People/team managers, do you have a MPU workflow to share?

Surveying the numerous productivity gurus on MPU:
How do you use your tools to be a better manager?

Around here, we often see people showcasing how they use Things, Omnifocus or even Org-mode for their to-do list, Obsidian for their PKM, Craft or Bear for their notes… Sometimes the borders between tools and use-cases get blurred too… but, it seems that all of the examples / showcases we get are for individual contributors / freelancers.

How about the same but applied to managing a team?
I would be interested to find out if some of you have some tricks for the following use-cases, or even better, a system that interconnects them all:

  • Spending a lot of time in meetings and needing to keep track of actions items across people: to put it simple: a to-do list for others
  • Keeping notes of said meetings and interconnecting topics
  • Leveraging a bird eye view of an organization to see what’s progressing and what’s stuck
  • Building a semi-private internal knowledge base
  • Building a private CRM of internal and external stakeholders
  • Linking notes / documents / tasks to people
  • Keeping track of personal and team short / long-term goals and objectives
  • etc…

If you have any thoughts on the topic, do share!

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I do most all of these things constantly. Give me a little time and I’ll outline my workflow for you.

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Great question and I’m looking forward to reading the responses!

Taking the cue from @Bmosbacker sat down and went through my routine.

Background: I manage several teams in a company that employs >75000 people worldwide.
I need my routine and support system to be flexible, and ready at a moments notice, because my teams are spread out across 12 countries in different time-zones.

Spending a lot of time in meetings and needing to keep track of actions items across people: to put it simple: a to-do list for others

I have a mixed digital / paper workflow; I take notes in my traveler’s notebook during meetings because I’ve found doing this digitally stops me from focusing on the meeting at hand, and interferes with the human social interaction with others in that meeting. I also really enjoy handwriting notes and sketch-noting meeting topics.

I write all to-do’s on index cards and toss those in my inbox to be processed in OF later. (storage sleeve in my travellers notebook)

Keeping notes of said meetings and interconnecting topics

Once the meeting is done, or at the end of the day shutdown routine, I go over the notes again and filter out any interesting items that I want to follow up on, with a reference to the meeting, again on an index card, and that again goes into my inbox. I then scan the notes with my iPhone, and send it to DevonThink, retrieve the UID and create a short draft with meeting subject - meeting date - attendees - short summary - UID for complete reference (use and iOS Shortcut for that)

I’ll process all index cards during my startup review the next day. I give it that much time on purpose to allow for “digestion” of ideas and give my overall thoughts on the meeting time to mature a bit. This gets rid of the “knee-jerk” reaction I sometimes tend to get :slight_smile: This way I have time to reflect and come to other insights.

Leveraging a bird eye view of an organization to see what’s progressing and what’s stuck

I use a Kanban boards for all of my staff, teams and projects / goals. We discuss these in 1:1’s and team meetings, and this gives my a quick bird’s eye view of what’s going on, how much progress is being made, and where my attention is needed most. The team leads and project managers manage the team/project Kanbans and I manage both my own (for my 1:1’s with the board) and my overal stategic plan. (tasks/actions are described a bit forther down)

Building a semi-private internal knowledge base

I use Drafts as my index (notes with unique ideas, reference numbers, links and DT UID’s)
All documents (incl web pages) go to devonthink, Mail also goes there, unless it;s less than a year old then it remains in Apple mail.

Safari webpages: I usually select the summary, or a good extract, and though a shortcut send it to DT as a PDF, the shortcut returns a UID for the PDF, which then get’s stored in Drafts with reference to the source URL, the UID in DT and the short summary/text capture.

Building a private CRM of internal and external stakeholders

Next to references in Drafts all my “CRM” is done in Contacts, with some personal details on each stakeholder if it is useful in the notes field.

Linking notes / documents / tasks to people

Documents / Notes are usually tagged in Drafts with the names of the stakeholders involved. I don’t like to overly tag in DevonThink, since it tends to get cluttered very quickly.
All actions / tasks are tagged with a persons name in OF and before each meeting I process these for the attendees to take actions forward and get status updates during the meeting.

Keeping track of personal and team short / long-term goals and objectives

Each staff member is responsible for their personal board showing personal goals, development, and targets. I find the visual overview, and the “look at the pile of completed actions!” you get from looking at the interface works very well for us. I gives each person a sense of accomplishment, and a visual demonstration of their progress, and accomplishments.

I’ve started adding company purpose statements in these boards for each member of the team to operationalise. You tend to see those a lot these days, the “why are we here” statements of a company. It’s usually very abstract, and by adding them to personal goals, and the Kanban we try to make them operational for everyone.

One example: Climate / sustainability is part of one of the organisational purpose statements, and I’ve asked the team to add them to their boards, and think of a way to operationalise that for them personally, and for the team. It provided a lot of very healthy debate. 1 example of a practical outcome: one team member suggested we reduce printing waste (and cost), and have all meeting documents in PDF form. This has since reduced overall printing cost by 40%, with the ROI for the PDF software being positive in about 3 months. These are small steps, but they all count I think.

Overall in my personal management workflow I need to be able to rely on whatever device is at hand, from iPhone, iMac to iPad Pro. I need to be able to do exactly the same on all of them, and by narrowing the tools I use to the essentials I think I’ve come up with a system that works for me and lets me work from wherever I am in the world. [text/notes/linking: Drafts, tasks: OF, mail: Mail.app, archive: DT, and a little help from LeanKit for the Kanban aspects]

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@MarcMagn1 as promised, here is my basic workflow.

I have worked hard and long on refining my workflow over the years. It has been built upon a completely paperless (and I mean absolutely no paper) workflow that I committed myself to over 10 years ago. I’ll not repeat everything I’ve posted previously on my workflow but you can read about it here.

In addition to all of my personal projects and tasks, here is how I manage my professional work across teams and departments. As the head of a large private Christian school, I essentially serve as the CFO or the equivalent of a public school superintendent.

  • As stated above, I use no paper whatsoever. I’ve trained my staff to give me everything in digital format. If I do receive paper, e.g., a contract from a vendor, etc., I immediately scan and OCR it to DEVONthink (DT). DT is the repository for everything in my life. The databases are backed up via Backblaze as well as in iCloud, Google Drive, and on two external hard drives located in two separate locations—home and office.
  • Whereas DT is the hub for all of my documents, OmniFocus (OF) is the hub for ALL of my personal and work projects. I don’t want to switch between applications for my to-dos because my life is integrated with work and personal stuff intermixed depending on circumstances and needs.
    • I capture every delegated task to my senior leadership team (SLT) in OF with a tag for the person responsible. I meet every other week with each SLT member. I pull up OF, click on that person’s tag, and go over all of their responsibilities.
  • I take all meeting notes in Drafts (I just switched to Drafts from Craft)
    • I have a TextExpander snippet for meeting notes that I use in Drafts. My meeting template has meta data at the top (e.g., date), an area for my notes, and then the follow-ups.
    • I use the Drafts Action “Send to DEVONthink and OmniFocus” after the meeting. The cool thing about this Action is that the notes sections of my meeting notes go to DT as markdown files and the follow-up actions go to OF. I process the OF inbox daily. I also conduct a weekly review.

  • In DT I have project folders, including one named “Priority Projects” that resides in the “Favorites” section of DT for fast access.
  • I drag emails related to a project or person into DT databases and folders so that everything that is related is in the same database and folder. I have three DT databases:
    • Home and Family
    • Work
    • Writing and Research
  • I crosslink OF and DT files/projects/to-dos
  • I use Apple Mail and bcc the OF email address on emails that contain delegated tasks. For very short term (1-2) day small items, I’ll tag the email with the “Waiting For” tag in Apple Mail and don’t send it to OF. An example would be if I ask my EA for a phone number. I don’t put that in OF, I tag it “Waiting For.”
  • I do all of my writing—short and long form—including project proposals in Scrivener and then export to other formats/apps as needed.
  • I brainstorm projects, presentations, and writing projects in MindNode and then send the outline to Scrivener.
  • I use Fantastical for my calendar app.

My workflow has been working well for me and you’ll notice that I use relatively few apps to get my work done. It is not complicated. I believe that fewer apps leads to great efficiency and effectiveness.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information.

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Thanks for this extensive description of your workflow. That is exactly the kind of inputs I was after when I initiated this discussion. Furthermore, you articulated your post in a way that really matched the specific topics I mentioned, which makes it even more useful!

Reading all this, I have some questions/comments.

  • About using paper + index cards notes: I am trying to get back to handwriting, although on a “semi”-digital support using an e-ink tablet. I agree on how it helps to focus on the meeting. Although I did not think to separate action items on a separate support (index card for you, I could look for an e-ink equivalent), I can see how that may facilitate their processing in OF. What’s hindering me with such paper-based systems is that what you gain in focus, you need to investigate in re-processing time, I can see the value in reviews, but when time is short, these tend to accumulate out of proportion.

  • About your use of Draft for Linking / CRM / KDB. Can you describe a bit further how your system is working within Draft? I use it for quick entries/dispatch to other apps but certainly not for anything longer term than a couple of hours. I wonder why it would supersede Devonthink for such a purpose, for example, as it seems that Devonthink really only serves the purpose of archive box + UID generator.

I use Kanban boards for all of my staff, teams and projects/goals.

  • How many boards does this represent? Do you have a way to “visualize” them all at once? Interlink them efficiently?
  • Since each staff is responsible for updating theirs, I take it you use some collaborative tool for that? Asana / Trello / etc? Do you tie it to your “offline” ecosystem of Drafts / Devonthink / etc.?

Thank again for sharing these! This is great material!

I’ve found taking about 15-20 minutes at the end of each day gives me enough time, and provides me with an empty head, everything in the inbox where it belongs, and no loose ends.

For me it is, but that’s mainly because I prefer the automation options in Drafts, and DT just is too sluggish for that for me. So it’s just a personal preference.

I have several workspaces set up that show me either project notes, meeting notes, 1:1 notes, reference material (zettelkasten style) or a clean sheet for creating notes.

In total I think it’s about 80-100 or so boards, of which I view 2-3 as a matter of course, and around 10-20 or so on a weekly basis in my 1:1’s with team leads or individual team members that need support.

We have 1 strategy board, 1 overall program board and one ad hoc / future board that can be viewed by all staff so we’re all working from the same plan.
My team managers and PM’s concatenate all status boards to the top board structure

Actually we have stopped doing that, I want team members to take responsibility for their own progress (personal and in business) and I let them manage their path in that way, we use it mostly as a discussion guide in management / coaching sessions.

The three top boards are the most important for me, they show development of our processes over time, and frmo there I can report directly into the overall company boards.

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This is the Holy Grail of MPU threads.

@MacSparky, you should totally do an episode on this thread, either for MPU, Focused, or hey, it could even be an entire Field Guide!

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Since we are using Windows in my company, workflows involve some MS software (OneNote).

My take: no tool or workflow will solve the underlying problems (unstructured meetings, no agenda, no defined input/output, etc.). I found that putting a lot of effort into a defined information flow and meeting structure is way more important than worrying about which app you use to take notes.

  • I use the Drafts Action “Send to DEVONthink and OmniFocus” after the meeting. The cool thing about this Action is that the notes sections of my meeting notes go to DT as markdown files and the follow-up actions go to OF. I process the OF inbox daily. I also conduct a weekly review.
    [/quote]

@Bmosbacker this is the workflow I want- using an apple pencil. Do you use it?
What about linking the DT note to the OF task to click right into it (or vice versa)?
Forgive my ignorance of Drafts, but how do you indicate what is an action vs reference text?
Maybe YOU should write a field guide :wink: wink:

@DannyR I appreciate the vote of confidence but of all of the people on this forum I’m probably among the least qualified to write a field guide! :slight_smile:

As to your question, first, I do not use the Pencil, I find typing faster.

Second, in my above example I used Drafts as the starting point. This works well but it does not automatically insert the backlinks. I used Drafts as the example above because my impression is that the majority on this forum use Drafts rather than Craft if comparing those two specific apps. That said, I find Craft to be the better option because Craft inserts the text AND the backlink in both DT and OF.

Below are screenshots of how this works when using Craft, DT, and OF together. I hope this helps. :slight_smile:

  1. TextExpander snippet inserted in Craft and notes taken:

  1. The meeting note in DT, notice the backlink to Craft:

  1. Highlighting and sharing the follow-up tasks in Craft to OF:

  1. The result in OF, notice the backlink to Craft:

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Great thread. I don’t have as detailed an answer as the other fantastic ones. My use of personal workflows hasn’t changed much from my individual contributor workflows. They serve to support and connect my use of our operating software and processes, and help me make sure I’m following up where we don’t have a system yet. For example, I would assign a task in our operating software, but I’d use OF to remember to assign that task and to follow up, because the operating software doesn’t have quick entry or meta-reminders.

For long-term planning and managing employee information, we use a central repository of documents and I do everything there, supplementing with OF to make sure I’m keeping up with it and periodically reviewing it. A lot of this information is kept in slide decks, because for us, there’s little planning that isn’t presented in some way. I don’t have a better tool to manage a repository of starter slides and in-progress planning than Powerpoint, Keynote and Google Slides themselves.

For new initiatives that haven’t left my head yet, I’ll usually define the work in OF and do the thinking either on paper or a text editor (or in my head during a long walk.) If the new initiative is being done by a small team, we quickly start working together in a shared document. I also use Slack reminders and email snoozing to make sure I don’t lose track of informal discussions.

All meeting notes use a workflow similar to Dr. Mosbacker’s, except I’m creating notes tied to calendar events in Agenda. Agenda pre-populates the note and then I paste in a snippet to structure the notes and followups from Alfred. I have dozens of projects and sub-projects on the left sidebar of Agenda and each note fits into one. I’ve tweaked that organization a few times and at this point I almost always find glancing at the previous note helpful. In contrast to others, I pay better attention when I’m typing because it’s so much faster for me than writing. I have a lot of projects on the sidebar. We keep most of our rapid visual ideation in Adobe XD files so I don’t try to do it in my notes.

Information about contacts is simply managed in G Suite. We don’t use a CRM to track communications with vendors or stakeholders in my area.

Then there’s simply a lot of information that is left to flourish in ongoing conversations with others. Not everything needs to be tracked as we see where those discussions go. I try to keep part of me open to what others suggest, whether reports, peers or upper level managers, and I find I impede that serendipity if I try too hard to capture and advance every small thought we have.

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Noted gang. Putting on my list.

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