When it comes to managing a remote team, without transparency and clear accountability, productivity falls sharply. New real-time apps and software tools for teams can help.We are in a day and age where it’s possible to work with team members, contractors and vendors regardless of where they are in the world. Our own highly talented team here at TeamworkIQ currently spans 4 continents. So we know it can seem tricky to manage how teams with remote members can work efficiently. But with the right mentality, strategies and supporting apps, teams working together from many locations can be highly productive forces.
Transparency is Key
The most important thing with a remote worker is transparency. Much has been written about how transparency in the workplace can create a collaborative culture with motivated employees. In this article, we focus on the role of transparency in teamwork, business processes and workflows. In this context process transparency means that each team member not only knows their personal responsibilities, each also knows how others’ work relates to their own. When teams talk about getting “everyone on the same page” this is what they mean.As with any team, it’s the duty of the manager to ensure that each member understands the processes, priorities as well as their responsibilities in that process. Transparency is even more important for remote workers who can’t easily ask a question and immediately get an answer should they need a reminder or clarification.
In an article for SmallBusiness.co.uk, Richard Langham, head of EMEA for Adobe who oversees teams spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa, reflected on how things in his business unit were falling through the cracks and his solution. He observed:
“Due to a lack of transparency and accountability, when a deal slipped, there was no way of knowing how to prevent the same thing from happening in the future.Finally, I decided to find out once and for all what the problem was. I held one-on-one talks with everyone on my team until I pinpointed a few crucial stages of the process where delays had taken place – approvers were unaware of changes, slow to respond to calls, or were unavailable to sign documents – and a lack of communication meant others were left in the dark.Since then I’ve ensured everyone in my department takes ownership of their stage of the process, while also ensuring that everyone else in the department knows what stage we’ve reached, and who’s responsible for which tasks. In other words, transparency and accountability can streamline your processes, drive better workflow, and ensure that your team actually achieves what you aim to get done.”The last thing a manager needs is lost time spent jumping through hoops to keep their team focused on what to do and informed of change. Writing up an email or trying to get them on the phone to discuss next steps delays the process and can let things fall through the cracks. So how does a team leader provide process transparency and reduce the amount of time wasted when what to do next is not clear.
Keep Synchronised, Keep Efficient
There are numerous tools out there to help with remote remote teams communicate. Web-based conferencing software such as Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom, video conferencing are great for real-time, face-to-face conversation and screen sharing. These services provide user-friendly interfaces and have the added benefit of keeping interactions face-to-face, helping build camaraderie amongst the team. Chat apps such as Microsoft Teams and Slack provide real-time team textual, image and file sharing communication through group chat channels and direct messaging. Teams using chat apps like the real time feel over the slower paced communications of email. Quick chats are useful for quick problem solving, getting questions answered, or getting brief updates. Each communication medium has its pros and cons. Even slack has added video conferencing, a testament that chat alone is not all a highly productive team needs to get the job done.However, the primary shortcoming of these communication app is that the messages, files and data communicated are impermanent. They function well as communication tools, but for managing work that needs to be tracked and managed to completion, the information in the messages is unstructured, hard to track and instantly out of date. While it’s possible to run through email or Slack message history or keep a notepad to hand during a Google Hangout call, but there’s no means by which these apps provide at-a-glance information how far a project or process has progressed and quickly see what’s been done, what’s next, and what’s coming up… transparency into the process.To track work, teams might be manually updating Google Docs, spreadsheets or shared Word documents. That takes lots of time and effort. Even more effort is required to manually send messages to inform team members of changes. The result is that hours of each day get lost to maintaining transparency. TeamworkIQ provides a simple solution to this problem. TeamworkIQ does all this for teams automatically. TeamworkIQ smart, online checklists automatically track progress, guide next steps and keep everyone informed with actionable messages about progress and changes. Unlike email or Slack where messages are temporal, TeamworkIQ smart checklists provide instant transparency and focus for everyone working together to get things done. However unlike tracking work in documents or entering data into project management tools, using TeamworkIQ is as simple as communicating: Just type up who needs to do what and send it out. TeamworkIQ is like having an extra project manager or process coordinator on the team to do this work. TeamworkIQ “reads” the message, tracks the work assignments, coordinates current and upcoming work while keeping everyone informed and up to date. This means that even remote team members can have same level of process transparency and accountability as any other team member.
Make the Most of Remote
With roles, priorities and next steps clear, managers can foster a better working environment for every member of a remote team. Accountability increases through transparent workflows. Remote or local, everyone performs with greater accountability to each other, leading to higher productivity.