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How To Manage Remote Project Teams

Over the last 10 years, technology has provided more opportunity for teams to collaborate remotely, whether working from home, varied offices, or another country. This brings potential communication barriers into the picture. Remote project teams Email, text messaging, teleconferencing, among other technologies, have allowed for project teams to collaborate effectively. Working remotely, however, can also create some challenges when working as a team. Main Leading Teams Page

As project managers, we want to continue our success in managing teams that not only keep up with technology but also allow us to produce the same, if not better, results as if we are working with our teams locally.  From a high level, consider managing your project remotely similar to how you manage a local project.  From a not-as-high level, differences do exist between managing a local versus remote project. Below are five suggestions to effectively manage your remote teams.

  1. Conduct Remote Project Teams Kick-Off as You Would for Local Projects
    Managing a project remotely may not allow for a face-to-face initial kick-off meeting, however the same principles should apply during initiation, determining scope, etc.  Brainstorming sessions, although potentially easier in person, can still be conducted thoroughly via teleconference or even better, video conference.  This is opportunity to identify as many questions, concerns, ideas, timelines, constraints, etc., as possible to help ensure clarity toward the end goal throughout the project.
    Other Suggestions:  Kick-off with a clear agenda that includes project purpose, goals, and success factors; ensure team member roles are established and why; include appropriate people to positively support the project.
  2. If in Your Control, Form Strong Remote Project Teams
    If you have opportunity to build your own remote project team, motivated, positive, and self-sufficient team members (and of course knowledgeable) are ideal in a remote environment.  A self-sufficient and motivated team member will help offset the potential communication challenges a remote environment offers like time zones, meeting availability, or lack of face-to-face meetings.  In addition, while creating your remote team, opportunity to work with the absolute most qualified candidates increases with the pool of employees from across the country or even globe, which becomes an even bigger advantage for managing a remote team.
    Other Suggestions:  Invest time in your project team.  Get to know your team members by learning something about them, such as on LinkedIn.com.  Also, speak with your team members for more complicated items rather than email.
  3. Conduct Regularly Scheduled Meetings (as needed – daily, weekly, etc.)
    Communication is key, especially when distance of any length exists among your team.  Project team members can easily get distracted and focus more on other tasks or projects when “out of sight, out of mind.”  Detailed status reports containing issues, items for attention, etc. should continue to be sent before each meeting and used as an agenda for each meeting. This helps keep meetings at an appropriate length and I have never heard any one complain about a meeting being too short.  Please be mindful of time zone differences (if needed) to accommodate as best as possible for the entire team; overlap as much as possible.
    Other Suggestions:  Have a reputation of being reliable and dependable.  These characteristics become even more important when working in a remote environment.  Respond to inquiries and issues in a timely manner, consistently.  This behavior typically is replicated and benefits the entire project.
  4. Set Expectations Throughout the Entire Project Lifecycle
    Similar to an exercise program, among many other things, consistency is crucial.  In addition to regularly scheduled meetings (#1 above), project statuses and updates should be communicated enough so that the team is aware of exactly where the project is on the overall timeline, which tasks remain open, and the status of each task on a personal level for each team member.  Consistent and appropriate communication should occur at both the individual and team level.
    Other Suggestions:  Customize for individual expectations.  Work with each member individually, as needed, to ensure expectations are clear.  While some members may prefer and even excel in multi-tasking various responsibilities, other members may be more effective with a shorter list of tasks.
  5. Recognize Team Members for Positive Performance
    Most people enjoy some type of positive recognition.  Recognition can be tailored to each individual team member depending on their preference.  For example, a team member might finish their task early, which could correlate to an earlier project finish time.  That person might appreciate even more responsibility and assisting with another task, while another person would appreciate the extra time to work on other projects, and a recognition email to their immediate superior could do the trick.
    Other Suggestions:  During each (weekly) meeting, do a “shout out” for at least one team member and document the recognition within the meeting minutes.

Managing a unique project from start to finish will almost always present challenges, whether working with a local or remote project team.  Working with a motivated team through appropriate and timely communication channels at all levels can help overcome at least some of these challenges.

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