Most projects rely on constant human interaction in order to ensure that outputs are designed, built and tested in line with user expectations before being released. Traditionally — for many organisations — this has relied on in-person workshops and meetings because, well, some things are just best done face-to-face. But that’s not to suggest that these things can only be done face-to-face. After all, most tech companies have been delivering projects successfully in a hybrid working environment for years now.
Contrary to popular belief, these organisations don’t consider themselves to be special or different, they’re just better at maintaining connection and velocity when it comes to delivering projects.
So how do they keep their projects moving in a hybrid world? Here’s four things they do that you can copy:
- Build and regularly check-in with the team
Critical to delivering anything in any working scenario is an agreement on the culture required to do so. And central to that is empathy between people. Empathy is the glue that holds hybrid teams together and they will typically share the following information with each other:
- Where in the world they are
- Their home arrangements (family, pets, shared house etc.)
- Daily routines
- Hours they like to do their work (not necessarily 9–5)
- Home ‘office’ set up.
They recognise that by sharing this information, they build deeper connections with each other, which they then reinforce when they meet. At least once a week (usually but not always) on a Monday, they will spend time asking each other how they’re feeling. They want to demonstrate compassion and whilst they may not be able to change their team mate’s circumstances they still recognise the importance of giving someone the floor to talk, whilst others actively listen. Vibrant, productive team cultures are only possible when people care about the work that they’re doing AND each other. High performing teams don’t happen by chance.
2. Ensure expectations around outputs are clear
Once the check-in is complete the person leading the work will ensure that everyone fully understands what they need to get done within the timeframes that they have. Regardless of the method being used to deliver, outputs still need to be delivered in a timely manner, often with input from other people.
Expectations aren’t set around the hours that people are expected to work (unless those people happen to be on a roster) and trust is always assumed, it doesn’t have to be earned. They don’t burden themselves with endless meetings, they prioritise productive work and only check-in when necessary. Through daily stand ups (or similar) they hold themselves accountable to the times that they’ve set and don’t work on more than one thing at any one time.
3. Use tools to support not distract
The pandemic accelerated the implementation of technology to support collaboration however, many organisations are yet to see the benefits of this. It has simply become ‘just another tool’ that gets used to try to replicate what already existed in the office.
The organisations for whom hybrid working is commonplace recognise that the role of technology is to support their day-to-day interactions, not get in the way of productive work. As part of the culture building process, they agree which tools will be used, who will update them and when in order to maintain strong communication and collaboration. They don’t assume that everyone knows how to use them. They have dedicated programs to upskill people to get the most from the technology and have different tools available to track tasks, be creative or network with others.
4. Celebrate success
Projects — when done well — consistently hit the milestones that they’ve set for themselves. There is a constant sense of achievement that is reinforced by taking a break from their work to elevate the accomplishments of others.
Celebrating success is important for projects as it creates confidence, optimism, unity and serves as a reminder of the work to be completed. It provides an opportunity for the team to re-engage with each other and for project sponsors and leaders to demonstrate gratitude.
There really is no excuse for projects to miss deadlines as a result of a move to hybrid working. Expectations may need to be reset around timescales if there aren’t as many productive hours available in the day — as a result of lockdowns and having children at home, for example — however, these scenarios will be the exceptions to the rule of hybrid working moving forward.
By staying connected, disciplined and empathetic teams can regularly hit their targets and keep projects moving, regardless of where people are based.
What have you done to keep your projects moving?