5 Organizational Skills Every Manager Must Know

Try to picture the perfect manager. What do they do, and how do they act? Different companies call for different management styles, but some things are universal. You probably imagine a manager that has a clear and consistent vision for the project they’re overseeing, who knows how to pinpoint specific problems, while still keeping their eyes on the big picture. They communicate well, they’re organized, they keep their team happy and motivated, and they know how to keep the work flowing smoothly.

Are you that kind of manager? Maybe the perfect manager doesn’t exist, but there are organizational skills you can adopt to get as close as you can. Here are the five you should know about.


1. Have A Solid Project Management Methodology


Having a consistent methodology to fall back on can keep your team on track and guide your decision-making process when the unexpected happens and you’re flying without instruments.

There are a variety of different frameworks to follow, and choosing the best one for your team and project can depend on many factors. Some of the most widely used methodologies include:

  • Agile, which is based on an incremental approach that seeks out constant feedback and emphasizes changing what needs changing as you go, rather than relying solely on planning before the project starts. Accountability, face-to-face communication, and teamwork are key elements of the Agile method.
  • Scrum, a methodology derived from Agile, focuses on using iterative processes to develop complex projects. Scrum’s iterations are called “sprints,” which consist of four regular activities (sprint planning, daily stand-up, sprint demo, and sprint retrospective) to move your project forward on a fixed schedule.
  • Kanban, a visual framework that emphasizes incremental changes and uses a physical board as an organizing principle, to keep your team working at the appropriate capacity and encourage flexibility and transparency.


2. Evaluate the Most Important Effort in the Moment


Prioritizing relevant goals requires envisioning the end of a successful project. When there are a million things that need to be done, assess the most important efforts to focus on. One of the most important organizational skills for mangers it to prioritize the team’s work, and help individuals understand which weekly and daily tasks are most important to do first. Regular check-in meetings can help you identify the areas of your project that most require your attention.

One popular way to prioritize workload is the RICE method. You give each project a score based on four criteria, then tackle the projects with the highest scores first. Here’s how it works:


  • Reach
    • How many people will be affected by this project in a given period of time? That could mean a number of customers per quarter, for example. Be realistic, and try to use existing metrics to backup your estimate.
    • The number of people affected in your set time frame will be used as your Reach score.
  • Impact
    • How much of a difference will it make? Ask yourself how you think your audience will react to the change, and just how much it will improve their experience.
    • Score your Impact as 3 for “maximum,” 2 for “high,” 1 for “medium,” 0.5 for “low,” and “0.25” for “minimal.”
  • Confidence
    • How confident are you about your estimates? Evaluate  Confidence based on how much evidence you have to back up your projections.
    • Confidence is scored as a percentage.
  • Effort
    • How hard is it going to be to accomplish your goal? Effort measures the total amount of time the project will require from all members of your team.
    • Effort is measured in “person-months,” the amount of work one team member can do in one month. After calculating this,  determine the overall Effort score for the project.


Determining the RICE score

Once you’ve scored the project on the four RICE criteria, you just need to do a simple calculation to get your final number. Here’s how you do it:

(Reach x Impact x Confidence) / Effort

This will give you the total impact per time spent on a project. The higher the score, the more important it is for your team to do!


3. Communicating Clearly, and How to Document It Well


There are a number of different ways to communicate with your team, and one of the organizational skills you should have, is to pinpoint when each way is most appropriate:

  • Verbal
  • Written
  • Visual

For group communications, you might find Slack a better fit than a group email. Some companies find that messaging platforms, like Asana or Trello, work well with their culture. Don’t get stuck on a single platform. Try different things, listen to your team, and embrace what works.

Finding the perfect communications style for your team is a matter of trial and error, so always seek feedback from your team while looking for a solution. A good communications platform should feel effortless, and  should make it easy to reference past conversations when needed.

If you’re on the hunt for an effective communications strategy, we highly recommend reading this article right now!  


4. Celebrate Wins


When your team delivers, it shouldn’t be just another day at the office. Celebrating wins is one of the most vital organizational skills to reinforcing performance and keeping the team’s morale up.

Find fun ways to recognize accomplishments, whether it’s honoring individual achievements with a “wall of fame,” or coming up with traditions or celebratory activities for the whole team to enjoy together. Inc.com has some great ideas on how to that, here’s a few:

  • If the budget allows, take the team out for a lunch
  • End a Friday early, provide snacks and beers, gather the team and give shout outs for individuals’ accomplishments.
  • During team-wide meetings, make a point of publicly giving regular kudos to recognize effort and wins. When you see somebody doing something right, reinforce it!


5. Build Team Cadence


If your team goes through periods where they’re working overtime to rush a task to completion, followed by periods where nobody seems to have enough work to do, you probably need to establish a better cadence for workflow.

Cadence is an important concept in Agile and other project management methodologies. Put simply, it’s the rhythm your team follows, a predictable pattern that keeps them on track. There’s a lot you can do to get your team into a cadence that works for them, such as:

  • Scheduling regular meetings to go over the successes and failures of the past week and review goals for the current week.
  • Working in sprints based on a set time frame which fits your team’s collective and individual work styles.
  • Planning rituals, like weekly stand ups or daily check-ins, will establish a routine for your team, keep them informed, and help them plan their own schedules accordingly.


Improvement Never Stops

Applying great organizational skills as a manager, but aiming for greatness is the least your team deserves. Remember, all of these skills take regular practice and effort to develop and maintain. You may be doing some of them right already – and others may be a perpetual challenge for you – but as long as you’re trying your best to hone your leadership skills, you’re on the right path.

Got any questions or comments about organizational skills for managers? Tweet us at @unitoio!

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