Managing a successful project relies heavily on being able to communicate effectively with your team. You need to be able to quickly and effectively understand where your team is in regard to deadlines, be able to work through any problems which may arise and also be able to coherently make clear your aims and objectives throughout the project in order to ensure you meet deadlines and produce a successful final product.
Project managing requires a high level of communication skill at the best of times as you will be required to work and communicate with a wide range of people from all walks of life. However, if you are managing a project remotely, communication suddenly becomes a much more important skill with a brand-new set of challenges.
Remote project management may see you trying to organise several different groups from often different countries so that you can achieve a shared goal. You may be working with developers in Japan, a production team in Germany and a client in America and as project manager, it down to you to ensure you are all on the same page and all fully informed each step of the way.
So, how can you improve communication when physical barriers prevent you and your team meeting face to face to discuss your project?
Plan Your Meetings To Include As Many Members As Possible
Team meetings are a very important part of project management as they allow you and your team to discuss strategy, timelines, deadlines and work over any complications or problems which have arisen. As a remote project manager, however, getting all of your team members together on a conference call or video meeting can be a logistical nightmare, especially if your team is an international one.
Try to find a time for your meeting which will maximise member involvement; where you will be able to get as many bodies to the table as you can. If your team is international, then you may need to pay special consideration to the time your schedule your meeting for. Early morning meetings in the US may mean that your team in India is having to have their evenings interrupted. Try and pick a time that works for everyone or alternate meeting times so that it is not only one group who is up extra early or in late.
It is good practice to ensure that all team members are kept fully informed of the importance of each meeting as well as the purpose of the meeting. This will help to ensure that the key team members you need at the meeting will be present and it also makes people feel appreciated which will spur them into attendance.
Make Use Of Technology
As a remote project manager, it can be easy to get bogged down in lengthy email chains which, while all written with the best intentions, can take a long time to get through and important details can be missed. While email is still a solid tool for the remote project manager, there are now plenty of quicker and more efficient ways to communicate with team members to help improve communication levels.
Instant messaging apps are a great way to relay information and instructions quickly and efficiently so if you need an immediate update or have a quick query then this is the tool you should use. Instant messaging apps allow you to communicate with your team without having to schedule in a video conference and most apps have the ability to start group discussions, so you can involve more than one team member. You can often also share documents and visuals so that your meanings and information can be made clear to the recipient.
Use Video Where Possible
When in meetings, so much is communicated with non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expressions which can really improve relations and communications with team members. As a remote project manager, you may miss out on much of this and this can have a negative effect on relations. Video conferencing allows you to see the person you are talking to and should be preferred over a simple telephone call or email. Humans use non-verbal communication much more than we realise and so by using video calls to your team you can much better gauge how your strategies are being received and whether your team is facing any difficulties.
Improve Your Own Skill Set
Remote project managing takes a dedicated approach and a range of skills which are vital in order to keep a project on track through to a successful completion. There are unique challenges to be overcome which you may not have encountered before, and it is important to be well prepared for that in order to be an affecting project manager. APM project management qualification courses give you many of the skills and techniques you will need in order to be a great project manager and they are highly recommended by industry experts. The skills and techniques you will learn as part of the qualification will include building on your communication skills to ensure you are prepared for the challenges of working as a remote project manager.
While team communication is vital for a successful project when working as a remote project manager is it important to try to communicate with individual team members as much as possible too. One-to-ones allow your team member to talk to you openly about any issues they may be having, and you will also be able to use the opportunity to fully understand where they are in terms of progress and deadlines. Individually contacting your team members helps them to feel appreciated, comfortable and supported which is essential when your team is working remotely. It is also important to make sure your team members feel comfortable contacting each other directly too so that you do not spend countless hours playing middleman for everyone else.
While remote project management undoubtedly has its difficulties; good communication techniques should enable you to see your project through to successful completion regardless of the distance between yourself and your team.