In Twentyfour, we found out that the key to succeeding in remote projects is to assign a leader to a particular project who will then guide the team and review the processes. But besides that, we had to ask ourselves, how can we effectively adopt (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 in the past (if you can’t wait, you can scroll 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 own website, Twentyfour.dk. To manage this project effectively (despite our asynchronous communication) we had to think of all the new features that we would like to add to the website, which would benefit our users long term. So first, we had to come up with all the to-dos we could think of and then we needed to set together a team of people with the needed skills to deliver on those to-dos.
For us, gathering the right team wasn’t really a challenge since we already know who to reach out to when we need a specific skill set as we have been developing and optimizing websites together for years – but working on the improvement of Twentyfour’s website involved many people working different hours, so planning ahead was important as each of these people were important to get the result we wanted.
2. Organize your to-dos in the project management tool that you favor:
It would be almost impossible to ensure that all deadlines were met if we did not 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 and in these times of working remotely and at different hours, we experienced even more value derived from this project management tool. The way we do it with our internal (marketing) projects is that every second Wednesday, we create a new to-do list for the project with 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 that this is actually the best day to do it. The reason being that tasks can be more time-consuming than first anticipated or unforeseen delays can occur, so if you needed to have it done by Monday, your team would (most 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 as a team on the project – but with clear agreements on who is responsible for what. Basecamp enables a lot of flexibility. It lets us see everything that’s 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 is easy to ask for advice, opinions, and help from team members if needed by tagging them in the to-do. This makes it possible for everyone to see exactly where in the process we are to make sure 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 the team is working remotely – and sometimes at different hours? We have used loom recording many times before – 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 (who founded Twentyfour years back) 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 really difficult to effectively decode. So, using only written feedback and reviews on a remote project increases the requirements for the feedback to be specific and understandable – but still include enough background information to be able to follow the thinking of the project manager. And even with all this, you still risk that the many different people involved in the project will read something different into the feedback.
By using loom, the project manager was able to go through the website and show exactly what he meant and what he wanted. And 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
What is also absolutely important to handle a successful remote project is to update your teammates frequently about your part of the execution. For example, at Twentyfour er 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 it has been important to work on the project as a team – even though the team has been spread out in various areas, cities, and even 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. And apart from the team-feeling, these regular updates have also made it easier for the project manager to keep track of the project and ensure that all team members have 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, but these four bullet points have been our main guidelines during these crazy times. And we will definitely continue with these processes in some format once we come back to the office. No argument that COVID-19 has brought trying times with it, but at Twentyfour we also feel that we have learned a lot about ourselves, our team members, and especially about our processes and how to continuously optimize these!
We hope that this post has been helpful or has inspired some rethinking of your processes. We would love to hear from you if you have any tips on how to most effectively manage a remote project!