How to Manage Remote Teams
Watch this short video to learn how to manage remote teams…
Hi, I’m Devin Deen, the Content Director here at ProjectManager.com. In our distributed world it’s a rare luxury for us as project managers to be managing a project team that are in the same place all at the same time from the start of the project to the end of the project. The reality is that we’re all going to have the opportunity to manage remote teams. I use some techniques to help me better manage my remote project teams, and I’d like to share those with you today.
First off it’s about communications. Actually it’s all about communications. There’s nothing but communications. That is the secret sauce to getting your remote team to deliver in the same performance level that you would a team working together. In fact in some occasions, deliver even better and have higher quality then a project team that’s working together physically in the same room.
First off you want to do a team building activity. Now when we have project teams that are working together in the same office location, we have the opportunity to take everyone to a team lunch or maybe do a little bit of a challenging team building activity.
When you’ve got team members that are out there remotely in different parts of the world, New York, Los Angeles, New Zealand, Sydney Australia, you don’t have that opportunity. But it doesn’t give you an excuse not to do a team building activity. You might do a fun webinar. You might find another opportunity such as doing a team game, an online multi-player game or a quiz show.
Whatever it is, get creative and do some sort of team building activity that involves every member of your team at the start of your project. Whatever it is, leverage the technology that you have to get some sort of team building activity together for your project team members that are in remote locations.
Next, encourage and build interpersonal relationships amongst the team. It’s the team that’s going to come together and deliver the outcome that you’re looking for. If you’ve got a whole bunch of individuals out in little pockets, in little isolated spaces, they’re never going to come together and actually get the synergies that teams have. You’ve got to build that synergy yourself. Somehow encourage those personal relationships to build.
Maybe spend a few minutes on the weekly phone call or the daily stand up to talk about people’s weekend or what their kid’s doing next week. Perhaps start a Facebook page or some other social media outlet to encourage those personal relationships to build.
It’s important that you do that, that you find a way to ensure that your team members are getting to know each other beyond the scope of the project. Because it’s those relationships that are the ones that you’re going to use when your project does get into crisis, which they all do from time to time.
Next, the daily stand up. You got to do a daily stand up, there’s no two ways about it. Get everyone together on the phone, on the web, to do a 15 minute hey here’s where are today, this is where we’re going today, this looks like success at the end of the day. Let’s get ready for tomorrow. You’ve got to do those daily standups. I can’t emphasize that enough.
They don’t need to be long. Fifteen minutes is good enough to do the deed. You’ve got to have those though. If you skip out on the daily standups, you’re going to find that your project is going to get out away from you. And because you’re not physically there to watch it and watch what people are doing, it has a greater tendency to do that unless you stay on top of it. Daily standups are a must.
Phone conferencing, video conferencing or web sharing. Look, use all the technology items that you have at your disposal to get that project to communicate and interact together. If phone conferencing is the best you can do, hey, it’s better than nothing. Get people together on the phone at the same time. E-mailing one another is not good enough. That doesn’t count for communication in the team because it’s asynchronous. You need to get synchronous communication happening.
Do it by a phone conferencing video or even web sharing. What I like about web sharing is that you’ve got one team members desktop open and the rest of them can look at it so they have that common perspective, that common viewpoint. Video conferencing is good for that as well, but maybe you might not have the bandwidth to enable that. You can still use phone conferencing.
The important thing is that you’re having that synchronous communication happening within the team. Asynchronous communication is not going to do it for you. It’s not good enough to ensure that your team’s going to deliver to their objectives when you want them to.
Follow the sun. This is an old time rule for doing software development back in the 80′s and 90′s. Always do your software development in ways that follow the sun. For example, you might have the person who’s doing the requirements gathering start off or do that from Los Angeles. Whereas the developers might be in Sydney or New Zealand, who are a few hours behind the Los Angeles business and analysts doing the requirements.
The reason why that’s good is because as this person comes up with some problems or has some business questions, the folks in later time zones can actually work on those through the night so that when this person comes into work the next day, they’ve got answers to the question.
If you can find a way to organize your project team so you can leverage the movements of the sun throughout the different time zones of the world, you’ll find that you’ll have a more contiguous, less disjointed project team delivering to the outcomes that you’re looking for.
Lastly, daily summaries. It’s really important to get your project team members in the habit of doing a quick 5 minute e-mail that sums up what they did in the day, what some of the issues they had, what are some of the problems they are encountering and what you can help them with. And also what they’re looking for to do the next day.
Even if that only gets read by you occasionally it’s important that you get them in the habit of doing that to-do list. Because as I’ve mentioned before, remote teams have a tendency of going off in their direction because they’re not working under one roof. Get them to do the daily summaries, they can share that with one another, and they can ensure that everyone is still keeping pace with the rest of the project team.
Managing remote teams can be both a blessing and a curse. I’ve found it to be a blessing because I use these techniques to bring everyone together. The important thing is as a project manager you’re a leader. So whether you’ve got a team member in Timbuktu or just around the corner, it’s your job to get them to work together and lead that project team. And you do it through all the various means of communication I’ve talked about here.
Good luck in bringing the world together on your projects.
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