Internal initiatives are the grout that fills the
gaps between bricks (paying projects).
What do your team members do when they have downtime between major projects?
- Check social media
- Personal chat/text/email
- Freelance work
- Chat with (and potentially distract) teammates
- Get ahead on other project tasks
- Their own initiative that’s work-related
- Ask for more work
- Consults a pool of internal initiatives/tasks
This isn’t a plan to block everyone’s time from 9-5 so they have no time to think or breathe. In fact, there’s power in downtime and team building.
What are “internal initiatives”?
Anything that isn’t part of a paying project, but still integral to the department or company. These should be smaller tasks that can be checked-off in a few minutes, hours, or days– or depending on what your team’s average length of downtime is.
- Onboarding improvements
- Documentation updates
- Training & self-learning
- Pet projects or proof of concept projects
Keeping track and creating that pool:
How does a team keep track of initiatives? How does your team keep track of projects and project-related tasks? Ticketing software, Kanban board, to-do list app, or other. You’d probably want to use that same system. Create a new project called “Downtime”. List out all those tasks that your team could take on, what discipline it would require, and how many hours it should take.
Task: Update photo of building on website.
Description: Take a new photo of the building, but at sunset when the light is right behind the building. Photoshop to remove that streetlight. Upload to website.
Disciplines & Workflow: Designer to capture photo & photoshop. VP to approve. Anyone to update website.
Time: 3 hours.
Task: Conference room projection options.
Description: Everyone is confused about how to switch inputs for the projector. Disconnect the old VGA cable. Type and print a very simple how-to for the projector options: HDMI or casting.
Disciplines & Workflow: Anyone who knows how to do it. No approvals necessary.
Time: 1 hour.
Task: Update documentation for new workflow.
Description: In June, we had to switch to the XYZ workflow, but haven’t taken time to document it. Type out our general workflow, note the spots where it is flexible and where it should be strictly followed.
Disciplines & Workflow: Developer to write content. Consult with a designer to produce graphics, icons, or other visuals where appropriate. Get thumbs-up from development, design, and project management leads before releasing it to the team via intranet and email.
Time: 3 days.
Task: Self-Learning / Research
Description: We value your career path and recognize that staying up-to-date on changing technologies is time consuming. Take some time during your downtime to read blogs, take online classes, watch webinars/archived conference talks, or anything else that’s relevant to your job or career. If applicable, share what you’ve learned with the team.
Disciplines & Workflow: Anyone.
Time: 1 hour – 3 days.
When a resource becomes available, they themselves, their manager, or a project manager could take a look for any tasks applicable to their role and amount of available time vs estimated task time.
When to convert an initiative from grout into a brick:
Sometimes, initiatives are so integral to a team, or just plain needs to happen immediately. Let’s say that the workflow task from the examples above is one of those items. It is such a pain point, and there’s a new project kickoff in two weeks that really needs to get off on the right foot from the get-go– and we want to teach the entire team in an hour and a half meeting: 1 hour for the presentation and half an hour for Q&A, if need be.
- Have a project manager run it as if it were a client project.
- Incorporate due dates and approvals.
- Set up the team meeting, clearing folks’ availability to accommodate it.
- Publish the information on the intranet and via email.