How to Manage Joint Projects While Working Remotely
COVID-19 has effectively ripped the bandage off the last remote work holdouts. If work from home, aka "WFH," is your new normal, you might wonder how you can work collaboratively and successfully complete projects with remote colleagues. But with a combination of technology and a firm commitment to communication, you can manage joint projects effectively even while working remotely.
Start with a kickoff meeting
A successful project typically starts with a kickoff meeting, and while it might feel more comfortable to gather everyone in a conference room, you can kick off a project on Zoom, too. A productive kickoff meeting serves to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page. One effective tool to use is a "RACI chart." "RACI" stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. Define upfront who is responsible for tasks, who is accountable for making decisions, who needs to be consulted, and who needs to be kept informed. You will save time later if all stakeholders know their roles.
Establish project milestones
You know you need to get from Point A to Point B by a certain date, but to make sure you do, you need to break the project up into chunks. Take a cue from the software development world and develop project milestones. That way you can be agile as you evaluate progress. It is easier to make minor adjustments early on than to salvage a project at the 11th hour.
Have virtual stand-up meetings
Once you have established your milestones, schedule associated check-in meetings or even routine stand-up meetings. These could be once a week or even occur more frequently as you approach your project end date. The term "stand-up meetings" comes from the theory that meetings are more likely to be quick and remain on topic if the participants are standing up. It is less tempting to shoot the breeze and get off track. Although you might not want to stand up for a virtual meeting, you're less likely to fall down rabbit holes on a video meeting anyway; it's harder to feel like you're standing around the water cooler on Zoom.
Use a project management tool
Online collaboration tools, whether you prefer Trello, Wrike, Asana, or some other system, come in many flavors, but essentially, they all offer a repository for project documentation and create valuable transparency. Project stakeholders can log in and see for themselves how a project is progressing, eliminating the need for some (but not all) meetings and emails. Some tools even include automation through email notifications, ensuring all stakeholders stay informed.
Rely on instant messaging for quick updates
Love it or hate it, office instant messaging is here to stay. Slack and Microsoft Teams are two of the biggest players in the market, and either can seriously cut down on email. Users communicate via chats or threads, and anyone in a thread can follow the conversation and jump in as needed. It is an easy and quick way to exchange quick bits of info or files without cluttering the inbox—think of it as the modern way of sticking your head over the cubicle wall. And you can use GIFs to display a wide range of emotions.
Another bonus: Slack and Microsoft Teams both offer many "apps" or extensions, allowing you to connect the instant messaging service with your project management tool.
Get comfortable with video calls
Sometimes, you need to meet face to face. Video calls make this possible, whether you are social distancing for safety or working with someone who lives across the country. A Teams call or Zoom meeting is not the same as meeting in person, but it's the next best thing. Adding a microphone, dedicated webcam, and good lighting behind your computer will greatly enhance your video call experience.
With these tools and a firm commitment to transparency and communication, you and your remote colleagues should have no trouble achieving your project goals.