Just because it’s a “good problem to have,” doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be solved.
In 2014, this award-winning Denver nonprofit was growing and its impact was expanding. That brought more opportunities and more to do. And more to do meant a larger team, which meant tasks were more widely distributed.
More cooks in the kitchen.
Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute had a good problem.
The team found that their collaboration that used to be manageable in conversations and to-do lists was now becoming a muddled process. The team was tracking important tasks in an ad-hoc fashion on spreadsheets, but those didn’t provide good visibility over people’s workloads or projects’ progress.
Priorities were not clear. Opportunities were fumbled. Too much to do and no clear plan to get it done.
It’s the opposite of workflow—maybe you identify.
This is where our process comes in. As consultants, we have the luxury of seeing workflow problems from a new angle. And we really know our software and can see how the right tools can solve these problems.
For RMMFI, we evaluated their needs and requirements based on their specific tasks and the roadblocks they encountered. Most importantly, we spent time getting to know the people on the team and how they worked together.
If the solution doesn’t fit you and the way you work, you won’t use it.
The team at Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute is highly creative and energetic. Leaders value and encourage input and participation from everyone on the team.
We knew that whatever tool we chose to help them to manage collaboration and workflow, it would have to match the team dynamic. It couldn’t stifle creativity or leave anyone out.
How do you turn the squishy details of how a team collaborates (or doesn’t) into a data-driven decision? You turn feedback into requirements and develop a system for evaluating possible solutions.
We combine a tool scoring system with facts about the organization and our software expertise in a requirements matrix.
For RMMFI’s software solution, we asked “How should it function?” and “Will it play nice with their existing software?”
From that starting point, we added our short list of best-fit tools to the matrix. Each tool was evaluated and ranked on a scale from 1 to 5.
The scoring system helps us get a clear winner from the many options. Since RMMFI already used Salesforce to manage their contacts lists, we included Task Ray, a Salesforce project management app, as one of our tools to evaluate.
Task Ray provided the visibility RMMFI needed with a Kanban board-style project dashboard. Kanban, a method for organizing tasks, is a secret weapon lean manufacturing and software dev teams have been using for years. This style of dashboard gives the whole team visibility into each task and where it is in the process. It also reveals where the process is breaking down and where bottlenecks are holding things up.
Task Ray also had the reports the organization needed for tracking the progress of each project and for tracking each person’s workload. Plus it would integrate with Salesforce.
We had our winner.
The right tool probably won’t fit perfectly right off the rack. A skilled tailor makes an off-the-rack piece look like it was made for you, and tailoring is a key to our implementation.
We started by customizing Task Ray’s projects and tasks interface by adding additional fields for RMMFI’s work, using language that aligned with their internal vocabulary.
We added field validations to make sure the data for each task and project matched the data RMMFI needed to track. And we loaded Task Ray with data from the organization’s 2015 task list, creating a starter framework for team members to start using.
Here’s where implementation got interesting.
Just a few weeks after rolling out our team training session, individual one-on-one sessions, and “cheat-sheets” with step by step instructions, the RMMFI staff stopped using the new tool.
Had we failed? Was the software the wrong solution?
Not at all. Using the tool made it clear to the team just where their business processes needed some tweaking. and it spurred them to talk about it and get their internal processes in order.
Just like the small businesses RMMFI champions, they, too, are learning as they go and grow.
The team is still finding the just-right balance between process and creativity with this software, and we are there to make sure the technology works as hard as they do while they take on all those new challenges and seize those new opportunities.
I’m delighted to be a part of helping RMMFI do more and do it better. This is an organization whose mission is to make opportunity available to everyone and to create economic and social mobility through entrepreneurship. They offer business skills education, mentorship, and micro lending to fund dozens of small businesses from idea to launch every year.
Through our collaboration, I got engaged in the RMMFI community by volunteering with their entrepreneurs. There’s just no substitute for getting involved in order to understand a team’s culture and what they stand for.
I have built strong relationships with this team, and that gave us at Mocko Consulting more effective insight to bring to our work.
It’s the same kind of relational problem solving we bring to all our clients. Let us know if you have a good problem you’d like us to take a look at. We look forward to getting to know you and helping you solve those good problems.
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