The War Rooms were nicknamed “Churchill’s Bunker” and were used as a command and control centre by the government throughout the Second World War. BBC Website: Joy Hunter’s Diary

A Few Key Points In Managing Remote Teams

Managing a team that is almost entirely composed of remote employees can often feel like living life down in a bunker during a time of war, relatively isolated with a constant stream of communication being fed in from the front lines. Though much of this communication is often broken into snippets and not one smooth, continuous dialogue. Thus, fluid collaboration is all the more challenging.

Now I have never served in the military and lack any true concept of what service to one’s country in that capacity is like. Nevertheless, I ask that you bear with me in this oversimplified take on what I imagine Winston Churchill to have undergone.

Come to think of it, most of today’s militaries are all giant remote teams still facing many of the same challenges in working together, efficiently as possible, towards one end goal or set of goals.

Clear communication across the entire team should be the challenge you tackle first and foremost. In fact, communication is so important that most of the points listed below touch on it in some way, shape, or form.

Constantly Communicate Out In The Open
With remote team members across different time zones, no one can simply walk over to discuss a particular project or set of processes. It makes for a challenging experience in keeping everyone abreast of all the moving parts around you. You of course could actively try to loop the appropriate individuals on a regular basis but eventually this will become increasingly difficult to maintain and someone or something will fall through the cracks.

It’s important to keep the stream of information, at all levels, flowing. A best practice would be to keep everything as transparent as possible for everyone to see. We do this by keeping much of our communication in basecamp and #slack. Basecamp is the repository for all our communication over projects and #slack is the catch all for everything else we discuss.

An added bonus to communication that is out in the open, it very easily creates accountability for all to see when someone misses on a deliverable. Essentially, it becomes a checks and balances system on which everyone, including management, is held to the same standard.

Be Available
Just as you and your office members are there for one another and constantly interact with one another, show your remote teams that they are a part of the overall larger team. Create open forums for casual conversations and instill the idea that anyone can reach out to anyone for support or guidance.

Be sure everyone is aware of which key team members, who work in the office, are the “go to” individuals to reach out to when they face a hurdle or need additional guidance for the way forward.

Set A Schedule
Just like performance expectations and goals need to be set, so too do regular work hours need to be set. Define clear times that remote team members are expected to be up and running. Especially when different time zones come into play, it will help to know the best time to reach these team members. How these times are all set will depend on your needs with the mindset of getting things done quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality.

Establish A Standardized Reporting System
This closely ties to the earlier point on constantly communicating out in the open. Set up clear and concise reporting and communication standards centered around collaboration, supervision, and troubleshooting.

For example, one standardized reporting structure we have implement is tied to our basecamp tasks. We never close out a basecamp task without a final summary of notes on what was accomplished and an acknowledgement that the task will be closed when there are no outstanding issues. If there are any outstanding issues, the set of issues are documented and left in the open for others to review and troubleshoot, particularly upper management.

Find The Right Apps
The tech world should be your go to solution in dealing with many of the challenges tied with remote teams — more often than not there is someone else out there who faced the same challenge and perhaps set out to create a product to ease the pain.

Project management and collaboration tools like Basecamp or JIRA help remote teams organize tasks, stick to deadlines, contribute, and brainstorm on new projects. They also help you on the managing end of things with assigning responsibilities and tracking progress.

Here are a few of the apps we use, most of which are super intuitive and easy to use along with being free or relatively inexpensive:

Look out for a future posting where I expand on a few of the apps listed above.

Conclusion
Managing remote teams can be quite a challenging experience. It presents many of the same hurdles as managing teams directly along with a few additional perceived barriers. There is always a solution out there, you just need to discover it.

And in the end, with constant communication, some persistence, and the proper tech toolset — getting remote team members to work as a single team in a connected and productive manner will prove to be a rewarding experience.


Originally published at www.linkedin.com.