Successful Remote Project Management
If the current situation has taught us anything, it is that there is a new normal, as remote project management becomes a must have skillset. Regardless that doesn’t change the ongoing and increasing importance of project management to organizations, as projects are key to develop new capabilities and deliver improvements.
The critical elements needed to ensure projects are managed successfully – leadership, communication and team management – apply as much to remote working as “in person”. However, managers need to think and work extra hard to ensure they translate fully to a virtual environment.
Leadership means having the confidence to lead the team; being resilient and removing impediments to success. It requires leaders to ensure they’re as visible as possible and more emotionally intelligent to get the team’s vote of confidence.
This is more challenging and just as important with remote working, good leadership is about demonstrating the correct behaviours including transparency, collaboration, communication, honesty, empathy, exploration; each of which can be called good business behaviours. Deploying these approaches helps a remote team become more productive.
Communication is vital as project managers liaise across many departments and stakeholders, handling a lot of information and conveying it in a multitude of ways. As the remote world remains two dimensional without the dynamics of face-to-face meetings, it’s essential to get the communications blend right.
That means good communication can’t be left to chance, such as the informal interactions that happen when people are co-located. Instead, it needs to be organized and planned to understand their effect and resolve any misunderstanding.
Team management is extremely important, especially when working on high-risk and high-profile projects. When building a team, often in a project’s start-up phase, the project manager needs to assess how people work together and what additional skills/training they need. For some skills, the need for improvement might be easier within a remote context. But for other skills, the assessment could be more challenging. Wherever possible, it’s good to avoid someone leaving an assembled team, as this can have a major impact on the shared understanding that’s been created.
When everyone in the team is clear on the project’s objectives and the tasks in hand, they will educate their organization through the change. Even with leadership, communication and team management in place, there is no denying that the virtual environment is more complex for project management. For example: The spontaneity of in-person collaboration is reduced in a virtual environment
No doubt there are challenges and more planning and preparation to deal with potential unknowns in remote project engagement. Project managers need to work harder to identify team members’ body language when communicating through remote platforms to have colleagues’ well-being in mind.
Remote on boarding of new team members takes a lot of courage from everyone, so consult your new people to involve them and encourage their views. Also, having cameras on in virtual meetings means you can gauge people’s feelings much better. Having the visual component really helps communication but you need to establish the ground rules for this in advance; that might mean being mindful of people’s mental health by allowing them to switch cameras off, especially if they’ve been involved in back-to-back video calls and need a break.
By enhancing the virtual engagement experience, with things like online chat functions, it encourages feedback. Virtual whiteboards are a good way of increasing interaction in meetings and energizes the team, showing that their contribution is valued. Facilitators can also inspire engagement by making sure everyone can contribute. Build intention into preparation and reach out to the team as much as possible – a skill developed over time in a virtual environment.
The importance of celebrating success is as relevant in a virtual world as the physical world. Therefore, that could mean delivering cakes to everyone on the project team – but ensuring there’s enough for their families too!
Finally, make technology a friend and avoid trying to fix IT issues in the middle of a meeting; rather postpone and reschedule. The expanding, virtual world is here to stay in one form or another. This means embracing it as an adaptable and flexible way of working. Indeed, virtual platforms have enabled more introverted people to contribute ideas and feel less inhibited.
However, this environment also brings a continued need for project management skills. For example, PRINCE2 principles, supported by themes and processes support project managers’ planning, delegation, monitoring and controlling projects along with their various constraints. Ultimately, project managers must be in control when leading their teams: calm and composed on the surface, let us know your style in managing projects remotely, we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.