Staying in the loop in a remote team

Management
staying-in-the-loop-in-a-remote-team

Staying in the loop in a remote team (or with remote workers) can be very hard. Where it's common to ask for updates and check-in with team members and product owners to get a new update, this can be very difficult when it comes to remote work. Regular meetings often don't work out if communication is done across timezones or people are not available.

Pushing rather than Pulling

The way to communicate and receive updates has to change in a remote team, and should transform from a pulling method to a pushing method, meaning that employees should be empowered to give updates in a centrally accessible place, without prior prompt.

Many remote teams have a openly accessible channel to freely push updates. If a team grows big, it can be worth it to think about a stronger hierarchy, and giving updates directly do a senior manager or project owner, rather than notifying the whole team.

This needs a shift in the mindset too. Written, unprompted updates are often subject to being challenged, other (often uninvolved) employees jumping on a thread to give their inputs - that's not what these should be for, and could prompt dishonest or overly vague updates in the future. As a manager, be sure to only ask topical question, not start a discussion.

Make Team Updates Public

Especially in a meeting-heavy culture, it's tempting to announce big updates in a cheery fashion during a meeting, either in private or during a team-wide meeting. We covered before that meetings should never include operation-crucial information, and next steps, actions and issues should be organized in a list accessible to everyone. That's the same way for updates. There is a huge probability that someone who would be involved or concerned with a team update (e.g. new clients, company info, marketing briefing) is not present in the meeting, and casually mentioning to remind this person is not enough.

Always be sure to share crucial information with everyone involved, not only mentioning them in a thread or sending them a recording of a meeting. In general, crucial information should be shared on an accessible medium first, and then be talked about in a more casual manner (e.g. meetings) to wake excitement.

Keep Interactive Status Updates

There are a bunch of remote working tools, such as Slack and There, that allow you to give a short, interactive status update. It can be a good idea to enforce this if work is longer term, e.g. in longer projects or R&D settings. In these cases, a daily open status update gets monotone quickly, and interactively announcing a current work progress can be more feasible.

This is also the cases if a manager or person in charge does not need to be updated all the time. In many cases, remote employees are self-driven enough to organize themselves and pull a project through without a manager checking in (some might say micro-managing) constantly. In this case, an interative status update is another good choice to keep people in the loop.

 

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