How to effectively manage tasks and projects in remote/telework teams.
- Invite feedback early and often by sharing drafts, works-in-progress, and MVPs. Don’t wait until something is “done” to find out if it’s the right thing.
- Iterate on feedback that is given, and repeat the cycle to build trust with collaborators.
- Use tools that allow for simultaneous and asynchronous collaboration.
- Invite ideas from everywhere – team members, stakeholders, and customers should all be able to “submit a bug” or “suggest a feature”.
Keep the work visible
- Share product roadmaps and team plans as openly as possible, so people can refer to them at any time to get aligned.
- Document everything in a “Single Source of Truth” that contains all the information, deadlines, reports, and links for the project so knowledge is shared.
- Use project tracking software that allows the team to follow along as tasks are completed (this is helpful for any kind of project, not just software development.)
- For software projects, keep the documentation close to the code (or written into it).
Have the whole team ‘act’ distributed
- If you have some employees in the office and some remote, have everyone use the same online project management tools so people stay aligned.
- Have all team members use video conferencing for meetings, not just the teleworkers.
- Have everyone add their working hours, availability, and timezones to their calendars and group chat profiles.
- Set team agreements for response times for different channels (i.e., group chat, email, project tickets) so people know when a quick answer is expected, and when it’s not.
Foster human connection and accountability
- Celebrate project “wins” by hosting virtual happy hours or pizza parties.
- Write appreciation into your project management practices (e.g., start retrospectives by acknowledging each team member’s contributions).
- Make it a rule to assume best intentions, as virtual communications can be more easily misinterpreted than face-to-face talks.
- Let your team know that mistakes happen, and openly acknowledging them is encouraged.
Be a servant leader
- Instead of asking when something will be done, ask if there are blockers you can help clear.
- Set expectations and give teams the tools to track and submit their work openly.
- Choose trust over surveillance – allow people the space and flexibility to get their work done on their own terms, within agreed-upon timelines.
- Encourage question asking. Clarity is exponentially more important in distributed teams.
- Set up “office hours” where anyone can drop by with a question or to brainstorm solutions.
- Assign a DRI (Directly Responsible Individual) for each part of the project, so everyone knows who is responsible for what.
Keep lines of communication open
- Hold daily check-ins with project teams to quickly get the latest information:
- What I worked on yesterday
- What I’m working on today
- Questions / blockers / action items
- Have the team put questions and updates in group channels so knowledge is shared.
- Maintain a “risk register” where anyone can view potential risks throughout the project.
- Set standards and “rules of engagement” for dealing with tensions and conflict.
Reflect and improve
- Use retrospectives to reflect as a group on how a project or process could be improved.
- What do we appreciate about each member of the group?
- What is going well?
- What could be better?
- Action items for moving forward
- Run “tool-checks” by asking team members for feedback on the tools you are using for remote collaboration.
- How is this tool working well?
- Are there any pain points?
- Document all reflections and action items in a shared space where everyone can refer back to them.
- Don’t be discouraged by problems that arise from managing projects in distributed teams – write down your learnings and make adjustments as necessary.
- Remote Projects 101: The Remote Guide to Project Management (Twist)
- This Is How We Manage Projects on a Fully Remote Team (Doist)
- How to successfully project manage distributed teams (Corrus)
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