As impacts from the coronavirus outbreak ripple across the business landscape, many organizations are moving portions of their operations to a more distributed work structure to maintain activities while minimizing face-to-face interactions. This could present challenges for project teams that aren’t already accustomed to working remotely with remote project management.
If you’re having trouble juggling a telecommuting workforce and project management, we’ve put together some tips to help you get started executing projects even when part or all of your team is offsite.
1 – Assess your project priorities
With the disruption that often comes from new work environments, PMs and their teams need to have a clear understanding of each project’s most important components. What are the deliverables? What falls within the critical path? Where are key milestones on the schedule? If your organization is undergoing a significant shift in operations as employees transition to offsite duties, some of these priorities may also need to change. You’ll be in a better position to make adjustments once you’ve taken a fresh look at the project’s original execution plan and scope.
2 – Know your capabilities
Your project team, perhaps your entire business, may no longer have the full complement of resources to help move initiatives forward. Review your staffing plan and see if any gaps have appeared. Are key team members unavailable due to illness, a lack of reliable connectivity in their offsite work location, or the need to care for children if their local schools have closed? It’s possible that funding streams originally earmarked for your project will be temporarily diverted to more urgent matters, such as increasing production of items in heavy demand or purchasing computers and other technology tools to enable broader remote connectivity for employees working outside the office. Determine the resources and labor that are still available to keep your project moving.
3 – Connect with your stakeholders
Offsite project management requires a strong communications strategy and your stakeholders—end users, sponsors, executives, internal support groups, and other collaborators—will remain a vital part of your plan. Some people may not yet be comfortable with the idea of working remotely, so prioritize regular updates to ensure everyone knows the status of project activities. In addition, you should be proactive about soliciting input from those outside the core project team. Without routine face-to-face interactions to nurture these relationships, it would be easy for stakeholders to drift away from your project. You’re better off maintaining good ongoing communication flows rather than trying to reengage them remotely after their focus has wandered elsewhere.
4 – Reset expectations
The normal assumptions around project management may need to be tailored to fit your new work arrangement. Ask team members for the best times to connect for regular status updates. Some might prefer to wait until after their children have left for daycare before they join a conference call, for example. Also, work with your senior leadership team to determine an appropriate cadence for progress reports, particularly if you’re accustomed to having frequent, informal project discussions in the hallway. Resetting expectations to align with a distributed work environment will ensure that everyone has the same vision of success.
5 – Find the right help
Remote work arrangements aren’t a new phenomenon, though their use continues to be narrower in focus within the project realm. A project management consultancy with experience bringing distributed groups together can provide you with valuable guidance on how to make offsite work more productive and successful. The right partner will also have the necessary expertise to help you properly assess risks and maintain stringent project controls as you shift your project management activities outside the office.