The power of templates to 10x your team

Google Docs templates. Image credit: Google system blog
Google Slides template. Image credit: Google system blog

Scalable, repeatable processes are key in facilitating a team’s culture, best practices and boosting productivity. Mission statements, goals and objectives are a pre-requisite for this but from there on the path to success at times is unclear and approached ad-hoc.

Here come in templates — specifically I am talking about templates in documents, sheets and presentations. Hold on, templates?! Really? Yes, really templates. They are powerful.

The common problems with most teams and organizations are lack of communication, definition/scope of work and ownership. These are some examples where templates are useful but you can use this technique elsewhere too.

The first step is to identify points of friction in your team. There are multiple ways to do this — from simply asking people, observations and retrospectives. More on that some time later. From that point, you can leverage the power of templates to remove frictions once in for all.

If you want better communication across the organization create a template for meeting notes, weekly status emails and project results.

If you want better definition for projects and work done by your team including scope, features, principles put together a template for a project spec.

If you want better analysis and reviews then create a template for post launch analysis which asks for things that went well, went wrong and action items for all the project stakeholders.

Templates serve great purposes in

  1. Removing friction points — in every aspect of a team’s work from development to ideation to analysis.
  2. Raising the bar with expectations from team members.
  3. Onboarding — Helping onboard new team members by guiding them through the team’s culture and practices.
  4. Continuous improvement — Let’s people contribute outside of their immediate work by evolving the template to include things that have worked best for them and the team.
  5. Habit formation — In a a couple of instances people become proficient at filling these out and you can establish positive habits even in a seasoned team.
  6. Consistency — Most importantly and immediately it enforces a consistent way to collect, document and share information broadly. This reduces the cognitive load for the readers in parsing information and finding the most important pieces of information of interest to them.

A template should be

  1. Comprehensive in covering all the aspects related to the purpose. For a spec include sections for motivation, principles, background, objectives, timelines, assumptions, owners, launch criteria, success criteria, details, customer personas and anything else useful.
  2. Demand people to fill out not just the easy and obvious parts but all the hard parts too. This requires more thought and analysis from the author but it’s exactly what you want happening. Templates should be generic but not much in a template should be made optional. This forces people to think hard about all aspects of the problem they are addressing not just the ones that occur to them.
  3. Enforced to be used for every instance — Don’t make exceptions just because you don’t have time or its too much effort.
  4. Owned collectively — Maintaining and owning the template is everyone’s responsibility. Don’t delegate this to one person. The more ownership people have with refining the process and structure the better.

So give it a shot and let me know how it goes. I’d love you hear your thoughts. Here’s how to get started.