Managing remote teams in a successful manner is not something most people know how to do. People tend to make the same mistakes over and over when managing remote teams. Let's look at some techniques that will help you better manage your remote project teams.
Communication With Remote Teams
It's all about communication. 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 than a project team that's working together physically in the same room.
Team-Building With Remote Teams
First off you want to do a team-building activity. 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. That doesn't give you an excuse not to do a team-building activity.
One idea is to do a fun webinar. Another is doing a team game, an online multiplayer 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.
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. Encourage and build interpersonal relationships among 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 building personal relationships. 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. 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.
Daily Stand Up
Next, the daily stand up. You must do a daily stand up, there are 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.
They don't need to be very 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.
Organize Your Remote Team
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 '80s and '90s. 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 that 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.
As has already been mentioned, 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.