What about managing a project with the whole team in a different time zone?
I’ve been working with agencies for a while now, in previous jobs I had some experience working with other agencies and team members in other parts of the world, but only for specific projects for a certain period of time.
When I joined Skyward earlier this year, it was a whole new experience working with people that would be starting work when I’m basically finishing. I had to really think about the time zone difference and how we communicate with each other to deliver the best work possible.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain Skyward’s beliefs and ways of working first…
At Skyward, we believe in flexible and remote work, everyone should be able to get their work done during whatever hours they decide to do and wherever location they choose to work from. If the work is getting done, that’s what matters!.
But how do we manage projects when working in flexible/remote teams?
There are a few things we do and tools we use to help us when managing projects, here are some quick tips:
Tip number 1 - tools that bring us together: Slack
We use Slack to send messages to each other about anything and everything - news in the design world, a new tool for development testing, something funny that happened over the weekend or project work related chats are all in Slack.
We don’t expect anyone to reply straight away, we work in a flexible and remote way, which means it can take time to get an answer to a question and that’s why we try to plan things in advance and have enough time to accommodate the time zone delay.
Keeping all the communication in one place and within a channel is a great way to ensure everyone is on the same page. If someone is not working on that day or that time, the conversation is still visible for other team members to jump in and know what’s been happening.
Tip number 2- project management tool: Monday.com
We currently use Monday.com to manage projects, that’s where we keep all project tasks assigned to the relevant team member.
Each person is then able to see their tasks and track their progress or any issues with specific tasks. That’s super important when it comes to working remotely and async, that all team members are able to see what needs to be done and the priority for each day, even if the PM or no one else is working at the same time.
Everything gets added to one place and it’s easy to see who completed a task, when it happened and all the conversation that was had.
Although we currently use Monday.com we are in the process of moving everything over to Linear — but the premise remains the same, a project management tool is crucial for effective async work.
Tip number 3 - the most important one in my opinion: communication!
Yes the communication word sounds almost cliche, but it’s also the part where all the mistakes happen. Of course we all know that we should be talking to each other and making sure things are going well, however when we are busy and working in a completely different time zone this is a must!
Things won’t ever be perfect and we are humans, we accept and acknowledge the mistakes, which brings us to the importance of starting an improvement list.
How we’re improving our flexible project management workflow
We are far from nailing everything, there will always be work and improvements that can be done to ensure we are doing things in the best and most efficient way.
One of the improvements we are bringing to the process is to have more meetings throughout the project. While this goes against our flexible working in certain ways, we realised it makes things a lot easier for everyone involved and gives us a chance to pick up on issues before they arise.
We always try to work around things, for example, if the meetings are happening every Monday the team knows it can be moved if necessary to make it possible for them to have the flexibility and still join the project/team meetings.
Another improvement that we are looking into right now is to combine all processes and move everything from Monday.com to Notion. We have already moved most things to Notion. The idea behind this change is to keep everything in one place to make it easier to manage. There have been new Project management templates added to Notion which we have been working on getting shaped to our needs.
It’s all trial and error. Fingers crossed Notion will be the right fit and if not, we will be on our way to find something new.
Final thoughts — Improving async collaboration with project management
Working in an async environment has brought new challenges to light. It’s made me realise, more than ever, how important it is to make communication the central string of my project management strategy.
Using tools like Monday.com, Notion and Slack mean I can keep in touch with the team and help them work to their best ability, no matter what time zone we’re all working to. I’m excited to add more meetings to our diaries too. As much as I love async workflow, you can’t beat those face-to-face conversations where you can bounce ideas back-and-forth and nail down processes.
Got any other async project management tips you live by? Come and share them with us over on Twitter.