Easier Project & Company Task Management using Microsoft Planner

Tanner Lytle
Tanner Lytle
July 1, 2021

This is the third part of my "productivity journey" using Microsoft 365 that I have been wanting to share.  In the first part - "Time Blocking Your Calendar in Outlook" - I shared how organizing my calendar keeps me on track throughout the day.  "How to Setup Microsoft To-Do to Get Things Done" - dug in deeper and introduced how I use To-Do lists that I sync alongside my calendar to capture, clarify, organize, review, and engage all of the things that I need to get done.  In this article, I want to expand these ideas past just myself and introduce how to use Microsoft Planner to manage shared & company tasks.

Microsoft Planner is a great solution for that business owner, project manager, or someone within a company who has needs to keep multiple people organized and understanding what they need to accomplish and within what timeframe.

I couple of years ago, I was introduced to the EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) through the book, Traction by Gino Wickman.  This book had been spreading around like wildfire through industry forums and reference in many books & articles that I was reading at the time.  I shared the book with Honorbound IT's owner, Greg Fyn and he loved the concepts behind it.

Here is a video that we recorded that goes deeper into the concepts of the book.

A major part of the EOS system revolves around the Level 10 meeting.  The premise around around a level to meeting is around every meeting in the company starting and ending on time.  During the meeting, the issues and problems that are identified as the most important are tackled and solved in depth.  The meeting is also used to keep track of the "pulse" of the business which allows us to proactively find and solve smaller issues before they grow into large disruptive problems.

Organization is paramount when it comes to these Level 10 meetings.  So having a centralized shared area where topics and issues can be created, reviewed, and edited by anyone who attends the meeting is one of the first things to setup correctly when starting.  Microsoft Planner checks all of the boxes that Level 10 requires:

  • Secure centralized area where only those in the Team have access to view / edit the information
  • Easy to use interface that allows us to focus on the content rather than the application.
  • The ability to assign tasks to team members with due dates that can be added to an online calendar.
  • Checklists, Document Storage, & Notes for tasks, so everyone can know specifically what the task requires.
  • Comments so everyone can easily collaborate and keep up to date on the tasks progression.

How to Get Started with Microsoft Planner

To get thing's started we need to visit Microsoft Planner from our website at - https://tasks.office.com/
(quick note: Microsoft loves to rename their apps / products which is why the URL's can be different named than current product names)

Here is where we begin at the Planner Hub.  This is where we can easily view all of the "Plans" that we are a member of and choose which one we want to view.

To create a new Plan, let's select the "+ New plan" button at the top left of the screen.

Here I'll give the new plan a name of Level 10 Meeting.  The privacy of the group can be set as public or private.  I am going to choose private since only those on the Leadership Team should have access to this plan.  A group description can also be added by selecting the options drop down.  Once everything is reviewed, press "Create plan".

Here we are brought to the newly created Level 10 group.  Before I start adding other members, I need to customize this plan, following along with the EOS's structure for a Level 10 meeting.

I am going to create new buckets that our tasks can be categorized and organized into. How a level 10 meeting structured as followed:

  • Segue
    Time: 5 Minutes
    The team shares their top personal and professional good news from the week.
  • Scorecard
    Time: 5 Minutes
    Each person reports their numbers on the numbers.  This part is reporting only, if there is a problem with a reported number an issues card is made.
  • Rock Review
    Time: 5 Minutes
    Rocks are quarterly goals set by each member of the team.  Each week you answer "On Track", "Off Track" or "Complete".
  • Customer & Employee Headlines
    Time: 5 Minutes
    Here is where any news from the company is shared.
  • To-Do List
    Time: 5 Minutes
    A top to bottom review of the list to find if they are "Complete" or "In-Complete".  If a problem is found on the To-Do list that task is moved to the issues list.
  • Issues List (IDS)
    Time: 60 Minutes
    Issues on the list are prioritized and discussed in order of importance determined by the team.  IDS stands for Identify, Discuss, and Solve.  Here the leadership teams work together to identify clearly what the issue is, discuss the real reasons for it, and collaborate to solve the issue.  A to-do list item may be added based off what comes the IDS discussion and assigned to a certain team member.
  • Conclude
    Time: 5 Minutes
    A quick recap of the To-Do list and rate the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10.  The goal of a Level 10 meeting is every meeting should end up being overwhelming rated a 10 (this is harder in practice than theory)

Taking a look how the Level 10 meeting is structured, we then need to determine what parts need to have tasks assigned to them a make a bucket.   The scorecard, we track on a spreadsheet to keep a good view of our numbers and the Segue / Conclude are just discussions.  So, Rocks, Headlines, To-Do, and Issues (IDS) are going to be the designated zones for the cards in our Level 10 Meeting.      This "bucket" structure is a super powerful and flexible way to customize any plan based off it's own process.

To create a new bucket, we simply click "Add new bucket"

Here the four bucket columns are now setup.  With Microsoft Planner, the interface allows us to click & move a lot of the elements to organize them in a way that makes the most sense.

Now the structure is setup, I need to add my Leadership Team members to the plan. From the Members dropdown at the top right we can type in the name of those who we want to add to the group.  They will automatically be sent an email letting them know they have joined and will be able to view it from their own Planner hub.

Creating Tasks

Okay, its now the day for the level 10 meeting and we are all together (in-person and/or via a Microsoft Teams meeting) and we need to create tasks.  Picking from the bucket we want to create a task for, select "+ Add task"

Here a task card will appear and we will give the task a name, set a due date, and assigned the task to a member of the plan.  Once that is done, selecting the "Add task" button will create the task and allow us to fill in more information.

Selecting the task will expand it's information and let us fill in additional areas including:

  • Labels
  • Progress
  • Priority
  • Start Dates
  • Notes
  • Checklists
  • Attachments
  • Notes

Tasks can be dragged and moved into other buckets.  This is especially valuable in the Level 10 meeting structure as tasks can be moved into the Issue (IDS) bucket for review and then back to area's such as the To-Do list once the issue has been resolved.

Before and during Level 10 meeting the tasks can be filled out, reviewed, and refined and this plan will become a living hub for the company.  It's a fantastic resource for everyone in the plan to keep up and collaborate together.

Charts Tab

The Charts tab within Planner gives information for all of the tasks including status, priority, and how much is assigned to each member.

Schedule Tab

The Schedule tab is a shared calendar for all of the members in the Planner team.  Here is an overview of time frames for tasks and helps manage the teams deadlines.

Using Planner in Microsoft Teams

If any company's communication revolves around Microsoft Teams — if they are using Microsoft 365 then they should be ;) — you can create a plan right from the Team!  Within the respective team just select the "+ Add a tab" button.

Select "Tasks by Planner and To Do"

Here we can choose to "Create a new plan" or "Use an existing plan from this team".  Let's create a new Plan called Level 10 Meeting, and create a plan just like we did previously.

Here we can create our buckets and add our tasks.  Anyone in that trams group will be able to click the Level 10 Meeting tab within Teams and quickly get up to date on what's going on.

In Conclusion

Microsoft Planner is an incredibly powerful and versatile tool within the Microsoft 365 tool that any business can use to manage tasks & projects internally or shared with customers and outside vendors.  It's easy to learn which allows it to be used effectively even by those with limited technology experience.  This one tool can make a huge impact on any business!

If the Level 10 meeting and other concepts from EOS sounded appealing, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Traction or Get a Grip.  The two books have been a huge jumping off point for us here at Honorbound IT and the foundation for the operations of our business.

Tanner Lytle
Leading the Sales Department of Honorbound IT, Tanner is the main point of contact for a new and existing customers. When not working with others, he is busy updating the website and creating articles and videos!