In today’s technological society and business world, we have no choice but to adopt technology. Although one may argue that technology has complicated our lives, one also may argue that is has made us more efficient, helped us to become more organized, and even helped streamline our professional lives. As a result, we are able to perform business tasks and run businesses solely online. While this has become an added benefit to business, project managers encountered the challenge of managing teams remotely. Here are 10 methods to managing your remote team.
- Get to Know Your Team – You should always begin by getting to know each other on your team. Unfortunately, one of the shortcomings of working with a remote team is that you most likely cannot meet in one conference room at one time and meet one another face to face. However, you can set up conference calls where you can voice chat via Skype where you can at least see the other people.
- Set a Team Plan and Schedule – When you are managing different remote teams you should start by establishing a team plan. It is best to work out a communication plan and schedule. This is important since your team most likely consists of working with different team members based in areas all over the world. As a result, team members located in different time zones will work at various times and schedules.
- Set Team Goals and Objectives – Project managers should also establish team goals and objectives and methods to achieve these goals. Each team member should be assigned a different responsibility and should tackle one area of a particular project. This way the work load is even and fair and is directed towards a team member’s particular skill set and experience level. When discussing team roles and responsibilities, don’t forget about yourself. Be sure to make it clear on what your role will be in the task and how you can be contacted if needed.
- Set a Weekly Agenda – Setting a weekly agenda with your team should include different times of the day or week that you will be meeting to discuss projects in the pipeline and any issues or concerns that may arise. Use this time wisely. Be sure to stay on task and address any and all issues related to projects or the business as a whole.
- Communicate – With working remotely, communication becomes even harder to maintain and manage. People may work at different schedules and different time zones which may be difficult for team members to ask you questions or your advice on addressing a particular issue. In order to address this, communication methods must be open at all times. Schedule a conference or video conference call often. Send out group emails addressing particular projects. Ask team members for feedback and updates on projects.
- Leverage Technology – Project managers should use technology to their advantage when managing a remote team. It can be somewhat cumbersome to use email for the transfer of files and other data. It may be helpful to set up tasks using a web based project management tool, such as BaseCamp, in order to keep track of project tasks and responsibilities. These types of tools and systems also allow for comments and have chat features so you can touch base on team members on a particular task. You can also use Dropbox to update and transfer files easily. Many files are too large to send via email and it can be tricky when more than one person is working on a file.
- Keep Detailed Records – While using technology and systems are great and work to your advantage, it is also pertinent for project managers to keep data and records of their own. You may choose to use your own program or spreadsheet to keep track of team goals and objectives, projects, budgets, etc. You can also choose to share this information with other team members via technology.
- Don’t Micromanage – Project managers that are used to working in a physical, on site dynamic may have some difficulty transitioning to a remote team. As a result, it may be difficult or challenging to keep track of projects, deadlines, tasks, and team members that you can’t physically see each day. As a result, it can be easy to develop a micromanaging attitude. Do your best to avoid this. Micromanaging a remote team will surely result in failure if you are not careful.
- Plan For Technical Difficulties – While technology created the ability to work remotely, it isn’t without its pitfalls. With relying on technology to work on a daily basis, it can also fail us. It is best to have team strategy put in place should technical difficulties occur. For example, no team members should be allowed to save crucial project data on their hard drives or machines. Computers break and crash all the time. They should be utilizing project servers, FTP sites, file sharing/backup services like DropBox, or other web based tools for storing files. If your team relies heavily on chat interfaces and email to communicate, have back up contact methods readily available, such as an alternate email or phone number.
- Host Webinars – Host a webinar related to a particular project or training whenever possible. This may be most useful at the beginning of a project. By utilizing a webinar you can demonstrate strategies for attacking the project, important notes or points to remember, and analyze project specifications together.
Working remotely can be effective with these key points in mind. As a project manager, be sure that each team member is aware of his or her responsibilities and how much more important they are in working with a remote team. It is up to each member of the team to be proactive and responsible for his or her role in the project. Each team member should adhere to their roles and communicate with the one another when necessary so that each project is successful.