Has it really been three and a half years since the Covid-19 pandemic started to take hold of the world, prompting lockdowns across the globe?
I expect you have a view on how relevant hybrid and remote working still is in 2023, based on whether you’re (still) doing it, along with things you’ve read in the news.
But despite a wave of articles suggesting that remote working is fading away, it’s still very relevant. As a remote or hybrid Product Manager, what are the best ways to collaborate effectively?
Establish communication channels
Clear and consistent communication is essential for Product Managers – even more so when you’re not on site. It’s vital to ensure your team is all using the same tools, and that you have regular check-ins as required.
Video calling tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Slack huddles bridge the gap on your remote working days. Slack is the gold standard for asynchronous team chat. Project management tools such as Asana are important too.
Set clear goals
Having a clear product vision, strategy, and roadmap are key ingredients of every Product Manager’s day to day work. At the team level, setting clear sprint goals is the first step. You’ll then need to work with the team to identify which tasks they will need to work through to achieve those goals.
Working remotely, you’ll need to work extra hard to ensure the team are aware of what they should be focusing on from week to week. This may require a fair amount of repetition, asking questions, checking in at daily standups, posting on Slack and so on.
You’ll want to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same objectives. Continually mentioning what the goals are may be necessary to keep the topics in the front of everyone’s minds.
Collaborate and document
Create an environment where collaboration thrives. Encourage open discussions over private messages. Use virtual whiteboards such as Miro to help with brainstorming and knowledge sharing.
Keep and share good documentation. Make sure that meeting notes, roadmaps, and retrospective actions are easy to find by anyone on the team. Look beyond basic tools such as Google Docs and consider using a platform such as Notion or Confluence to gather information together, and aid content discovery.
Overcommunicate, don’t assume
Overcommunication is better than not sharing things at all. Don’t assume everyone knows what’s going on. Share updates, progress reports, and any blockers. Tell the team any notable changes or things that are coming up next. Encourage the team to ask and answer questions in places where everyone can read them and learn from them.
Build trust and accountability
Trust is essential if a team is to work well together. Try team-building activities and safety exercises to identify issues and start building trust within a team.
In a good team, everyone is accountable. Goals are a shared responsibility – the team should work together to achieve them. Help them by removing blockers and answering questions as they come up.
Embrace Agile practices
Agile methodologies can be particularly beneficial when working remotely. Break down projects into smaller, manageable tasks and set frequent milestones. Review plans regularly, and adapt based on feedback and changing circumstances.
Think about timezones
If your team is not all in the same location, scheduling may take some consideration. Try to find hours that overlap for real-time collaboration where needed. Do as much using asynchronous tools such as Slack as you can. Check in with team members often, especially if they are in distant timezones and can’t join for all of the team meetings.
The key to working remotely is to be agile, adaptable, and open to new ways of working. Always look for improvements and suggest these to the team if you can think of better ways to do things.