How To Use Remote Management Tools To Get Everyone On The Same Page
Fortunately for so many people, remote work is now more possible than ever before. Over the years, many remote management tools have evolved to help people work together when they’re not physically located in the same room (or country). But with the plethora of remote management tools available, you’d think it would be a cinch to get all of your team members on the same page. Unfortunately, that’s still not the case.
Whether your version of a remote team is a local team allowing your team members to work from home occasionally, one team collaborating more than ever with colleagues in another office, or literally having team members spread all over the globe, remote teams are on the rise. But with all of the benefits associated with remote work, it’s still extremely difficult to get a remote team actually working as a team.
The Challenge For Remote Management Tools
With a team that’s physically located together in an office, you can easily get a sense of what people are working on. You walk past someone’s desk and you can see what’s on their monitor. You grab a coffee and you see Joe in the kitchen and chat for a minute about something he’s working on. Your graphic designer is working through some changes so she pops over to your desk to get your feedback. With a remote team, you have none of that natural, incidental collaboration.
All-Day Online Chatting Is Not The Answer
Of course, the most popular collaboration tools for remote teams are online chatting apps (like Slack). These are fantastic for many reasons, but they also have their downfalls. As Jason Fried from Basecamp says;
Group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda.
To get any work done, team members need to eliminate distractions – which is exactly the opposite of what an online chatting culture achieves.
You’re working on one thing and someone asks about something else. You stop work and before you know it you’re in a 20 minute chat “conversation” debating the pros and cons of a new idea. You lose all momentum with your existing work and plan for the day. There is no prioritization, order or logic inherent in chatting – so it’s extremely easy to get derailed.
Online chatting usually encourages communications that are too micro to be an effective management tool.
More Online Meetings Are Not The Answer Either
Team meetings are usually used for getting people on the same page. They’re a good forum for understanding and agreeing on priorities, thrashing out any problems, and learning what other members of the team are working on.
Although different time zones can be a challenge, there are plenty of great tools available for holding meetings with remote teams (Zoom, Skype, and many more). But just like meetings with local team members, online meetings are expensive. They use up everyone’s time and stop people from doing other things.
More importantly, most people hate meetings. Often a lot time is spent on things that are not relevant for all team members and so, especially when working remotely, people tune out.
For these reasons, most people wisely use meetings quite sparingly. Which means that it can be a long time between meetings.
Online meetings are often too macro in nature to be an effective management tool.
Do You Know What Your Remote Team Members Are Doing Today?
But of course, you want to be in touch with your team, so you ping them…
Hi Mike, just wondering… what are you working on today?
This is a reasonable thing to request – are they working hard on a tough problem, or are they off at the beach? It’s really hard to tell.
But asking a question like this doesn’t come across well! It’s hard to phrase without sounding like you’re micromanaging your team.
Daily Updates Make Remote Teams Far More Productive
To manage a remote team, what you want is to know what people are working on today – regardless of which remote management tools you’re using. The magic key to managing a remote team is getting transparency to the Action Lists everyone is working on.
Instilling a culture where everyone proactively shares what they are working on that day makes a huge difference in how remote teams work.
Imagine if you could see exactly what each team member had planned for the day….
When you know what your team members are working on, you can;
- have relevant conversations that are specific to their work
- intercept any work that is not a top priority
- guide specific collaborations by encouraging certain team members to communicate about certain tasks
- give relevant encouragement and feedback
But most importantly, having visibility to your team’s daily plans encourages a lot more trust within the team. There are no doubts as to what everyone is doing or how hard they are working. (Even if you think your team already has high levels of trust, a system like this will increase it.)
This transparency, also promotes a high-performance team culture. When team members can see their colleagues working away on something, they’re more inclined to make sure they are pulling their weight and contributing to the team. No-one wants to let the team down!
Whatever remote team management tools you use, daily updates with team members work plans should definitely be a part of it. Many online management tools are fantastic, but like anything, they’re only as good as the information you put into them. Make your remote team a high performing team by insisting on daily work plans from each of your team members.