What Makes Team Projects Work? Admins Share Their Success Secrets

Office administrators know a thing or two about managing group projects. Here are their top tactics for keeping everyone on task and on deadline.

Team collaboration is a major part of administrators’ daily lives. More than half of administrative professionals in a recent Staples poll said they collaborate with their colleagues on customer events, process-improvement projects and other endeavors at least weekly.

But leading a group project requires keeping everyone on task and on time — that’s not always easy, especially when your coworkers keep getting distracted with other priorities. Try these sure-fire tactics from your peers to manage group projects.

Set Clear Goals

Before any other step, you first need to gain consensus on what you hope to achieve. This focuses everyone’s efforts and can get people excited about the project.

“After a planning discussion, I’ll send an email that recaps what we talked about and where we need to go, and I’ll ask if anything should be added,” says Rita, a legal and compliance specialist at a hospitality company. Once she’s gathered feedback, she’ll send a follow-up email to ensure that everyone is in agreement on the project’s goals and timeframe.

“This normally keeps expectations on track and the lines of communication open in case issues arise and adjustments need to be made,” she says.

Include the Right Mix of Participants

It pays to think carefully about who to include in the project. Not everyone has to be a full participant in every decision, but looping in a good mix of people can help inform your work at key points. For process-related projects, for instance, enlist employees who will interact with the final results.

“You get a much better mix of work experience and more new ideas when you include the janitor, the shipping associate and others you might not normally think to include,” says Christine, a technician who also handles administrative duties at a machinery technology firm. “They can give a real perspective of the work flow, and they might bring up details that management wouldn’t.”

Of course, there may be times when you have too much input, and moving a project forward calls for tough decisions. Getting options on paper can help groups take stock and find the best way to proceed, says Jessica, an administrative assistant at a manufacturing company. Her team uses a shared spreadsheet to comment on and refine ideas, but to keep that process from getting bogged down, she calls attention to specific areas that need work. “That helps to focus the team’s attention so we can start planning next steps,” she says.

Enforce Timelines

Assigning clear roles and due dates early on can go a long way in keeping projects on track. The admins we surveyed also emphasized the importance of frequent check-ins to monitor progress.

“At least once a week, I’ll send out a checklist of things that need to get done,” says Rachel, an administrative assistant at a general contracting firm. “I’ll date items as they’re completed and keep notes on anything that’s changed — for instance, if someone will be working on something different from what was originally planned.”

Admins should also prepare to take quick action if the timeline starts to slip. “When things start to look like they are headed towards a mess, I’ll usually call a meeting to get us back on track,” Rachel says. “We’ll brainstorm ideas to help us turn things around and meet our goal.”

Come Prepared

When you’re working on any project, having the right tools handy can make it easier to share information, capture ideas and plan next steps. Do a quick check before kickoff to be sure you have everything you need, whether that includes pens and notebooks, presentation tools, or just the right space to collaborate.

Survey respondents ranked the following as their most essential tools:

• a large conference table to spread materials out on (40 percent);

sticky notes (37 percent);

• a laptop and projector (31 percent); and

• a whiteboard and dry erase markers (26 percent).

Running group projects takes planning, creativity and people-management skills — all of which administrative professionals have in spades. The ability to see work projects through to a successful conclusion not only benefits your company, but it can raise your profile at work as well.