Managing projects remotely can feel very different from collaborating from the same office but, with a bit of extra preparation and planning, they can be just as successful.
While we work from home, many of existing projects must continue. Indeed, some of us are beginning new projects directly in response to the effects of the pandemic and its associated disruption.
Business Optimizer considers tips for how to ensure the success of remotely managed projects.
Wade Foster, Co-Founder of Zapier, an automation software company that has relied on remote teams from day one, underlines how important it is to hire people you can trust. And then to trust them to do the job they were hired for.
Plan how you are going to deal with challenges of working remotely. International teams throw in additional complications – from language barriers and cultural differences to the problems of working across different time zones. Most of these challenges can be solved through good communication, so this is one of the most important aspects to get right.
To form remote teams that work well together, communication needs to go beyond what is strictly necessary to get the job done.
Catch up daily on tasks and performance against the plan in daily stand-ups. Then schedule weekly hangouts for team building. Wade Foster advocates scheduling calls between randomly paired buddies each week, so team members can get to know each other.
Managers should also schedule weekly one-to-ones to catch up with everyone in the team.
Productivity apps and project-by-project messaging and document management and video conferencing tools are going to be essential. Microsoft Teams will take care of most of the essentials, but for major projects a project management system, such as Asana, workflow automation tool, such as Zapier, or task-tracking solution, such as TeamworkPM, can add an extra layer of oversight.
Forbes contributor Kevin Kruse recommends that you establish a video-first culture when managing projects remotely. This way, you can use and observe non-verbal communication. As well as being better for team building, Kruse says video also encourages a more professional approach – both in terms of location when participating in a call and in getting dressed in the morning!
Writing in Entrepreneur, Rocco Baldassarre recommends having clear and detailed deliverables. This avoids the need to micro-manage while creating space for team members to achieve the desired results creatively and in the way that best suits them.
If you are using freelancers, agree on clear project stages and expectations for each stage. Pay in installments and agree on incentives for certain performance, delivery, and deadline objectives. Make sure these payments are closely aligned with your defined deliverables. This way, everyone is pulling towards the same (right) goals.
Harvard Business Review says, “the best way to ensure everyone’s doing their jobs is to set clear expectations for each role and have regular check-ins to gauge progress.”
It suggests these regular one-to-ones with each team member should not only be about holding them accountable for performance but also “to check in on workload and support needed”.
The three main challenges when managing remote teams are communication, trust, and productivity, according to Harvard Business Review. As we’ve seen, these three aspects all play into each other.
However, by establishing good processes and defining expectations clearly in advance, much of the complexities of managing projects across remote teams can be mitigated.