Managing Remote Teams

By Tania Cervoni, Canadian Management Centre

Managing Remote Teams Image

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching implications, some of which we have yet to experience. However, along with the negative impact, there has been numerous learning opportunities – chances to examine the global response to this challenge and to reflect upon lessons learned, especially as they relate to how we lead projects in the workplace. Here are a few thoughts to consider:

  1. There is true magic in collaboration. Organizations talk a lot about the need to break down silos and work collaboratively. But have we really been collaborating effectively? Stop to consider the remarkable innovations that have come as a result of efforts to address pandemic-induced health challenges. From the creation of ventilators to the production of over 40 vaccines ready for clinic trials, all in record speed, these results force us to examine the way we have been approaching collaboration. What individuals across the globe have been able to achieve is due, in part, to the willingness of countless employees and subject matter experts to share ideas, information and knowledge with each other. What can we learn from these initiatives? How did the organizations and experts involved overcome the typical obstacles to moving quickly while still collaborating simultaneously? These are questions worthy of exploring as we evolve how we collaborate in our own organizations. 
  2. Technology facilitates collaboration. Pre-pandemic, some of us were reticent to manage projects with remote teams. Enter COVID-19. We are catapulted into a virtual world and not given much choice. Many of us have used this time wisely to uncover technology tools that allow us to better manage and facilitate project meetings and workflow. Cloud-based tools such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Slack, Asana and so many more allow people to work simultaneously while staying in communication and tracking progress. This has led to improved efficiency, productivity and yes, the often-elusive collaboration. This is a great time to examine whether you and your colleagues taken full advantage of tools that exist.
  3. Working remotely forces us to be more organized, structured, and intentional. Holding meetings without a well-thought-out agenda has always been a bad idea. But holding virtual meetings without structure and clearly defined roles can be complete chaos. Working through the pandemic has required project leaders to be skilled orchestrators because anything less leads to confusion and disengagement in a virtual world. When people can’t assemble face to face, there are a lot of extra steps that need to be taken to ensure people understand their role, know how to interact and communicate with others, and remain engaged during virtual meetings. When setting up your next project meeting, be sure to ask some key questions: Is everyone clear on the problem we are coming together to discuss or solve? Is there a way I can get different people to lead different pieces of the agenda? Does everyone know how to interact with the virtual platform we are using? Do I, as the project lead, know how to use platform features like breakout rooms, whiteboards, and chat to fully engage team members? Does everyone understand how project work, milestones and results are being tracked and measured in this remote environment?

Thankfully, a significant number of people have stepped up to share what they’ve been learning throughout this time so that we can learn from one another. And while the pandemic has been and continues to be a difficult time, there are clear signs of accelerated growth and opportunity that has also emerged.

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