How to best manage a remote team?11 Nov 2014

It is not unusual nowadays to cooperate on a regular basis with people stationed not only in other parts of the building or town, it's normal to have colleagues in other cities and countries. It occurs commonly and works great. It allows employers to really choose the best person for the job - the wider the search spectrum - the larger the choice. So it all looks great, but the question remains: how does one manage a remote team?

Team Working from Home

1. Apply team goals

The one thing you absolutely need to see in your remotely working employee is self discipline. Provided they don't lack that, the solution can work great for everyone. A great thing you (the employer) can do to make sure that your remote employees do actually get somewhere, that they don't lack motivation or feedback, is setting properly presented goals. By properly presented we should understand goals, that clearly outline the purpose of the task as a part of a larger job (the employee needs to know how his contribution fits in with the other tasks, performed by his colleagues).

The way the goal is set also has to make the employee personally responsible for the task's results (where there is no responsibility, there often is no attention). What would be also useful, is if there was some kind of a system for self-motivation; receiving instant feedback (e.g. Kanban Tool's comments and simply board sharing, allowing each team member to see the others' work) and a summary of the work creates a satisfying and hence motivating impulse.

Summing up the desired goal style - it would work great, if you started your remote team management by implying the SMARTER goals rule. The rule states that the goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound, Engaging and Resourced. So, make the goals known to all members, demand a weekly report on their activities and remember to provide feedback.

2. Concentrate on results

To stay within the idea of remote co-working, it would be best to allow the team members to manage their own time, thereby proving that you put trust in them. Having stated that, it is important to demand that for set meetings they do show on time. For the team members to do the job well, they will require a tool that will make this possible - a visual management aid. Rather than waste time on asking for details and explanations, they need to be able to focus on completing the job as quick and well as possible.

3. Make the jobs shorter in time

Instead of assigning long-term tasks, try to cut them into small sprints (and sprints into well manageable tasks). This will allow the employee to focus on one task at a time and henceforth complete it much quicker and more efficiently. Nothing makes people slower and more unfocused than a distant due-date. Also, creating long-term tasks means that tasks will be overlapping with each-other. And this implies that your employees will have to multitask, sooner or later. This is never good for the quality of results (the importance of WIP limits).

A Remote Team Member

4. Make the communication frequent and effective

It is an important part of the process for both sides of the remote team arrangement. Without regular check-up chats, the employee might feel isolated and the employer will not be up-to-date with what the team is doing. As with many things, it usually works best, if you establish a regular form of contact, whether it's group emails, conference calls or daily check-up phone calls. The best thing is to use an online tool for remote teams collaboration. This allows team members to not only see the tasks assigned to them as well as others, but also to make comments and share attachments. When applying a remote team model, communication is crucial.

5. Ensure that team spirit is present even at long distances

To make this happen, use a strategy that will include regular conference calls (it's a great team-building exercise if the meetings are conducted by a different team member each time), making effort to do video conferences for people's birthdays and substantial team and solo achievements. Also make sure that the team uses the comment or checklist functions, making sure that they really are able to co-work. It's a splendid idea to make sure your team is able to have their say with regards to improvements.

6. Use the best team / project management tool

Taking previous points into consideration, you might like to apply Kanban Tool. Divide the jobs into small tasks, assign them to your team members and limit the work in progress to a minimum. Team members will then be able to pull tasks when they're ready for them and to fully concentrate - seeing that no other tasks are distracting them. What's more - you, as the team manager - will have full access to the time reports, seeing how much time is spend on tasks by each and every team member, no matter where they are. Just by looking at your Kanban board the team can see the state of the project from their homes!