Tackle remote works biggest obstacle

What is remote works biggest obstacle? Viable internet connection? Video conferencing hardware? Collaboration software? Recruiting? No, it is trust in employees and team members!

Normally we blame managers that they are not allowing remote work because their lack of trust. But please try to turn your perspective around. I did, as I became a project manager some years ago and as becoming head of project management with a small team of project managers later on.

You can read more in my older post at: Trust is the key for successful remote work

It is really not easy letting your team members go out of sight if your are used to work in the same office. Even if you know their competencies and all the advantages of the home office and all the disadvantages of the office work. Read about the Pros and Cons here: The Ultimate List of Remote Work Pros and Cons

People are used to collaborate in the personal way. We are just not trained to work and trust over the distance. And this is not a miracle, because we all grew up in a world without real time video conferencing around the world for free. But even in the future kids will be raised by personal interaction – for good reasons. So we all have to learn trusting our remote collegues and team members first.

How to build trust with remote workers

This is a collection of methods and ideas to gain that trust and overcome this major obstacle of remote working:

  • do a lot of communication, i.e. short daily video conferencing
  • do video conferencing instead of phone or written communication as often as possible
  • set up regular work demonstrations, a great possibility to show your appreciation
  • even interesting is, that this enhances trust in the team, because most of the technical people rank their peers on their work results
  • if communication and demonstrations are frequently, it feels less like monitoring
  • try to avoid changes of the team members in a project and even over similar projects, because the team members are getting used to each other
  • plan enough time at the projects start for newly mixed teams that they have the possibility to get to know each other
  • do regular team retreats if you are fully remote, because having fun together is building easily good connections
  • do off work activities even if you are co-located, to connect better to each other
  • provide pictures of your home office or home stories in your employees magazin or collaboration tool
  • talk about family and hobbies – it is always surprising what off work talents you have in your team

Conclusion

All our business ventures, companies and other undertakings could be so much more successful if we can strengthen the partnerships to our remote collegues which is possible with the above mentioned methods.

What is your experience? Missing trust is not the biggest obstacle? What else helps you in your daily work? Please let us know in the comment section!

What a good remote project manager needs to know

What is a remote project manager? That’s easy, its a project manager of a remote team. So what is different between managing an onsite or a remote team?

Most articles about this topic are not highlighting, that most methods and approaches are the same. Time, resource and budget planning, controlling or stakeholder management are nearly the same with onsite and remote projects. But if you take the PMI methodology for example, it says that you have to adjust all methods to the specific circumstances of the project anyway. The location and composition of the team is, of course, an important characteristic.

What are the major different topics, the remote project manager has to deal with? They are:

  • Communications
  • Tools
  • Team Management
Communications

The known principle is ‘everyone has to know everything what is important to his / her work at any given time’ – not more and not less.

The diffuculties with remote teams are, that you don’t have talks from desk to desk and you don’t have the informal meetings at the water cooler or coffee maschine. According to the famous book Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, are the employers of Basecamp encouraged to use their chat software Campfire as a ‘virtual water cooler’.

Instead of that you have to assure that all inforamtion will be exchanged in written (i.e. design specifications) or via chat, phone or video conference. The advantage here is, that agreements are more binding, but on the other hand, it is hard to get the mood of the participants and the reading between the lines.

Use the communication tools according to the urgency of the information:

  • urgent: make a call (but think about the time zone)
  • less urgent: reach them via messenger
  • not urgent at all: use email

Be very cautious if there is a little misunderstanding or you sense a bad mood at any form of communication. Normally that is only the tip of the iceberg. Get over this with temporarly even more communication, be it written, via phone or video or even face-to-face if needed.

Tools

We can’t do remote work without a number of tools. Remember that only the tools enabled us to work with distributed teams around the world.

The variety of tools in unbelievable. Its very hard to get a good overview or to make suggestions. Its also continuously envoling as we know the matter with software. Let’s focus on the tasks we have to address with the tools:

  • project management (schedule, resources, timetracking)
  • communication (VoIP, video, chat)
  • document management
  • source code management with version control, if you create software

Commonly you will use the tools which are in place at your company or at the client. If you have the choice, check out tool comparisons and have a close look on what will help the team while avoiding unnecessary bureaucracy.

Team management

Together with communications, managing the team is the most important topic for the remote project manager.

The great advantage of remote work, that you can hire the best talents (for the best price) worldwide, comes with the challenge that you will maybe not work in the same time zone. And even if – you should maintain a plan with the actual (remember travelling digital nomads) time zones and preferred working hours of all team members.

Get a very good overview about everyones experiences, skills, characteristics, position in the company, etc. At best you make longer one-on-ones at the beginning of the project. It is very good, if you have a face-to-face kickoff or get-togethers once or twice a year.

To enhance the collaboration, allow some time for personal conversation. So start every phone conference with some small talk and encourage the team members to exchange some information about hobbies, family situation or about the home or current city or country at other situations.

The project manager is the critical role in a distributed team. He enables all the remote work benefits, if he / she makes a good job and can destroy the project and the reputation of remote work if he / she skews it up.

Contact me if you need a remote project manager or even a coach for your project manager!