If you’re running projects at a marketing agency, you probably swear by doing daily check-ins with the practitioners (designers, developers, and strategists) on your team.
If you aren’t doing it already, here’s why and how I do daily check-ins as a project manager at hesketh.com. As a seven-person (and growing!) web design agency, we use FogBugz as our task-tracking system, but you can customize this to whatever project management system you use.
Why to Do Brief Daily Check-ins with Your Team
I find practitioners prefer to be doing their work (designing, programming, or strategizing) instead of meeting about or talking about their work — yet if they aren’t synchronized with the team, they aren’t helping the agency meet our clients’ goals.
Brief daily check-ins are a powerful tool to keep everyone moving ahead in the right direction, while juggling the inherent “doing” vs. “reporting” tension.
Questions to Ask Your Design, Development, and Strategy Team
Via email, I ask everyone five questions (with answers due by 10:45am):
- What didn’t you complete yesterday?
- For any tasks you didn’t complete, have you added notes to the task in FogBugz?
- For any tasks you didn’t complete, have you updated elapsed time, so the Time Remaining is accurate in FogBugz?
- What do you expect to complete by COB today?
- What’s iffy/tricky on today’s to-do list?
If you’re running a larger team (15+ people), you may need to adjust how you collect answers. Even with four (soon to be seven — we’re hiring!) practitioners, asking the 2nd and 3rd questions makes my job easier, since people are increasingly keeping their tasks up to date in the web-based project management system.
If someone’s at risk of getting stuck (#5), I can help them get the obstacles out of the way. And if someone’s plan doesn’t match what I need them to do, I’ll send an update with the new priorities. That way, we’re never more than a couple hours off track.
Changes I’ve Made as PM
I used to check in with each person via instant message, but I realized the IM approach was too much of an interruption — people didn’t have time to organize their thoughts. It wasn’t giving me answers in an easy-to-compare format, and IMs aren’t thorough, either — instant messaging is good for simple-answer questions, but my asking “Where do things stand?” was too open-ended.
After forgetting to send the check-in email one morning, I’ve started sending the email each night, so people have it in their inbox in the morning and so I don’t have to worry about it. Instead, I just check everyone’s task list in FogBugz, and then see if their emailed replies match my expectations.
How’s It Working?
So far, this has been working pretty well. I’ve considered sending customized emails to each consultant (instead of the same message to everyone) but I find it’s easier to just follow up with each person as-needed.
Since most of the team isn’t in the office when I get there before 9:00am, I don’t have to wait for people to come in — the asynchronous approach means the answers come to me. I know what’s going on, and people can respond at their own pace — they don’t have to drop everything because I’m waiting for an IM’d response.
Future Changes — Including Your Input
I want to be sure I’m asking enough, but I also don’t want to overwhelm people with questions — for instance, I’ll combine the second and third questions as FogBugz-update compliance goes up.
What questions should I add or drop from my check-in list? Please share below!