When your team is spread out and working remotely rather than all sharing the same space, how can you track everyone’s work and make sure you know where projects stand and whether you’re hitting your goals?
Follow these four guidelines and you’ll be running such a tight ship that you may even forget that your team members aren’t on-site!
1. Ensure that you and your team are tightly aligned on what successful work looks like for the year – as well as for the month and the quarter. If you create clear goals with measurable milestones along the way, everyone will know what they’re working toward and what progress markers they need to be hitting at any given time. Make sure that each member of your staff has a set of key success indicators, and check in regularly on where they are in meeting their goals.
You might even set aside a portion of one check-in meeting each month to assess how well your staff member is doing against the measures you’ve laid out, and you might think of data that you can review that will help illustrate that progress. That way, you’ll quickly be able to spot it when work is off track – and hopefully course correct.
2. Put the onus for tracking and reporting on work on your staff members, not on yourself. If the tracking all falls on you, you’re going to have to juggle that along with everything else already on your plate, and it’s likely to get short shrift when other priorities are more pressing. Instead, put your staff members in charge of tracking their progress and reporting to you on regular intervals. For example, you might say ask a staff member to ensure that you receive specific types of data showing progress toward monthly goals and that they should schedule meetings with you quarterly to assess that progress. In addition…
3. Set clear expectations for when and how you want to be kept in the loop. Managers will often ask their teams to keep them in the loop about important developments or significant changes to timelines. But if you don’t talk explicitly about specifically what sorts of things you want to be in the loop about – and how quickly – it can turn out you and your staff member each envision that differently. That can lead to situations like you only hearing about an angry client a week later, if your employee figures it can wait for your next weekly check-in, when you would have preferred to be alerted immediately. Or you might never hear about developments you consider significant simply because your staff member has a different understanding of what falls in that category. This is true even when you’re not managing remote staff, of course, but it’s more of an issue when you are – because you won’t have the same opportunities for ad hoc conversation in the hallways or during other informal interaction. So be really sure to talk through what kinds of things you want to be alerted to, and on what kind of timeline.
4. Take advantage of technology like QuickBase and other automated systems -- don't reinvent the wheel! When you’re tracking the work of a geographically distributed team, you need a system that helps you track your team’s work in one centralized place. When you need to centrally organize documents and conversations; track progress, deadlines, and outstanding tasks; and store shared materials, relying on email or spreadsheets almost certainly won’t cut it. And of course, once you select this kind of system, make sure your whole team actually uses it, or you’ll defeat the whole purpose of having it!