Now, remote project management isn't going to be for everyone. Many project managers need to see their teams (if they are local) and management face to face on a regular basis. Many team members need to be able to see each other, talk over details of the project, and seek out other co-workers for mentoring and advice.
For some, though, the remote project management situation is a perfect fit. Let’s be honest. There is a lot of time wasted in the office environment. I’m not anti-social, no matter what my wife will tell you. However, back when I was a company employee and direct manager of resources, I found it very frustrating to have a large office that employees and co-workers seemed to treat as their own personal hideout spot. Seriously, getting those individuals out of your office in order to get back to work and get tasks completed can be next to impossible. It can sometimes make it difficult to want to ask them into your office for fear they will never leave. It’s almost better to setup shop in a conference room to have individual discussions with employees so you can have a place to vacate…just make sure they don’t follow you back to your office!
If managing projects remotely is something you are thinking about, have been approached to do, or is a possibility within your organization and you are about to ask your senior management about it, consider these tips (and your abilities in these categories) before taking that step…
The remote PM must be an organized individual. The remote project manager must be organized. I may not be the most organized person in my personal life – sometimes far from it…just ask my wife. But when it comes to managing projects, I have my own templates of documents, successful past project plans, project software tools and everything else in place and ready to go. I’m organized and try to have everything planned out well in advance. Your customer and your organization must see you as an organized individual as well. And a lot rests on that first remote project. If it ends up (or starts) as a disaster, don’t expect your remote project management career to last long. The best measuring tool management has for you is your last project.
Connect with each team member personally on a frequent basis. I’ve stated that I’m pro-virtual in part because I think that the personal connection at work can be a big time waster. However, I feel that in order to create situation where team members are ready and willing to communicate with each other remotely, you need to encourage the personal discussion side from time to time. And the PM needs to promote a cohesive team environment. Remote communication and connection with each other can be difficult enough for some, but having a more fun and personal connection with each other can soften that making the virtual part of the project easier to get used to for those who find it more difficult to handle.
Use a collaborative tool. Use a collaborative tool to keep your team engaged and informed. That can be a collaborative project management tool – you can find dozens of good ones online. That can also be creative use of something like a closed Facebook group – I’ve found that to be a great way to stay connected just about 24/7 with project team members. We are all using Facebook anyway so there is no learning curve involved and nearly everyone has Facebook running on their smartphone, tablet or laptop constantly.
Be sure to over communicate. One organization I managed projects for was setup almost entirely for virtual teams in the PMO as we were managing projects for external clients’ software implementations. PMs would manage teams of 4-6 individuals -sometimes more - and they would manage 4-5 projects at any given time. And those team members may also be working on 3-4 different projects concurrently for different project managers. On several occasions I’ve had project staff tell me they received more emails from me than any of their other project managers. When I asked if that was a good thing they all said they felt like they knew better from me what was going on with the project at any given time. I’ll call that definite positive.
Keep all stakeholders up to date – especially the customer and senior management. Your senior management and your customer may be the hardest ones to convince that you have everything under control when you are managing projects and teams remotely. The best way to convince them they are wrong is to keep them well apprised of project status. Make sure they always have timely updates of the project status reports, the project schedule and resource forecasting and financial status information as well. The more they see that you are on it, the more confident and comfortable they will be with the remote management model.
Summary / call for input
Again, remote project management and virtual team management is not for everyone. It’s certainly not for the disorganized and it’s not for the faint of heart. A project manager must be experienced and established as successful PM, in my opinion and from my experience, before taking on the role of remote project manager. They must have excellent communication skills and be very organized.
What about our readers? What are your thoughts on remote project management? Have you tried it? Was it successful? What would you add or change about this list?