Recently I saw an interesting question posted on reddit about Remote Project Management.
With more and more business being managed as projects there will be increasing need to use and therefore work effectively with remote project teams.
Contents of this blog post.
How to work with remote teams
This post is part of a number of articles on projects, you can read more here.
There is also lots of useful stuff on project management methodologies and how to start a project and checklists that you can use.
There are also some useful templates that you can use to start a project including a statement of work template. Also the most popular product, a simple to use template to price your project so that you can actually see if you will make or lose money.
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The future of work and Remote Project Management
There are several macro trends that are driving changes to the how the work place of the future will be.
• More collaboration, in particular with the community of interest that surrounds the business or project
• Non hierarchical organizations with flat structures that ebb and flow and come together for projects and then disperse.
• A borderless workforce, no longer will you just go to the talent pool in your company, office, state or country. You will seek out and engage with the best resources and at the best price.
• The sharing economy continues to drive business to come together to solve problems and the inputs and actions of resources to work on these projects will not always be co located.
These macro forces or waves of change mean that project managers must have the skills and experience to work with remote teams and drive the project and collaboration of people who are often not often located in the same country or even in the same time zone or even sharing a common language.
Fun and challenging times.
Set regular communicate catch ups; IM or conference call sessions
In any business engagement communication is key but managing remote project teams this becomes doubly so. A good project manager will set up regular project meetings or catch up for the key members of the project to come together. There technology to make this happen has exploded from old style conference and video calls to webex sessions, google hangouts, IM chat, and collaboration tools. The list is almost endless. However the key to success is to have the project core teams meetings regularly scheduled and do not allow the challenges of distance and time zones to distract from having regular communications. Some people may miss the odd meeting but once the project meeting becomes part of the regular cadence or rhythm of the team, people will see the value of making time to join and contribute.
Set clear defined objectives and milestones and monitor progress
This should be 101 stuff for any good project manager but I have seen many conference calls or hangouts get distracted by the novelty of being able to discuss the weather or current events and lose the focus of a driven project team. A good project manager will set clear objectives, get agreement on the milestones and use the input from the teams to track and monitor progress.
Loop in remote staff as required, don't just CC on every email and expect them to be up to date.
Communicate as appropriate. The core team may be located in one location so it is important to keep remote project teams up to date with key communications, for example external factors, political/ business changes in direction. However it is important to balance that communication with the need to not over communicate or flood remote teams with every bt of information. Often remote teams are engaged for a particular task and they need to be focused and kept on task. Extra messages, meetings and communications can sometimes dilute that focus.
It is a balancing act that comes with experience.
Team meetings to let everyone have a voice
Team meetings and “town hall” style get together to allow all project team members to have a voice and to get a sense of some of the underlying messages and directions within a project. In addition the larger project team meetings as opposed to core team meetings are useful to take a pulse on how the project is going, seek feedback and validation that everything is heading in the right direction. Sometimes people may be reluctant to talk up in open forums but this is a challenge for co located as well as remote teams. Keeping them regular will give people confidence to contribute. In addition team meetings can be used to celebrated the wins along the way and tell the stories of individual contributors.
Visit remote teams
If budget and time allows and you will be working with the remote team on a regular basis it is very useful to shake hands with the team and build a stronger working relationship.
Depends on the project budget of course, there is no point in using cost effective remote teams if the budget blows out due to extensive travel and co location of teams, even for short periods of time this can be expensive.
Know local holidays and working hours
This is a courtesy and respect issue. There are plenty of tools and information available to allow you to be aware of local holidays. Take the time to get to know your team and any upcoming holidays. They will be more appreciative of the time you have taken and it will also reduce the risk of surprises when a remote team is suddenly not available due to a public holiday that you were no aware of, which might overlap with a major project milestone.
Get the best from time zones
In an always on, 24 hour world that does not mean that you have to be awake for 24 hours, but you can take advantage that someone may be working while you are asleep. One of the best uses for time zones differences is to have a status report prepared overnight for the project manager so that he/she can get address any issues or risks first thing in the morning without waiting for a remote team to come on line.
Track & Measure
Again this is 101 stuff for a good project manager. When working with remote project teams the ability to track and measure progress is made easy with one line collaboration tools. Also having the status and updates updated prior to the regular catch up will allow the teams when they come together is to focus on the blocking issues and risks and be more proactive rather than trying to get status updates.
Much of the management of remote teams is basic project management but can be enhanced through the use of planning, cultural sensitivity and the use of good collaboration tools.
Thanks for reading