution for our team, so we had to try another option. As a team, we are now using a Google Spreadsheet as a document hub by organizing and placing links on it to all our important documents and collaborative projects pages.
As we continued to expand, new challenges and needs arrose within our virtual organization and collaboration environment. In the beginning, we found that many people were attracted to our project with incorrect expectations of it. Some were seeking a community that was already established and wanted to do hands-on activities immediately. Others were only looking for a form of community within a group.
It was necessary to become extremely clear where we were in our process and what people should expect. We undertook a major rewrite of our websites and application process to ensure applicants are completely aligned with our vision, goals, values, and expectations. We also found it much easier to make sure everything was getting accomplished by setting guidelines for minimum hours and what tasks would be “tangible,” counting towards minimum weekly contributions.
The next hurdle was determining which activities count as “tangible” contributions. Some things clearly count, such as writing a blog, designing the website, researching and designing structures. What about meditation or taking classes on building eco-domes and other sustainability structures? What about reading books or working on our own personal growth? What about decision making and consensus? We had to determine what activities count as moving the project forward.
It became a very touchy subject that was constantly debated. There were hundreds of emails and countless hours over the phone spent trying to collaborate on a solution that works for everyone. Then, during One Community’s first Consensus training with facilitators Community consultants Dr. Connie Stomper and Jack Reed (author of The Next Evolution), we collaborated on what counted: how we would manage our projects and tasks more effectively, and how to track our progress as individuals and as a whole.
Tracking One Community’s progress and having a record of our completed tasks and accomplishments is important for several reasons. Not only does it help the team to maintain consistency and continually move the project forward, but it’s also a great way to show the world and potential contributors how we are actually taking action towards world change. To track it effectively, we needed to find the team project management software online that would work for our team.
To fill our team project management software online needs we needed to create our own solution, so we created the Accountability Celebration & Expansion Sheet (A.C.E. or ACE Sheet for short). It is a Google Spreadsheet with different categories color coded for each project team. As each member made a contribution, they would input their tasks within that Project Column.
On the right side of the project columns, each member would total up their hours to make sure that everyone consistently contributed to the project. Below is an example of what that looked like on the Google spreadsheet.
This turned out to be a great fit for One Community’s needs. It provided a place for each one of us to see what’s going on in other areas of One Community. We could also easily see our own progress. It seemed to be a very usable format for our team project managemet software online, so it was the system we agreed upon and used… up until a certain point.
To be continued…. PART 2