1). Scope out projects thoroughly

When working remotely your team’s ability to spontaneously communicate falls drastically. With proper forethought and detailed scheduling for projects, you will be able to help your team collaborate more effectively. 

Before your team begins a project, it’s important to scope it out thoroughly to ensure that contributors are aligned and the project has been thought out. Failing to do this could result in roadblocks due to contributors not knowing when their contribution to the project is due, or problems arising that could have been mitigated by assessing the requirements for the project.

Assign a project champion

When beginning the project, start by identifying what problem the project is trying to solve, what you hope to achieve by solving the problem, and how you will go about solving said problem. From there, you can identify a project champion who will be the primary owner of the project.

The project champion will be responsible for communicating with individual contributors to keep them informed and aligned, and for ensuring that project deliverables stay on track. Typically, the project champion will be the person who is contributing the most to the project, and has the most expertise and experience in the area the project is focusing on. 

After identifying the project champion, make a list of all other contributors to the project. Ensure you give proper foresight to include all those who will be contributing to the project from start to finish. It’s important that all contributors to the project are informed before work begins so that they can have proper context and provide insight that the project champion or other contributors might not have. 

Come with a plan

Now that your team is assembled, it’s time to set high-level goals for the project, assess potential risks, plan deliverables, and determine the success criteria. 

For setting goals, outline what you want to achieve with the project. What was the reasoning for the project? What do you hope to accomplish with the project? 

When assessing risks, think about what roadblocks your team might encounter and how you plan on overcoming them. Be sure to get feedback from all stakeholders for the project as they might have a unique perspective that helps them identify risks others might miss. 

For deliverables, list out what tangible outputs you will have as a result of the project. When can you expect those deliverables to be ready? Who will be responsible for each deliverable? 

For the success criteria, reference your goals and try to be as specific as possible. Ask yourself: What key performance indicators (KPIs) will you be evaluating? How do these KPIs correlate with the goals you hope to achieve with the project? What result would you consider to be ‘successful’? 

With the high-level overview now out of the way, you can break down the project into tasks for each contributor. Try to get granular with the tasks and set dates for when those tasks are to be completed and which tasks are dependent on others. 

2). Make the most out of meetings

There’s no doubt that communication tools like Slack and Discord are effective in helping teams stay in contact in a remote setting. That being said, these tools lack the nuance and spontaneity that come with working in the same physical environment. To overcome this, plan meetings with a regular cadence, set clear agendas for meetings, and ensure notes are being taken and distributed. 

Know what conversations warrant a meeting

When working with a remote team it’s tempting to book more meetings than are necessary. Or, on the flip side, try to have conversations through Slack that really would have been better suited for a meeting. So what types of conversations warrant a meeting, and when should you keep it in an email or Slack message?

Generally speaking, if there’s a conflict that needs to be resolved, a context heavy topic that needs to be discussed, or an important decision to be made,  book a meeting. If you’re just checking in on the status of a project, trying to bounce an idea off your team, or wanting to share a deliverable you completed, try to communicate that in a message or save it for a regularly scheduled meeting. 

Schedule meetings that work for your team

Meeting cadence will differ from team to team. What’s important is that you set regular, recurring meetings so that team members can keep others informed without having to deal with conflicting schedules. For our team at Acadium, we find what works for us is one hour-long meeting at the beginning of the week to get aligned on goals for the current week and to go over progress on projects from the previous week. On top of that, we do one 30 minute meeting each morning to discuss updates, daily goals, and roadblocks. 

Remember that your time for each meeting is limited so setting a clear agenda can help ensure that all topics are covered during the allotted time. 

Take effective notes

Assign someone in the meeting to be the note-taker. After each meeting, share those notes with your team. It will be helpful for them to reference later and for members who might not have been able to attend the meeting to still stay in the loop. 

Share context

When working remotely, it’s easy to become focused on your own goals and lose sight of the broader picture, both team and company-wide. Keeping others aware of what’s going on with your projects will help ensure that everyone is equipped to get aligned with what’s going on and be available to lend feedback and support when necessary. 

At Acadium, we strive to promote a transparent culture in an effort to keep everybody informed. For meetings, we post our notes internally and make them accessible to anyone at the company seeking further context on what was discussed and what the outcomes of the meeting were. We also try to ensure that every meeting has a specific outcome that can be referenced!

We use Notion for knowledge/project management, to ensure that there is a single source of truth for each project, task, brand asset, and even decision We use Notion to scope projects, post updates, leave feedback, and track KPIs. By having a home for context and updates on each project, we enable anyone at the company to quickly get all the information they may need regarding a specific project or task. We use Slack to communicate, but we find that context gets lost in Slack very easily. Notion helps us manage that context. 

This process works well as a passive way of making information available, but sometimes it helps to be a little bit more proactive. One way we do this is by holding ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions or ‘AMAs’ where the team makes themselves available for an hour via video chat to field questions from others at the company about what they are currently working on, what projects are coming in the future, and the thinking behind those projects. We create a backlog of questions for the AMA prior to the scheduled time, and the team hosting the AMA will simply go through the questions and facilitate an open discussion. 

By making information about past, present, and future projects accessible to anyone at your company, it helps foster a culture where ideas are being shared cross-team, and ensures that there is alignment on the direction of your company at a high-level. 

3). Set standards and maintain accountability

Without seeing your team members face to face on a daily basis, it’s easy to allow accountability to fall by the wayside if you’re not staying vigilant. So how do you maintain that accountability with a remote team? 

Set expectations early

The first step is to set expectations early. Unspoken rules can be confusing for both managers and team members. To avoid any disconnect, team members should have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. When bringing a new employee onto the team or transitioning an existing team into a remote setting you should clearly explain expectations for project deadlines, meeting cadence, and communication during work hours. 

As we discussed earlier in this article, being transparent with the status of ongoing and upcoming projects will help your remote team stay coordinated while juggling multiple tasks. By setting deadlines before work begins on a project, team members will have a clear expectation of when their work needs to be completed.

Having a regular and predictable cadence for meetings can be another great way to share project deadlines and outcomes. A long-form meeting at the beginning of the week to go over what work was completed in the previous week and what the current week’s goals are will not only help the whole team stay informed of what others are working on but will force individuals to plan out their upcoming week and promote accountability across the entire team. You may also find it helpful to do shorter form daily meetings in addition to the weekly meetings. In this meeting team members can talk about their wins from the previous day, what they have planned for the current day, and if they will need assistance from anyone else on the team to accomplish their tasks. 

Remember to keep in mind your team members time zones when setting up your meetings. What is convenient for some members of your team might not be for others. 

Review projects before release

We get it, things move fast and when individual contributors own their own channels and projects, things can get pushed out without a proper review process. When working remotely, there’s an added layer of complexity when it comes to reviewing work before it’s published. There’s a number of ways you can structure your review process that will help maintain a uniform standard of quality for work, and ultimately, your brand. 

What works for us at Acadium is a process whereby two team members are assigned to each project as ‘reviewers’. Typically, these team members are not involved with the project outside of their responsibility as a reviewer. These team members are assigned to each project prior to any work being started, and they are made aware of the review deadline in advance. Once work is completed for a project, the onus is then on the reviewers to look over the work and sign off on it when they feel it meets the quality standards for our team, and on the champion to hold the reviewers accountable and share necessary context with them. Only after both reviewers have given their approval for a project can it then be pushed live. 

Keep in mind that what works for us might not work for you. If your team is smaller, it’s possible that a 30-minute meeting to review completed work for a project before it’s pushed out might be more suitable. Whatever form your review process takes, it’s important that it’s formalized and implemented on every project if you want to maintain a consistent level of quality. 

Key Takeaways

To make sure you’re getting the most out of your remote team be sure to:

  • Scope out projects thoroughly by assigning a project champion and outlining risks, setting goals, planning deliverables, and determining success criteria.
  • Schedule meetings at a predictable cadence and make them more effective by limiting them to discussing context heavy topics or resolving conflict. Take detailed notes and make context available ahead of the meeting.
  • Maintain accountability by setting clear expectations for your team and developing a standardized review process for projects.

Be sure to try out these tips in your next Acadium apprenticeship! Stay tuned to the Acadium Blog for more articles to help you own your future.