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What To Do When Remote Projects Go Awry - Ambition & Balance

A Central Management Tool

A Central Management Tool

Physical presence does play a large part in moving our projects forward. Managing a project remotely requires a diligent and transparent approach to keep track and maintain the various tasks, deadlines and processes.

It's important to deploy a project management tool, assigning each different task to all the team members. Have regular check-ins and status update meetings. Having a singular place for distributing information ensures that team members do not complain that they were not updated or didn’t know where the specific file was.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

What To Do When Remote Projects Go Awry - Ambition & Balance

What To Do When Remote Projects Go Awry - Ambition & Balance

https://doist.com/blog/remote-projects/

doist.com

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Key Ideas

A Central Management Tool

Physical presence does play a large part in moving our projects forward. Managing a project remotely requires a diligent and transparent approach to keep track and maintain the various tasks, deadlines and processes.

It's important to deploy a project management tool, assigning each different task to all the team members. Have regular check-ins and status update meetings. Having a singular place for distributing information ensures that team members do not complain that they were not updated or didn’t know where the specific file was.

Keep teammates accountable

Creating accountability is a great way to manage the work remotely. Accountability is shifted to the teammates, who are now supposed to be responsible for their own work and decisions.

One way to build accountability in remote teams is to assign groups and let teammates hold each other responsible. Also make teammates share their work experience and any issues they face, publicly (within the team) so that it acts as a ready solution for others, reducing repeat work.

Document Everything

Even if the team is small, document, formalize and map each process, making it scalable and automatic.

Standard Operating Procedures, if used correctly in a remote setting, can act like a central nervous system.

Open Channels

Open channels of communication are imperative in managing remote work. Effective communication is the single most important part of handling a remote setting, and is also the most challenging.

Use your favourite software, like Slack or Microsoft Teams and ensure that everyone adheres to the same.

Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication happens when you are not forced to respond to each and every ‘ping’ in real time. Its benefits:

  • Communication becomes less ‘urgent’. It makes for less firefighting and more ‘deep work'.
  • Conversations are meaningful and are not ‘hurried’.
  • Quick movement of teams.
  • More transparency.
  • Less work stress.

Best Practices for Communicating Asynchronously

  1. Allow Offline work, so that team members do some real work.
  2. Use the right communication tool.
  3. Minimize status meetings, as they are mostly a waste of time.
  4. Make Transparency the default setting.
  5. Overcommunicate to make sure all the pieces of information are in place and known to all.
  6. Adapt, as you grow in scale, as what is working for 5 people won’t work for 500.

Overcommunicate and Trust

Trusting your remote coworkers is the only way for it to succeed. Trust the employees and use empathy. Do not assume the worst.

To avoid any communication breakdown, always overcommunicate and ensure questions are asked and answered.

The "No Response" Situation

If there is no response to a request, it is crucial to figure out if everything is ok, after a stipulated amount of time( according to the urgency of the task). Many people can feel isolated and as monotony sets in, some can withdraw or stop contributing.

Regular interaction can minimize the ‘no response’ problem. Setting up partners to look after each other for a project completion is also a great way to ensure productivity.

Conflicting Priorities

Multiple complex projects require juggling of conflicting priorities, making it a challenge to meet deadlines, and separating urgent work from important work.

The way to look at priorities is to step back and see a birds eye view of the overall objective that is to be achieved. Add resources or delegate as needed.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Assembling the Team

... that's capable of executing in a remote setup:

  • Hire doers: they will get stuff done even if they are working from a secluded island.
  • Hire people you can trust....
Software/Tools

In a remote team, you'll need the right tools to make sure everyone stays on the same page and can continue to execute without a physical person standing next to them.

You likely will need a tool in certain categories like group chat and video conferencing to make remote successful.

Processes

Good processes let you get work done in the absence of all else. They provide structure and direction for getting things done.

A few examples from Zapier:

  • Weekly Hangouts;
  • Weekly One-on-Ones;
  • Bring the team together 2 times/year somewhere cool;
  • Automate anything that can be automated.
Asynchronous communication

There are mainly two ways to communicate within a company: synchronous and asynchronous communication. While the second type has always been widely practiced, as face-to-face meetings or any other ...

Real-time communication drawbacks

While real-time communication inside of a team might lead to solving faster some issues, it also has various disadvantages. 

For instance, having your colleagues come to ask you questions to which you feel pressured to answer on the spot leads to you being continuously interrupted, which results in being less productive and feeling stressed or even getting a burnout, as you try to do everything in proper time.

The asynchronous workplace

When the employees are provided with control as to when they are willing to communicate with their co-workers, there are many advantages that emerge. 

For instance, having the freedom to decide exactly how your working day should look like leads to more satisfied employees as well as to better communication within the team. Further benefits vary from feeling less stressed due to better planning to greater transparency and more efficient work.

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Faster Isn’t Better
Faster Isn’t Better

Back-to-back video calls, all-day team chats combined with an expectation of immediate response is taking its toll on people trying to work from home.

In the quest to create a real-time ...

Asynchronous Vs Synchronous Communication
  • Asynchronous communication is when we send a message (such as emails) without expecting an immediate response. The recipient can take hours to answer it.

  • Synchronous (or real-time) communication is when you and the other person are engaged in a face-to-face audio or video conversation, like a video call or a phone call. The information discussed is responded immediately.

Instant messaging tools like Slack or Teams are synchronous, and in some companies, email is also used as a real-time communication tool.

Communication Boom

Team communication has increased by 50 percent in the last 20 years. We spend an average of three hours a day working on emails. On an average, Slack users send about 200 messages in a day.

This near constant communication hampers work productivity, with video calls, one-on-one meetings, e-mail and team chat leaving little room for actual work.

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Building Rapport Remotely

To better build rapport and counter isolation do the following:

  • smile, tilt your chin lower so you're not looking down on them, and slow down your speech during your vid...
Relying On Text The Right Way

Voice and video calls can help you feel more in touch with your team and avoid the issues of asynchronous communication like time lags or misunderstandings.

However, you'll likely spend a lot of your day communicating via text as it’s a good way to interact without interrupting their work. So you need to be able to get your point across clearly and simply, show empathy and understanding, and be efficient to avoid wasted time.

Staying Up To Date

Remote workers can feel overwhelmed by the amount of text they have to process. So finding ways to keep on top of what's going on is imperative for communicating efficiently with others.

Create archive lists and CC irrelevant emails to them, so you can save and share them without flooding non-involved people. 

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“Be A Strong Writer”
“Be A Strong Writer”

This is one of the first pieces of advice people give to those seeking remote work.

When you work remotely, a few misplaced words can become an occupational hazard. Every w...

Accessible Language
  • Use of caps lock, emojis, italics and tildes (~) to make your language flowery, fun and human is a great idea for remote working. You can also use memes and gif images, provided they are not offensive to anyone.
  • Robot speak is not a good way to freely collaborate with your remote peers. Use simple words, and keep it on the casual side, skipping the inaccessible and stilted language. You can also opt for contractions like writing isn’t instead of is not.
Be Clear And Concise
  • Do not obscure your message by words that are there to decorate the sentence and make it sound wordy while camouflaging what you mean.
  • Make good use of qualifiers ("I think, In my opinion") while not coming across as a perpetually confused person. Don’t use qualifiers while making a strong point.
  • While writing documentation, it is prudent to avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Use complete words and sentences. Shortcuts and acronyms block any actual communication, acting as roadblocks. On the same lines, avoid cliches, idioms and any idiotic sounding phrase that catches the ear well but doesn’t really do any good to anyone.
  • Remote working is often on a global scale, and certain expressions will not be understood by some participants, or worse, will be misunderstood.
  • Your words and tone should be tailored according to your audience. The words are different when you are writing to a client, and when you are in a small group chat with your peers. More people in chat also means adopting a polished, professional tone.

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22% of Americans work from home

.... while nearly 50% are involved with remote or virtual team work.

This continuing shift calls for a new range of behaviors and skills.

Communication challenges for remote teams
  • Body language. Even when we share the same space, the tone of a text or of an email is left wide open to interpretation and can generate anxiety.
  • The delay between our messages can often postpone or hide emotional reactions to our comments. Lacking an immediate response, we can become distracted, second-guess ourselves, or even grow frustrated with our teams.
3 types of distance in remote teams
  • Physical (place and time)
  • Operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels)
  • Affinity (values, trust, and interdependency).

The best way for managers to drive team performance is by focusing on reducing affinity distance.

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Personal Connection

A sense of connection and belonging are sentiments that are helpful for building “affective trust” – a form of trust based on emotional bond and interpersonal relatedness.

It vari...

Statistics On Remote Workers
  • Loneliness was reported as the biggest downside for 21% of remote employees, and one of the reasons that makes them more likely to quit.
  • Most remote managers say they’d be more inclined to stay if they had more friends at work.
  • Individuals who have 15 minutes to socialize with colleagues have a 20% increase in performance over their peers who don't.
  • Positive social relationships are correlated with better life expectancy.
Dynamic Icebreakers

If your icebreaker questions are intriguing, cheeky, humorous – the answers you receive will be, too.

Many remote teams will kick off their weekly meeting with an icebreaker question or insert it during their morning stand-up meeting. Even more popular is asking a series of icebreaker questions during the onboarding process when hiring someone.

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Early times

Before the Industrial revolution, everyone worked out of their home and sold their goods from there. With the Industrial Revolution came the need for automation and factories, and employ...

From factories to cubicles to WiFi

Just after WW2, there was a rise in corporate headquarters and larger office spaces and cubicles. During this time, the 8-hour workday was established.

Then came the advancements in computers and technology that lead to remote workers of today. The internet and public WiFi allowed employees to do everything they would in their cubicle, but outside the office. They can also work all hours of the day.

Remote work is common

4.3 million people currently work from home in the United States at least half of the time, and this figure has grown by 150% in the last 13 years.  

Remote workers tend to have higher engagement rates and higher productivity levels. Once they switch to remote work, they rarely want to become office bound again.

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Balancing shallow and deep work
Balancing shallow and deep work
  • What should be done when your team's "shallow work" is just as important as their "deep work"?
  • How do you empower your team to find a balance between small improvements and general m...
The Hero Role
  • Each month one person on each product team becomes the "Hero." Their primary responsibilities are to communicate with their support team and take care of smaller improvements.
  • The Hero should be able to focus entirely on their support duties. They're not assigned to any other product development work during that month.
  • Being attentive to the support team and users means the Hero is unlikely to block off 4 hours or more of deep work, but it will enable everyone else on the team to do so.
  • Being so close to user's requests and feedback gives the Hero a unique perspective into their problems and struggles.
Housekeeping Days

Each member of the team (except the Hero) spends one day per week on Housekeeping. It gives them time to focus on small but important tasks.

Housekeeping is a personal day. If the Hero hasn't explicitly asked for help on an issue, people can choose which tasks they want to work on. Sometimes this time is used to learn something new related to current or upcoming work.

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Structure For Success
Structure For Success

Remote work days need to have a specific routine in place, which has structure, clarity and consistency.

Each team member needs to be provided with a daily block of time to be heard, maybe ...

A Clear Briefing

Creativity thrives in limitations, and little check-in meetings with a specific agenda and a clear briefing to brainstorm can provide excellent results, as they have built-in time constraints.

Collaboration Time

Online collaborative tools let us literally be on the same page, editing a document together, collaborating using the phone or the built-in chat.

Remote working makes the participants prioritize time, effort and activities. There are less wasted minutes as the participants are prepared and on time.

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