Modern technology has progressed to the point that remote project management teams—or even those with remote members—can perform just as well as those that work out of a central office.
Managing these teams, however, presents an entirely different sort of challenges; challenges that many project managers still struggle with. After all, how can you motivate someone when you can’t even tell what they’re doing at a given point during the day?
It may be difficult to pull off, but you can still develop a top notch remote project management team. You just need to follow a few key rules:
Recruit the Right People
Working remotely needs a totally different mindset from working in an office, and you have to construct your team around that key requirement. In addition to hiring people with the right skills, you have to make sure these people are self-motivated and can be trusted not to goof off when left on their own.
It’s also important to recruit for culture. Personality shows—even through email—and it’s important that the team gets along well. Camaraderie is a powerful motivator, and in a remote project management arrangement it may be the only real leverage you have.
Maintain Effective Communication
Most people, when managing a remote project management team, always want to be kept in the loop. Hourly updates, task-triggered updates, on-demand updates, and even updates just to let the project manager know they’re alive. But “effective” and “constant” are two totally different things. A remote team member has the same work hours as an on-site one, but wastes more time sending frivolous updates.
Effective communication strikes a balance between information, timeliness, and frequency. Updating becomes unobtrusive—a natural part of the work process that helps the project flow smoothly, rather than an obstacle to be dealt with and dismissed. These usually differ per team. Some prefer daily voice conference meetings, while others are fine with scheduled email updates. The key is to try some out and find the communication method (or mix of methods) that works for you.
Motivate, Motivate, Motivate
It’s hellishly difficult to keep your motivation up when working from home. I’m a telecommuting veteran, so I can attest to that! As project manager, you’ll have to make sure your people are self-motivated enough to function on their own. Best way to do this is to recruit these kinds of people from the get-go.
Self-motivation is great, of course, but a project manager can’t rely on that alone. You have to provide another source of motivation, whether it’s clearly defined goals, strict reporting procedures, or performance incentives.
Team makeup, communications procedures, and motivation aren’t the only thing top notch project management teams do right, but much of their success builds on these key factors. Try these rules on for size and let us know how it goes!
Image credit, Flickr, Kevin T Houle