Managing projects in most any work environment can be challenging, yet productivity depends on it.
Even though you may be tempted to take project management for granted, it behooves you to consider that any hiccup in the entire process could derail the whole project. Project management is critical to ensuring the outcome you desire within the time frame you plan for.
A skilled and effective project manager will not just be aware of the nuances of the project; he or she will also tackle each of them with precision to manage team members to reach their highest potential and create the best version of the finished project on time and under budget.
It’s hard enough to pull this off when you’re rubbing shoulders with co-workers everyday in the office or sitting around a conference room table in a weekly meeting. It can be even more daunting when you’re managing a team of remote workers.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Project Management for Virtual Workers
Before you dismiss working with a remote team as irrelevant to your situation, think again. The remote workforce is booming, and companies across all industries are seeing the benefits to hiring remote workers. In fact, this trend is likely to only increase, according to Forbes magazine:
“In a mere three years the mobile workforce is projected to comprise roughly three-quarters of U.S. employees. According to Gallup, remote working has been on the rise since 2012: from 39% in 2012 to 43% in 2016. The desire to work remotely is here to stay and it isn’t limited to a few select industries.”
The challenges to project management are basically the same for remote teams as they are for in-office teams, except that some aspects may be amplified. Let’s look at three broad categories of challenges, how a remote team is affected, and how you can best optimize your management practices to mitigate the circumstances.
Clear Communication on Projects
Did you play that game as a kid called “Gossip”? The first person in the line comes up with a crazy sentence, whispers it to the next, and so on. By the time the last person receives the message, it’s a tangled mess, barely resembling the first speaker’s original whisper.
The game illustrates the problem we humans have communicating. We make assumptions, we pass on unverified information, and we repeat what we thought we heard (or what we wish we’d heard). The end result? A message that can’t be trusted.
When you’re leading a remote team, communication is vitally important; it’s not just about project updates. In an office, there’s a lot of chatter that happens on breaks or around the water cooler. That builds trust and rapport, so if you’re managing a remote team, you need to facilitate that informal chitchat as well.
Here are some practical tips for effectively communicating with your team:
- Weekly check-in calls, video chats, presentations (these can be business or personal or a hybrid)
- Use an instant messaging tool to stay connected in real-time
- Ask for status updates to keep team members accountable
- Conduct three-, six- and twelve-month performance reviews
- Have regular in-person meetups/retreats
Note: Get more tips on great team communication!
What’s the goal of any project? To achieve a company objective. As project manager, you’ve got to understand the project goal and be able to link it to a larger objective.
Whether you’re building a new website or launching a marketing plan, ask yourself, “What is the ultimate objective of this project will achieve for the company? What is the team’s role in achieving this objective?”
Communication is critical here, obviously. When team members are remote, it may be more difficult for them to grasp the company’s culture and objectives. But every person you manage should have a firm idea of what they are working toward and why; they should have a stake in their work.
Inc. magazine says, “As the leader, it’s your job to provide the context for the team. In addition to sharing the project specifications and requirements, you need to paint the big picture for them and bring the importance of their roles to the forefront. Help your employees understand, not only what their roles are, but why they matter — and why each of them benefits individually from being truly engaged in the team goal overall.”
Here are some practical tips for effectively instilling company objectives in your team:
- Your company should have its mission, vision, and goals prominently displayed on the website
- Communicate these ideals to each remote worker
- With each project, remind the workers involved that it will achieve this or that objective
- During evaluations, ask each worker to self-assess how he or she embodies each value
Perhaps the most obvious aspect of a project manager’s role is making sure it’s delivered on time. But managing workflow includes more than just meeting or missing a deadline.
Workflow encompasses all aspects of time on the project including the back and forth between team members managing expectations of meeting impossible deadlines, making up for lost time and not squandering extra time, handling those who are chronically late, and handling those who are always early but are not always careful.
Here are some practical tips for effectively managing the workflow of your team:
- From the outset, plan each step with due dates and communicate these clearly
- Set expectations for adhering to deadlines and impose consequences for missed deadlines
- Monitor activity at all times; don’t get comfortable thinking everybody’s on auto-pilot
- Automate as much as possible; if it can be accomplished with a tool, use it. Look into the ways your project management tool (such as ClickUp), CRM, ERP, or marketing automation tools can contribute to your overall efficiency.
- Make sure all team members have access to the resources they need to do their jobs
Note: See more advantages of using project management software!
Even though the remote workforce is still a relatively “new” idea for most companies, the practice will only become more widespread in the near future. Soon, remote teams will be the norm and companies need systems and processes in place to equip and manage them. Paying special attention to these three categories and the tasks they include will help project managers lead with success.
Mary Bernard is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She has helped all types of companies — from small brands to multi-million dollar franchise corporations — grow their businesses through blogging and content marketing. She is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, TN, where she resides with her husband and three teenagers. Find out more about Mary and her business, A Way With Words, at www.maryparkerbernard.com.