Working Locally, Thinking Globally

August 30, 2018 by FlexPro

As a project manager, starting at a new company or beginning a new project is an exciting time. It is the true beginning in the timeline. However, unlike in the past where starting new generally meant a new physical location, today your new project location may be in Houston while you are physically located in San Diego. You have a hiring plan that includes the best team members you can find, but they all happen to be geographically located throughout the country or even internationally. You may be in one time zone, your client in in another, and most of your team scattered across the globe. So how do you make this all work?

It’s important to recognize that:

  • It’s rare to have everyone always in one place anymore.
  • The pharma industry is more global than ever. Multiple continents and time zones are commonplace.
  • Many project teams will require external partners who are critical to the success of the project.
  • Flexible and remote ways of working are becoming more of a norm among knowledge workers.

A different mindset is required when managing remotely.  Learning the finer points of being a successful PM in this new environment is a project in itself. When taking on the role of managing a dispersed team here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Hire people who are self-motivated and will utilize technology to stay in touch. Communication is even more critical when your team member isn’t it the cubicle next to you.
  2. Provide technology to enable communication. Mix up the types of tools – Skype including video, email, text, IM. With the wide variety of technological tools available, learn the tools your individual team members are most comfortable with.
  3. Proactively set up a communication strategy and plan. Get everyone’s input and don’t assume the team will communicate on their own. It’s easier to get caught up in your own tasks when working remotely, so have scheduled recurring check-ins to bring everyone together and act as a reminder that they are part of the team.
  4. Schedule in-person project kickoff meetings and meet again on a regular basis, if possible. Hold informal meet-ups as well, if location allows. For example, most of our team members are dispersed around the Philadelphia and New Jersey area. While spread out, all are within about an hour’s driving distance allowing for periodic centralized face to face meetings.
  5. Don’t forget to have 1-on-1 calls with individuals. Encourage this among the team members as well.

Even within our FlexPro leadership team (who are mostly located in PA), we appreciate that there are benefits to working remotely. Lynn and I both have homes offices we use regularly. The benefits include less wasted time in the car and more focused quiet times for tasks that need extra concentration.

Some of our favorite tools for staying connected (besides that identical twin telepathy thing) include Skype (with video and screen sharing) and Asana (with shared comments and updates) to supplement our emails and calls.

At FlexPro, flexibility is obviously built right into our name. It’s part of who we are and our passion for flexibility is why we founded this company. Virtual and geographically dispersed teams aren’t just a passing trend.  They are here now.  And here to stay.

Technology, when used well, enables us to get the best people on our teams (regardless of location).  The sky’s the limit!   It does take some proactive planning to make sure there is an effective communication strategy.  It doesn’t happen on its own.  A good project manager will put all the right tools in place.  When done right, work productivity goes up!  And often, we get back some time to spend with our family and friends.

Flexibility and productivity!  These are two of our core values at FlexPro.  Focus on these key principles when managing your geographically dispersed teams, and in the end you’ll be successful.

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