Using Shared Dialogue to Make Remote Small Business Projects Easier
One of the main challenges of managing projects with remote employees and contractors is the fact that face to face communication is not always an option, yet it is through face time that many breakthroughs are able to happen. Often, a project will be broken up between people who communicate with a project manager, but rarely with each other. Unfortunately, that can often lead to a slower rate of progress due to a need for revisiting and tweaking results. Imagine assigning a team to assemble a puzzle. Each team member is given a number of pieces and told to meet up again when they have finished putting their share together. The problem is that each team member is both removed from the insights of the other people on the project and they also will have a harder time envisioning what the fully assembled picture will look like. The metaphor of separate rooms with puzzle pieces represents the challenges faced by a team of remote workers. Fortunately, by using technology and collaborative management techniques, it is a lot easier nowadays to bring project management into one open discourse. Ensuring that you have hired the right people for the job, you can then move on to making them as effective as they can be.
Shared documents are a great tool for managing project outlines. To solve the problem of context for your team members, something as simple as providing them with access to a shared document outlining the project, which they can edit to show the progress they are individually making, can provide otherwise missing communication and clarity. Usually, people involved in a project may only be appraised as to the progress of their teammates during scheduled catch up sessions. While these can be helpful, if they are infrequent many people will have a tendency to not progress farther than a set point that has already been agreed upon. By allowing people to work in a more fluid manner, they can keep moving ahead, aware of the position of those they must coordinate. This allows faster producers to go at their own pace, while those who have a more slow pace of production to fill in their shares and comment on the direction of development.
Bring together employees whose contributions will most directly effect each other’s. When two contributors are working on separate components of a project that must closely interlink, it is logical to have them engage in a higher level of cooperation. You can enable this, even if they are not in close proximity, by creating a shared digital work space for them. drobox, basecamp and google drive when used in tandem by two people essentially allows full transparency of where they are in terms of completing steps, allowing for calibration of two separate pieces of a project as it is developed as opposed to after the fact. While it is not the same as a shared physical work space, using the fully available gamut of collaborative technology is a close as remote workers are able to get currently.
Still organize group catch-up sessions, and bring the whole team face to face if possible at key turning points. A group of powerful thinkers in a room together has the power to unlock each one’s fullest creative potential, which is why, despite all the ability to collaborate over remote distances that the internet brings along with it, if you can try and bring your team face to face at least once to go over goals and get to know the way each person operates, finding out how multiple skill sets can complement each other. Ideally, you will be in a room full of leaders, all willing to take charge of their portion of responsibility.
Photo Credit to Robert Higgins on Flickr