Effective Remote Workforce Management

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Any project manager knows that each member of his or her team is motivated by different factors. Some need words of support and encouragement; others need more direct constructive feedback when things aren’t going well. One of the secrets of building an effective team is to understand what works with each individual and then apply those techniques at the right time. That’s relatively straightforward when the project manager and team members are collocated, but how do you do it when the project manager and team members are physically separated?

There are a whole host of new challenges that don’t exist when a team is all based in the same office. For a start, the project manager needs to understand the strengths and development opportunities of each of their remote team members—and that can be difficult to ascertain. Beyond a few phone conversations and email exchanges, the PM may only have the remote team member’s work deliverables to go by, and that can be misleading (or at least it can delay the ability to form an opinion).

Secondly, it can be even harder to understand the personality and drivers of remote team members when you have very little direct interaction with them, which in turn makes it hard to establish the most effective management style to use. At the same time, remote team members will have less opportunity to develop a working…

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