If you manage or work in a remote team – as most of us do these days – you probably appreciate the flexibility that comes from working anytime, anywhere and avoiding a long commute. But one aspect of remote work can be challenging: getting a team to collaborate well on a major project.
Most firms today juggle several projects in addition to their regular client work. Teams might evaluate new technologies, recruit and train talent, work on process improvement initiatives, prepare annual budgets, and more.
In the office, it's easier for the team to stay on top of such projects. You can get together for weekly status update meetings or stop by a coworker's office to ask a question. However, if you're not used to collaborating on a big project remotely, emails can go missing in a crowded inbox, and tasks can fall through the cracks. That's when a project manager can help ensure people stay on task and meet deadlines.
When I joined Boomer Consulting, Inc. as a Project Coordinator a little over a year ago, I didn't have any prior formal project management experience or project management certifications. What I did have is a love of planning, organization and deadlines. And while I plan to expand my formal knowledge in this role, I've learned a lot about what it takes to successfully shepherd projects to completion with a remote team.
Set a vision
In any successful project, the first step is to create a vision for your team. What do you want this project to accomplish?
When creating your vision, it's helpful to follow the "Action, Deliverable, Criteria" format. For example, if you're trying to choose a new document management system, your vision might be, "To select a new document management system that is cloud-based, secure and integrates with our client portal."
The right vision gives team members a reason to contribute and ensures everyone is on the same page about the project's purpose.
Create goals, celebrate milestones
To keep your project on track, it's important to break it up into smaller steps, establish deadlines for each task along the way and assign responsibility. This helps the team avoid procrastination because open-ended tasks tend to get the lowest priority on everyone's to-do list.
For example, going back to the document management system project, your project's milestones might include coming up with a list of potential solutions, scheduling demos, gathering feedback after each demo and selecting a solution. Reaching each of these milestones can be an opportunity for celebration.
These celebrations don't have to be elaborate or expensive. You can simply send out a message of gratitude on Slack or Microsoft Teams, give team members an afternoon off, or have a virtual celebratory lunch.
Communication is one of the most important aspects of project management. It keeps everyone engaged, motivated and on the same page.
In a remote team, having a project management system is especially helpful. At Boomer Consulting, we use Asana, but there are several other options out there. These tools allow the team to see where the project stands and provide updates and serve as a communications record. This is extremely helpful when your team is completely remote, and you can't simply walk into someone's office to check on the status.
A project manager's role isn't to perform tasks required to complete the project but to hold others accountable for completing their tasks. Without follow-up, projects can fall way behind schedule. But if you follow up with people consistently, you can respond quickly to potential issues by adding more resources or adjusting the project's overall timeline.
Remember, when checking in with team members, it's not just about deadlines and budgets. Also check on your team members' well-being. This is more important than ever when people may be trying to balance work with caring for family members or dealing with other pandemic-related issues.
Seek continuous improvement
One of the most important steps in a successful project comes after its completion.
Set a time to meet once the project is complete and discuss what went well, what didn't, and what you can improve going forward. Even a small project can become a learning opportunity that will help you manage larger projects better in the future.
If you're at the start of a project or have a new project coming up soon, consider appointing someone to the project manager role. You may not need someone with extensive project management experience, just someone who knows what needs to be done, is organized and adept at communication. With the right people on your team and a process to see it to completion, you'll enjoy much better outcomes from projects with many moving parts.
As a Project Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Liesl Walser is putting her passion for planning and organizing to work by planning and overseeing events at the Accounting Innovation Center and supporting, planning and executing projects.
Before joining Boomer Consulting, Inc., Liesl worked in the accounting department of an insurance company and spent five years working across multiple roles at a country club. No matter the position, she enjoys being able to work with people and have a positive impact on their day.