By its very nature, marketing is a continuous sprint to keep up with evolving customer desires and to stay ahead of the competition. Dealing with simultaneous projects is simply the nature of the beast.

Too often, the breakneck pace puts us face to face with some horrible beasts: ridiculous deadlines, a lack (or ineffective allocation) of resources, and overworked, overwhelmed staff. These problems scamper about like pesky little lizards on the individual level, but taken together add up to one gigantic, nasty, fire-breathing dragon.

As the pressure builds, projects end up over budget and behind schedule, which leads directly to higher overall costs, lower ROI, and the smoldering remains of missed opportunities. There has to be a better way.

Here are ways my team at AtTask prepares to do battle using enterprise work management.

Step 1: Study your opponent

Best-practice: Standardize

Designate one place for inputs and requests, so regardless of whether requests come from within your team, clients, or other departments, they'll arrive in the same way, to the same place, where they'll never be overlooked or improperly prioritized.

Best-practice: Know when to say no

It's important to be able to say no to requests when...

  • You don't have time.
  • You don't have the resources.
  • They aren't aligned with your organization's strategic objectives.
  • They won't turn out acceptable ROI.

Step 2: Make a plan of attack

Best-practice: Include the team early

Getting input from those on the frontlines will help you forecast a more realistic timeline and scope as well as catch requirements you may have missed otherwise. Moreover, this practice helps keep everyone on the same page about processes, expectations, and dependencies, helping eliminate disconnectedness.

Best-practice: Get out of the way of work

Give people the ability to accept work assignments, make visible commitments, and make important decisions. You will find that doing so increases their commitment to work, which will help unify your people to your process.

Step 3: Attack with all of your might

Best-practice: Embrace process improvement

Work templates (and a single place to keep and use them) will save your life. Assignments, processes, and dependencies need to be consistently laid out so your team always knows the correct steps for execution.

In addition, templates help streamline repeatable, improvable workflows and allow you and your team to constantly learn from mistakes or inefficiencies.

Best-practice: Think outside the triangle

It's time to think about work delivery in a different way. Instead of confining work to the constraint triangle, define what "done" and "winning" should look like during the planning phrase of work. Delivery, then, is successful when you've met the standards set at the beginning of the work lifecycle, which may be more, less, or different from scope, budget, and time. The key is to deliver what you committed to deliver.

Step 4: Attend to your wounds, but celebrate your triumph

Best-practice: Keep everything in one place

Keep your work, collaboration, and documents in one place, or at least within as few tools as possible. Doing so helps keep all of your important data centralized, which will save you time in the long run.

Best-practice: 'Lessons learned' activity

Keeping all your performance data in a central location is an improvement goldmine. Equally as important is team analysis of the data in a formalized "lessons learned" activity.

Teams should discuss together what worked, what didn't, and how they can be more efficient and successful next time. When you're done, you can incorporate feedback into your templates to make sure next time runs more smoothly.

Remember: The right weapon makes all the difference

As work dragons grow larger and more complex, trying to slay them with conventional weapons becomes increasingly ineffective. Following these tips has helped us and our clients kill the dragons—or at least shrink them down to a manageable size—transforming any project process into a seamless, unified collaborative system that prevents the burn of work pandemonium before it even starts.

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From Marketer to Dragon Slayer: Slay Work Chaos in Four Simple Steps

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image of Bryan Nielson

Bryan Nielson is the CMO and work management evangelist at AtTask, maker of cloud-based enterprise work management solutions. He is the author of the e-book The Five Most Dangerous Marketing Productivity Myths: BUSTED!

LinkedIn: Bryan Nielson

Twitter: @AtTask