Sometimes, it is more efficient to operate independently. Bees would waste a lot of time and energy if fifteen of them ganged up on the same flower at one time, for instance. In a variety of circumstances and because technology is developing so much, working remotely has become a practical means of getting jobs done faster. A blog post from PDU 4 PMP gives us eight tips on how to better manage project teams remotely:
- Create a strong team
- Start with a solid foundation
- Meet regularly
- Proper communication methods in place
- Communication that is consistent
- Time Zone
- Establish goals to manage performance
A strong team is something you hope to have in any case, but here it will behoove you if the project manager selected has had former experience working with remote teams. Having a solid foundation in place from the beginning will help to ensure that all team members understand the purpose and direction of the project even when input from others is unavailable. This means that, for example, if a vital member of your project is kidnapped by ninjas, the foundation already in place will help you to understand what else needs to be done in the absence of that unfortunate person. But if nobody has been kidnapped, the team should try to meet regularly:
Regular meetings will help ensure that all team members are reading from the same hymn sheet. While “catch up” meetings may not be ideal for everyone, when working remotely on a project it is necessary. For team members that can’t meet face to face, using things such as Skype or Google+ can help overcome this barrier. The meetings do not need to be long, make sure you have an agenda and stick to it. Sticking to the agenda will help ensure all points are covered at each meeting. This will help eliminate miscommunication and any misunderstandings that could cause hiccups in the project.
You need to decide formally how best the team can interact with each other, whether it is through company intranet, video messaging, social media, or another method, but instant messaging is especially useful to have. Communication should be consistent enough that the project manager always has a handle on the current shape of the project. Be mindful of differences in time zone when scheduling work so that nobody is waiting on somebody else to proceed with a task. Keep the team motivated for the project to help decrease the odds that your team members are doing their remote “work” from an arcade at the mall. And finally, establishing goals and reporting on their completion is useful in letting team members know what work is most important and how to better accomplish similar goals in the future.
The difference between in-house management and managing remotely can be a difference of three miles or three thousand miles, but the same basic principles apply. As always, it is all about effective communication between team members. Managing remotely is a case where “stay in touch” is ironically the most important rule.