Managing any team can be hard, however as we all know there are good managers and bad managers. The thing that differentiates from good or bad is simply the way a person manages tasks and people. When working with remote teams, offshore or not, different things are important when compared to working with people face to face. Many of the things we do naturally with people in front of us, we can easily forget this with our remote teams. Remote teams also loose the benefit of seeing emotions such as a smile on our face, with different cultures also thrown into the mix things can easily go wrong.
With all the above points aside, working with international and remote teams can be one of the most rewarding ways of working. Thanks to the Internet, people are brought together in ways never before possible. This allows smaller businesses to utilize the benefit of reduced labor costs that large multinational organizations have been doing for many years. The trick is to give the right tasks to the right people, remembering that what might seem obvious to you, may not be obvious in a different location or country.
Home working will become more and more popular as long as effective structures are put in place. Even with the best of structures there are some key areas to consider:
– Skype can create a bridge between people over long distances. Instant messaging is quick and useful for updates, however making free calls using Skype over the Internet is cost effective. Especially easy to do when people are working on laptops that have built in microphones and web cameras. Using video conferencing over Skype is free to use and can really help showing non-verbal communication between people.
– Regular updates are extremely important when working with remote teams, sometimes it can be useful to schedule daily, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly quick updates. This reminds everyone that tasks need to be completed and also checks that all involved are working toward the same goals.
– Online management tools can really ease the logistical problems and organization. There are many available; basecamp.com is one good solution for project management and toggl.com has great time tracking features with basic project planning capabilities. These are online only tools;however, even spreadsheets and word documents can be very useful, combine these with such innovations as Google Docs and life can become much easier.
– Culture always has to be considered, but it can take time to learn how to manage and utilize knowledge of different cultures effectively. Without naming specific nationalities, there are some general trends that can often be seen when working with teams from specific countries. This could seem like generalizing and not accounting for individualism, but everyone would admit that each nationality has their own common traits. Knowing when to push harder and when to give people a break, when to listen and when to direct, is something only experience can provide.
If you consider all the points mentioned and plan your work well, you should find that remote projects and tasks will deliver the results you desire.