Transparency is an important element for any project team. In those organizations where project stakeholders are working remotely—whether they’re team members, sponsors, senior staff, vendors, or other collaborators—the need for transparency is elevated even further.
If you’re coordinating dispersed groups of project participants, we’ve put together some key strategies to help you maintain transparency and build confidence among your stakeholders.
Why is transparency important for remote teams?
A project team working at a single jobsite enables people to stop by for updates and to check on progress in person. Face-to-face interactions, easy access to shared data documentation, and the ability to see project impacts for themselves are the most familiar ways for participants to stay in touch with the project’s status. When some or most of your stakeholders transition to working from home or another remote location, they may begin to feel disconnected. Their awareness of the project’s status can drop, leading them to wonder if they’re missing updates on important issues such as scheduling conflicts or resource bottlenecks. As a PM, you want to head off those concerns and reassure your project participants that the team is carrying out its activities with transparency in mind.
How can PMs cultivate a more transparent remote project environment?
Be straightforward about what you don’t know. This is a common point of contention among stakeholders, who will bristle at being kept in the dark long before they’ll complain about being inundated with information. You and your team won’t always have all the answers. Guidance may be pending—the expected return date for a piece of equipment that’s being repaired, for example. Or an upstream task may need to be completed before you have reliable data about future actions. Emphasize transparency by making stakeholders aware of the information you do have and what you do not have so there’s no confusion.
If hard data is missing, consider using an estimate as a placeholder but flag it as such. This enables your team and other collaborators to utilize the estimate in their own activity forecasts while ensuring transparency. You’ve made them aware that some data is still pending and they can be confident you’ll follow up when you have confirmed information to share.
Whether you’re sharing estimates, newly discovered issues, verified project data, or incoming questions or requests, distribute information to your team and stakeholders as quickly and concisely as possible. A dedicated project management technology platform that offers on-demand access is a good way to do this, so everyone will see the latest updates the next time they use the software or through a pop-up on their device. For urgent or high-visibility announcements, consider also sending out a quick message alerting people to the availability of new data.
As you work to ensure you’re working planning and executing your project in a transparent manner, you also need to be mindful that some data should remain confidential. Situations where you aren’t able to broadcast updates right away are typically time limited—your leadership team may want to prepare a public announcement to coincide with the internal release, for example, or it might be appropriate to wait for a contract to be signed before divulging a new vendor relationship or business partnership. Weigh each instance carefully to be sure you’re following best practices.
Establishing a partnership with an experienced project management consultancy can also help your team strengthen your commitment to transparency. The addition of a neutral third party helps to dispel concerns that internal politics may be influencing the project’s execution or that the information your team shares is somehow biased or incomplete.