Managing Distributed Project Teams

Managing Distributed Project Teams [Infographic]

November 30, 2016 by
Grace Windsor

The once common practice of teams working together in one location has been radically disrupted in recent years. Online collaboration tools, the desire for speed and agility, and the difficulties many companies face when recruiting top talent have contributed to growing numbers of distributed workers and teams. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that around 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) work from home at least half the time. This means that many project managers now oversee distributed teams.

Working remotely makes sense for employer and employee alike. Employers can cast a wider net when recruiting; reduce overheads such as property rental; decrease absenteeism, and take advantage of time zones to meet production requirements. Remote employees also report high levels of satisfaction, increased productivity, self-sufficiency, and a better work-life balance. In fact, a poll of 1,500 technology professionals revealed that 37% would take a pay cut of 10% if they could work from home.

However, distributed project teams face several obstacles, including lack of cohesion; limited knowledge sharing; difficulty tracking completed work; time-zones; engagement and motivation, and cultural and language barriers. Lack of personal contact also makes it difficult to build trust, which in turn, can hamper communication and collaboration.

Here are a few tips for developing and managing effective distributed teams.

  1. Clear Vision: Make sure that everyone understands the overall purpose of the team and their wider contribution to the organization. The vision will keep the team on track, help to build trust and provide a focal point for remote workers who may feel isolated from their co-workers.
  2. Communication: Building rapport and relationships is an ongoing process, which becomes even trickier without face-to-face meetings and daily interactions. Use daily, weekly and monthly meetings to check in with individuals, the team and the company. Online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams facilitate quick communication, knowledge sharing and importantly, informal conversations that help individuals to get to know each other.
  3. Project Set-up: Use a project kick-off meeting to ensure everyone understands the desired objectives and outcomes, roles and responsibilities, timelines and resources.
  4. Collaborative Tools: A collaborative project site is a critical resource for distributed project teams. SharePoint is an ideal platform for remote teams. Reports and dashboards make it easier to track individual and team progress. Discussion boards and document libraries enable team members to solve problems quickly and easy. Document sharing and real-time editing speed up collaboration and decision-making.
  5. Manage Different Personality Types: Despite the rising number of distributed teams, not everyone is suited to working remotely. teamfocus has identified five types of problematic remote employees and management strategies to overcome these challenges. Check out the infographic below:

 

managing distributed teams

 

Image credit 

SharePoint Project Management Template

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