How to manage Team members virtually

This final part of my “Virtual” blog series and this topic comes from @celoxis who wanted me to cover: How to manage and share resources across multiple projects. I’ve taken this with a virtual slant and wanted to write this blog from a virtual perspective.

One thing to consider regarding managing resources is to understand how resource management works in your organisation or company. Do you have to go through a Resource Manager? Are you in a matrix organisation? Do your resources report to you or someone else? All of these answers will help work out how to effectively manage your resources across projects.

There’s a great video from ProjectManager.com that I’d recommend watching to understand the basics of Resource Management if you’re not sure what it means in theory.

In a virtual environment, it can be very tricky to have effective Resource Management, especially if the team members that you are managing are not directly reporting to you. To work around this; I suggest that you become very good friends with their Resource Manager/ Manager to work together and align on the requirements etc. Below I have included some tips for how you can manage and work with your Resource Manager to have a positive outcome.

The power of persuasion: Schmooze your colleagues

This is the most important thing to accomplish and realise when you are using resources that are not directly reporting to you. Their Resource Manager / Manager will be a key stakeholder that you need to keep aligned for your project and the importance of their continued assignment to your project. Being able to ‘schmooze’ your colleague, will also help you work with them if you need to have additional resource allocated at short notice / need to have favours during projects.

How to schmooze your colleagues?

There are a few key tips that I can give you for how to effectively manage your Resource Managers/Colleagues.

  • Be Polite! Going into any discussion demanding things will not get you anywhere in the long run. I like to be firm, fair but remain polite at all times towards the Resource Manager for what I need and how they can help me.
  • Give and Take: In several projects that I have worked in, I’ve swapped resources at non critical moments to share with another Project Manager if they needed someone at short notice. This has 95% of the time worked in my favour and allowed me to call on favours when I need them.
  • Know your planning: There is nothing more frustrating to a Resource Manager than someone who does not know their planning or know what they need and for what time period. Go into any meeting prepared to discuss what you’re looking for. This is even more critical for virtual projects and engagements where they can be a hard “lead time” for onboarding and offboarding resources.
  • Know the rules: Do you know when you need to request resources? What are the rules around onboarding/offboarding? Who can request resources and to whom? Are there unwritten rules that you need to be aware of? All of these rules are important to understand and to abide by to ensure that you have a good working relationship with your Resource Manager.

Understand the virtual location

If you are working with resources in a virtual location you need to understand not only the rules of sharing and managing resources in your location but also in the remote location. You can achieve this by talking to your counterpart or even the Resource Manager themselves at the start of the project and working out what you need to do and when. This has always proven to be a really fruitful conversation for me to have as it also manages their expectations for what you’re able to give to them and what you know already.

Communication, Stakeholder Management, Expectation Management

These are the key things that you need to have at the forefront of any resource management discussion. You need to make sure that you’re being an effective communicator as well ensuring that the Resource Manager in every location that you’re working in is aligned and then having effective expectation management for what you can tell them, when and what this means for the project/ their resource planning.

If you can align and be successful in all of these areas that Resource Management will be an easier discussion and management for you.

Resource Management as a Team Member

If you are a Team Member you may not think that you have a big role in Resource Management but you are critical to its success and without your input, the Project Manager and thus the project will fail.

Your input and contribution about your effort estimates, remaining effort needed and raising issues proactively are critical to a projects success. If you are working on multiple projects with different project managers, I’d recommend making sure that your line manager is fully aware of your commitments and can also back you up if there are conflicts or issues. Knowing who is your escalation point if there are issues should be a priority for you to know so that you’re able to plan accordingly.

What’s important to know as a Team Member?

Here are a few tips for being a great team member in your projects:

  • Escalate hard and fast if you have issues related to your effort estimate/ conflicts or potential issues
  • Actively communicate with your Project Manager/Resource Manager
  • Know and understand your weaknesses and strengths and use these to your advantage in your projects
  • Provide visibility and transparency regarding your capacity and protect yourself from being completely overloaded.

Resource Management is a fine art and managing programs or portfolios is a puzzle that needs to be slotted together to make each project fit. To be able to do this, you need to have all of the information available to you and if you can encourage your team and managers to collaborate about requirements as well as be open to needs/changes as they occur will mean that you’re able to work with the latest information for a successful project.

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