How to Break Down Big Projects into Weekly Goals

How to Break Down Big Projects into Weekly Goals

Late nights, working on weekends, and missed deadlines are a signal that the team isn't breaking down big, audacious projects into weekly deliverables and action items. Managers and team members will turn to each other, demanding to know, “What have you been working on up until now? What have you been doing since this project started?” Team trust corrodes, burnout spikes, and ultimately, the work quality suffers. If teams are inspired at the start of a project but exhausted by the final deliverable, your team needs more structure. NOBL often sets up teams with a "Shipping Sprint." The goal is to outline three things each week:

  1. What we want to deliver
  2. How we will move the work forward
  3. How we can help each other along the way

To start getting your team on a similar schedule, set up a shared Trello board with three lists: To Do, Completed, and Blocked. Invite the entire team into the board—bonus points if you add a fourth list for Team Goals! (If your team doesn't use Trello, you can use Google Docs, Evernote, or even Post-it notes on a wall; the point is to get everyone's to-do list in one place.)

How to Break Down Big Projects into Weekly Goals

Monday

  1. Start the week with a 60-minute planning meeting. Holding a meeting first thing on Monday helps everyone figure out what they should be working on for the rest of the week.
  2. Add individual to-do's. For the first five minutes, let team members silently list their to do’s for the week. Encourage people to add owners and due dates on each card.
  3. Move on to calendar review. Conduct a check-in round and take 5 minutes for a calendar review, asking who’s in and who’s out of the office this week.
  4. Share deliverables. Return to the Trello board (or other shared checklist) and let each team member share what they plan to ship this week. To save your team members from reciting a laundry list, prompt people to highlight top-level deliverables they plan to create by Friday.
  5. Hold a last call. In closing, set aside 5 minutes for a last call for team members to ask what they might need from one another.

Tuesday through Thursday

The bulk of the week is focused on moving work along. During this time, teams work, call meetings, and communicate to get work done. Let team members do what they need Tuesday through Thursday to work on what they plan to ship for the week.

Friday

  1. Set aside 60 minutes on Friday morning for a closing meeting. We recommend starting the day with a meeting—that way, there's still time to address issues that come up during the meeting.
  2. Check off goals. For the first five minutes, let team members silently move Trello cards from To Do to Completed. (Bonus points if your team has a shared dashboard: this is also a good time for the team to fill in and track progress made that week.)
  3. Share results. Review the Trello board and allow each member of the team to share what they shipped, and any blockers they faced that week. Encourage the team to also share learnings from the week when reviewing what got done and what didn’t.
  4. Get ready for next week. To end the meeting, have each person in the meeting share in a single sentence either a goal for next week or kudos for someone on the team. For the rest of the day, the team should focus on removing blockers for one another or making a last push on what they plan to ship for the week.

Takeaway: No two teams are the same, and how you accomplish weekly goals will differ depending on what people need from each other. But finding a series of meetings or habits that help the team break down big projects into weekly deliverables will make you more productive and prevent end-of-project crunch time.

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