GTD is presented primarily as a personal management system; it proposes a set of best organizational practices for individuals to effectively manage both their personal and professional lives. This individualistic approach makes it a bit difficult to see how these practices relate to teamwork.
David Allen, the author of the methodology, argues that, in the same way that simply knowing how to read helps the members of an organization to work better, knowing the processes and behaviors associated with the GTD methodology will help the members of a team perform optimally.
The same principles that help a person as an individual to stay focused and get things under control can be applied to a team. Understanding what has the team’s attention is crucial to directing focus to the problems, opportunities and challenges that need to be dealt with.
First you have to identify these issues, then you have to define them very well, and finally you have to organize them efficiently in order to carry them out. These are exactly the same stages we use as individuals.
All GTD processes can be applied to collaborative teams. Even the Weekly Review, something that usually isn’t done in these environments, is very useful to identify and make progress on the most relevant projects at the current moment, as well as to follow up on the defined objectives. This type of reflection needs to be done on a regular basis.
Ultimately, work defined in a team is performed by the people in it. The effectiveness of this individual work benefits from the use of the GTD methodology at a personal level, and the productivity of the team benefits from the synergies of the behaviors adopted by all individuals and an overall higher level of vision.
For this to happen it’s important that the group leader “does” GTD and applies it both individually and in the team. It’s also true that if any team member does not implement the methodology, the overall effectiveness won’t be optimal.
Of course, implementing GTD in a team requires a little more work than implementing it on a personal level:
- All team members must be trained in the methodology.
- Responsibilities for the different aspects of the work must be perfectly defined.
- Protocols for access and use of information, and related software, must be clear so that everyone can fully trust the system.
If you are interested in going a little deeper into the subject, a while ago I wrote an article about the benefits and challenges of using GTD in organizations.