How to Manage Remote Project Teams - Tip #6

Introduction: In the current times of globalisation and international competition, project work at many international companies is often carried out by virtual project teams which are distributed across multiple locations, countries, and time zones. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis the trend of remote project work was boosted even further, as companies in various industry sectors, such as in the IT industry, had to adapt and enable their project teams to work remotely in order to keep their businesses alive. The following series provides some concrete and practical advice based on experience gained from the daily project management work. 

Recommendation #6 - Assign clear tasks and clarify expectations: Unclear roles and responsibilities within the project team are a very common cause for all sorts of issues in a project and for project failure itself. With remote project teams this can be an even bigger challenge for the reasons discussed earlier (see previous recommendations), i.e. no personal contact, opportunity to hide, limited body language to observe reactions, etc. Therefore, the project manager has to be very clear when setting expectations and assigning tasks to project team members. Specific individual persons should be named for each task, as opposed to asking a larger group for something in a general and non-binding way, and it has to be made sure that everybody understands what exactly is expected from him or her. A good way of doing this is to let the team members actively formulate their own task assignments, which can prove that everybody has the same correct understanding about what is expected. It is also highly recommended to write down the agreed task assignments with responsible persons and due dates, as part of the official project documentation (e.g. meeting minutes of a regular project meeting). Clear task assignments and expectations increase the likelihood of getting commitment from the project team members because possible misunderstandings and confusion, which can lead to frustration, are avoided. They also enable every team member or sub-team of the project to plan and organize their own work. Another advantage of assigning clear tasks and defining precise expectations is that it enables the project manager to effectively monitor and control the execution of the individual activities against well-defined targets and to track the overall project progress. 

Author: Paraschos Pentas, Date: 2 April 2021