Staying on Strategy: 9 Tips for Managing Remote Teams
At the start of 2020, more than 56% of companies allowed some amount of remote work, a number that has significantly increased in the last few weeks. Managing remote teams has become the new normal; in fact, Gartner reported in a recent survey that 74% of organizations plan to keep some individuals and teams working from home after the pandemic response is over.
With so many teams working remotely, collaboration and communication are more important than ever. However, simply staying in touch is not enough. It’s imperative that teams remain focused on strategic business objectives to guide work prioritization. For teams to be productive and deliver on strategy, organizations must leverage the right tools and processes to help teams continue to stay connected, collaborate with context, and deliver outcomes swiftly.
1. Communicate Company Goals
When managing remote teams, it can be difficult to ensure that work is being delivered with total alignment to corporate strategy. Company goals should be communicated regularly so teams can prioritize their work based on business objectives.
Communication is even more important for remote team members who are based in different time zones, since strategic decisions might be made outside of their normal working hours. Remember to provide the context of the change to ensure your team takes ownership of the strategy. In this way, teams can increase productivity and deliver real value to the business.
2. Set Expectations
Managers should collaborate with team members to set realistic expectations for working remotely. A few examples include:
- the capacity of the team
- the capacity of individual team members
- expected deliverables
- work schedules
- overall performance goals.
From these discussions, draw up a working agreement that includes weekly team cadences and one-on-one discussions to ensure clarity.
3. Standardize Processes
Every team has a process for managing its work, even if the steps haven’t been determined explicitly. Standardizing a process for executing work can help teams feel more comfortable when working remotely, since everyone knows the phases of their work and when the handoffs need to occur.
It’s necessary to identify your process in the early stages to keep work from slowing down. And when your process is visualized digitally, you can access reports that can help the team continuously improve work delivery metrics like lead time, cycle time, and more.
4. Leverage Purpose-built Technology
Having the right set of work management tools makes an enormous difference when managing remote teams. Teams need to communicate, and applications like chat and video conferencing help teams to share information swiftly.
But more important than staying in sync is having a tool that teams can use to visualize and manage their processes digitally, such as collaborative project management software. This allows team members to facilitate productive discussions within the context of their work.
5. Collaborate in Context
Collaboration is more than just communication. With so much back and forth over email or in communication apps, information can easily be lost or miscommunicated. Since you have employees working in different time zones — and maybe even different countries — it’s important to ensure everyone has access to all of the information they need to effectively do their jobs. Make sure to designate a central place to keep work status updates, ideally in the same place where the work lives.
6. Make Meetings Productive
It’s difficult to keep meetings engaging, and it’s even tougher when your team is remote. Be sure to inject purpose into them by providing a format, as well as a definition of what makes a meeting successful. One way to keep your goals front and center is by leveraging a tool such as a digital Kanban board to support the team’s discussion of the work in progress.
7. Create a Culture of Accountability
When you empower your team to carry out strategy, you help ensure that your team’s focus is on bringing value to the customers or stakeholders. You won’t be able to manage every day-to-day work item.
It’s crucial to create a culture of accountability, where team members are encouraged to provide regular updates on work status and discuss any capacity constraints. Keep track of the outcomes and understand what your team is delivering to guarantee alignment to strategy. By being able to consistently measure your team’s outcomes, you can easily filter out non-essential work.
8. Humanize the Day-to-Day
Make sure that you provide remote employees with a voice in the team’s decisions. By nurturing and building your team’s relationships, you can develop an environment of open communication.
This allows you to have discussions that might reveal one of your team members needing help – whether that is providing support to an overworked colleague or helping work move forward. Make sure those around you know that there someone is there to help.
9. Be Flexible
Realize that your team has a lot going on apart from work, especially during stressful times. When your team’s strategy shifts, trust them to stay focused and provide them with the context and flexibility to do their work on their own schedule. This might seem counter-productive, but it will inherently allow your team to be more agile and responsive.
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