In Twentyfour, we found that the key to succeeding in remote projects is assigning a leader to a particular project who will then guide the team and review the processes. Besides that, we asked ourselves, how can we effectively adapt (new) project management guidelines to a remote team, where most of our communication happens asynchronously?
Here are four lessons we have learned from doing our projects remotely. Also, we found even more value in a recording tool we have used frequently. Scroll down to #3 to see the video and tool we are referring to.
We hope you can benefit from some of these considerations as well.
1. Get the right set of skills to handle the project:
The first step is to get the right mix of skills necessary to develop and deliver the project. In order to put together the perfect dream team, you need to know what the project requires. Our project was to improve our website, Twentyfour.dk. To manage this project effectively (despite our asynchronous communication), we had to think of all the new features we would like to add to the website. And how these features could benefit our users long term. First, we had to come up with all the to-dos we could think of. Second, we needed to set together a team with the required skills to deliver on those to-dos.
It wasn’t challenging gathering the right team. We already know who to contact when we need a specific skill set as we have been developing and optimizing websites for years. But working on the improvement of Twentyfour’s website involved many people working different hours. Therefore, planning ahead was important as each of these people was essential to get the desired result.
2. Organize your to-dos in the project management tool that you favor:
It’s almost impossible to ensure deadlines are met if we don’t have a clear overview of all our to-dos in one place. Therefore, one of our most important tools is our project management tool, Basecamp. We use Basecamp for every project we are working on. In these times of working remotely and at different hours, we experienced even more value derived from this project management tool.
We handle our internal (marketing) projects by creating new to-do lists for the project every second Wednesday. Here we add every task that needs to be handled in the coming two weeks. Wednesday might seem like a weird day to plan ahead, but we believe it’s the best day to do it. The reason is that tasks can be more time-consuming than first anticipated or unforeseen delays can occur. If you need to have tasks done by Monday, your team would likely feel obligated to work on the weekends. Or at least dread the coming Monday. Giving your team the first two days in a week to finish their to-dos will come back to you tenfold with happier, more committed, and more productive team members. At least if you ask us.
By using Basecamp, we can stay updated on each other’s progress and work on the project. But with clear agreements on who is responsible for what. Basecamp enables a lot of flexibility. It lets us see everything on our to-do list to plan weeks ahead, but we can also communicate with each other on each to-do when and if necessary. And importantly, it’s easy to ask for advice, opinions, and help from team members if needed. This is done by tagging them on the to-do. It makes it possible for everyone to see exactly where we are in the process to ensure that we all meet our deadlines.
3. Show what you mean and what you want:
We mentioned that it is important to have a project leader. But… How do you give feedback to your team members and communicate your thoughts and ideas when working remotely? And sometimes at different hours? We have used loom recording many times – but the value we have derived from it has never been greater.
Let us show you an extremely simple (but super effective) way of reviewing a website (or any project) and giving feedback.
As you can see in the video above, Bo Møller had a lot of useful and constructive feedback for the website. But did you notice the short sentences he wrote in the document? Without the video, the written feedback would most likely have been challenging to decode effectively. Using only written feedback and reviews on a remote project increases the requirements for the feedback to be specific and understandable. But still, it needs to include enough background information to follow the project manager’s thinking. And even with all this, you still risk that people involved in the project will read something different into the feedback.
By using loom, the project manager could go through the website and show exactly what he meant and what he wanted. It made it possible for the people working on the project to return to the to-dos and re-listen to the feedback. This was a hugely important step in our remote project of improving the Twentyfour website!
4. Regular updates of the project
When you handle remote projects, updating your teammates frequently about your part of the execution is important. For example, at Twentyfour, we always inform each other on:
- What was done this week?
- What is the plan for next week?
- Is there anything blocking the project from moving on as planned?
- Are there any deadline changes, and if so, why?
We feel that working on the project as a team has been important – even though the team is spread out in various areas, cities, and countries. By continuously updating each other on the progress and potential obstacles on the project, we have kept both the team feeling and the help you would normally get from your teammates. These regular updates have also made it easier for the project manager to keep track of the project and ensure that all team members had the needed resources to deliver on their to-dos.
Of course, everyone has adapted differently to the new remote landscape presented by the COVID situation. So the above four bullet points have been our main guidelines during these crazy times. It’s without a doubt that COVID-19 has brought trying times with it. At Twentyfour, we feel that we have learned a lot about ourselves, our team members, our processes, and how to optimize these continuously!
We hope this post has been helpful or inspired some rethinking of your processes. We will love to hear from you if you have any tips on managing remote projects most effectively!