Start Your Geographically Distributed Projects Right
Simone, a French project manager, emailed me. “Johanna, we are having trouble getting the people together. These people worked together before on the previous release. But on this release, they are not working together. I’ve done these things,” and she listed a number of smart ideas. I replied by email, “Where’s the project charter with the vision?”
“Oh,” she said. “I didn’t write one this time, because it’s another release of the same product.”
Sometimes you can get away without writing another charter if the people know each other well and it is another release. But in a geographically distributed project? Almost never. And that’s because the vision is the glue that holds the people together and provides the reason for the people to stick together.
And, chartering your distributed projects is not a trivial task, because the people are not in one place. What can you do?
- Ask, beg, plead, whine, cajole, do what you need to do to get everyone in one place for the start of the project. At that time, write the project charter together. This is the cheapest time to get everyone together and is much cheaper than fixing defects later in the project.
- If you can’t get everyone together in the same place, see if you can get everyone to work together at the same time. If you have a relatively small project team, this may be do-able. If you are spread out across many time zones, and you are the project manager, offer to be the one who makes the biggest sacrifice in terms of staying up late or waking up early to charter. Your team will appreciate you for that sacrifice, and you will shown the example of what the team members need to do for the project.
- If you have too many team members or you really can’t get everyone together for the chartering effort, draft a strawman vision and discuss it electronically. This is the weakest of the three options, and it’s better than plunking down a charter and saying, “take it or leave it,” or having no charter at all.
Working effectively in a geographically distributed team is a challenge. And, it starts from the very beginning of the project, even if the team has worked together before.
Simone chartered the project with her team, and once the team understood their project vison, they started working together as a team. They all understood where they were headed, and they were headed there together.
Work More Effectively in Geographically Distributed Teams
For many of us, geographically distributed projects are a way of life. All of my collaborations, including the AYE conference, and this workshop with Shane Hastie are. Would you like to work more effectively in geographically distributed teams? Shane Hastie and I are delivering a two-day workshop this April 17-18 in Pleasanton, CA.
We’ll experience how you plan and deliver working product in a geographically distributed team. If you know either of us, you know it will be not just jam-packed with learning, but also fun. We keep a kanban board of your issues so we address them during the workshop. Our workbook is over 70 pages at this point, so you don’t have to worry about leaving with content. And, every participant receives a copy of Johanna’s Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management, with a chapter on multi-site teams and a template for a project charter.
Early-bird registration lasts until Feb. 15, so sign up now. Bring a team and receive an even more generous discount.
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