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Managing a team which includes remote workers

By RICHARD WARD Published 28th Oct 2013
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Ideally a team will all work together in the same building. However, sometimes that just isn't possible and team members will be in different locations. Here are some tips for managing that situation effectively.

At the outset of the project consider what success will look like, both at the end and at key stages of the project. As you go along and meet those key stages successfully find a way to celebrate with the whole team involved. This makes everyone feel associated with a successful project and it is very motivating.

Make sure that you create a glossary of the common terms that you will be using in the project. When teams aren’t meeting face to face it can cause real problems when people use different terminology for the same things. Make sure, as much as you can, that people are speaking the same language.

Some project teams have weekly huddles on social media, and this can be a social event as well as a catch up on the project.

Sometimes people leave a project and the decision is made not to mention it, or there is no formal explanation. This gives participants the feeling that they have been ‘disappeared’ and it can have a disastrous impact on morale. Be open and explain any changes.

There may be conflict between people in different functions and this can be caused by lack of understanding of what other roles entail. Everyone should know enough about other roles so that they have a level of understanding of what everyone is doing and the value that it brings to the project. People need to be encouraged to listen to each other and be understanding.

It’s a good idea, time permitting, for participants in a project to teach others a bit about what they do. It increases respect and gives team members a lot of experience that they can take away.

People have different targets and priorities. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with projects where participants come from different companies. People are very influenced by how they are measured by their line manager so this needs to be understood and matched as much as possible at the outset. If a project is very important to one company and less important to another then conflict is inevitable.

Projects where participants are in difficult time zones and / or cultures can be particularly problematic. Project managers need to be aware of such things as religious holidays and even such things as siestas. The automotive industry is a good example of the cultural impact on projects. German cars have a particular cultural personality, as do French cars. Imagine the challenges of building cars with teams from all different countries.

Face to face meetings build trust, but in the modern business world it’s often just not possible to achieve this. There are a number of tools that make life easier but managers need to find ways to make working from different geographical locations effective.


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