THE SECRET INGREDIENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL DISTRIBUTED TEAM
Today, more and more companies manage their projects across multiple locations, taking advantage of new technologies and global talent to take their projects to the next level.
But while remote teams enjoy many advantages, one of the central challenges they face is that of communication.
Co-located team members have many opportunities to interact, whether it’s through structured meetings or informal conversations that lead to new ideas. But members of a distributed team have to be much more intentional about communicating and keeping everyone in the loop.
For the project manager leading a remote team, keeping everyone on the same page is essential to ensuring the team can quickly respond to any changes that may occur.
Obviously, any project team has its own working style and unique challenges. For instance, an established marketing department will have a different process than an ad hoc creative team that’s been created to work with remote consultants on a specific campaign.
However, according to my experience managing distributed teams, there are four key factors that are important for any kind of remote collaboration.
SET GROUND RULES
Establishing a set of ground rules for work processes, communication, and team organization will save you a ton of time when it comes to keeping your team up to date and on the same page.
For example, ground rules stipulate when and how joint meetings are held, how the team logs their working hours, and how colleagues report on their everyday work and any roadblocks that are delaying progress. By setting and sticking to the same rules, you minimize the risk of something important slipping through the cracks.
CLOSELY MANAGE WORKLOADS
It’s fair to say that maintaining control is more challenging with a distributed team than a co-located one. To optimize your team’s productivity and avoid any duplicate efforts, keep a close watch on your team’s workload and be very clear about assignments and responsibilities.
If the task is a new and non-typical one, make sure the assignee has a clear understanding of the goals and what output is expected upon completion. Also, check whether you share the same vision of project priorities and where the new task stands among them.
MAINTAIN CONSTANT COMMUNICATION
Remote team members must have a convenient way to communicate with their manager and with each other. It’s vital to keep ideas flowing, deadlines and responsibilities clear, and handoffs and workflows transparent.
Keeping open lines of communication also ensures that plans and updates aren’t spread across everyone’s email or personal storage, but get shared with everyone involved.
Good communication helps establish a positive team atmosphere and culture of collaboration. Apart from discussing work-related questions, encourage your team to share personal news, funny articles, vacation photos, etc.
I also believe that relationships between remote colleagues greatly benefit from the occasional face-to-face meeting, so try to bring everyone together in-person, even if it’s just once or twice a year.
LEVERAGE THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGIES
Following these tips will be much easier if your team takes advantage of technology that supports remote collaboration.
Cloud-based collaboration apps can turn colleagues who are spread across the globe into a powerful team that benefits from collective intelligence. They help make up-to-date information visible to colleagues at any time, even if several projects are running simultaneously. They help users break down silos, keep work data and updates easily accessible, and make it easy for adjust their work. For the project manager, this is the foundation of good decision-making.