For the past year, millions of people have been working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic — this certainly does not exclude product management teams.
According to the 2021 State of Product Management Report, the desire to work remotely, as well as the growth of remote companies in the United States alone, has grown by 2.8x.
Product management relies heavily on collaboration and personal relationships within the product team, but also with customers and stakeholders across the entire organization. These relationships are often more difficult to create and maintain while working remotely; however, implementing the following tips may improve collaboration and personal relationships with your product team.
1. Keep up with regular communication
When a product team isn’t working in the same physical space, some members of the team may feel isolated, or disconnected from the inner workings of the product process. In fact, Pew Research Center reported that 65% of people who are working from home feel disconnected from their coworkers, so now, more than ever, it’s important to find new ways for a product team to connect, especially when people are working remotely.
The best way to combat this issue is by scheduling times where everyone can meet and talk together, even when it might feel unnecessary.
While a product team is working together in the office, their spouts of productivity can be interrupted by distractions (e.g., chit-chat among colleagues, notifications from other devices). Team members may find that these distractions are decreased and that they are more productive while working remotely.
2. Stay on top of shared goals
Creating and maintaining goals is also a particularly important part of the product management process. In order to keep up with shared goals remotely, make sure to have specific goals written down in a place that the whole team can easily access.
Shared work spaces like Slack, Google Drive, and Outlook Office are just a few of the places to have goals posted— these shared goals can be revisited regularly to track progress and monitor if the team is still on track.
3. Have daily standups virtually
Standups are a way for team members to talk about what they achieved yesterday, as well as what they want to achieve now and any blockers the team may have. Having daily, virtual meetings with your team helps them set goals and feel connected to what’s going on.
It may not be necessary for all teams to meet synchronously each day. Instead, you may find that it is more efficient for your team to create an online forum to report daily standups.
Obviously, meeting on a video call creates more of a free-flowing, conversational space, but having team members post their progress on Slack (or elsewhere) can still keep everyone up-to-date.
4. Make all team members feel supported
A large part of any leadership style is to have trust flowing from all angles of a team. In a physical environment, it can be easier to establish a connection and trust because of personal interactions and office rapport.
Virtually, keeping and maintaining trust is a bit more difficult, but surely not impossible. Unfortunately, your passing pleasantries may not be enough to build trust. It takes more intentionality to build trust in a remote environment.
“This means, checking in with your team regularly during 1 on 1’s to ensure they have what they need to do their job. It also means checking in to ensure they’re doing ok at a personal level during these uncertain times”
5. Do what works best for your team
In remote work, the traditional 9-to-5 is not strictly enforced. Team members work on a less structured schedule when working from home. Instead of following the urge to micromanage, take a step back and help your team become goal oriented. In a remote setting, team members may work at different times and speeds.
Adjusting to your teams’ new routine takes patience; however, it’s important to trust that everyone is completing their tasks.
Focusing on results will help you disassociate from the idea that all product work is done in the same way, at the same time.
6. Remote leadership
Thought leadership is integral in the product space. Engineering new ideas takes expertise as well as collaboration with the entire team.
In a virtual setting your team will need to adapt the way leadership is approached. Product managers have the unique responsibility of merging strategy as well as execution, having solid leadership will help the rest of the team follow suit.
As a product manager in a remote setting, you should be leading by example by utilizing remote working tools that may not have been used in the past, such as a whiteboarding tool.
7. Make OKRs available to view
Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a good way to set and work towards common goals as a team. In physical office spaces, OKRs may be posted in a central location.
In an online setting, OKRs should still be accessible to all all team members. Creating a running list of current OKRs and posting them on a Google doc, Slack message, or online communal workspace will help keep OKRs fresh in your team’s mind.
The old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” is particularly true here. Make sure your team sees, and is reminded of what they should be focusing on.
Getting it Done — From Home!
Whether your team has always been remote, or you’ve had to recently adapt because of the pandemic, utilizing these strategies will help you maintain a communicative, efficient and goal oriented product team.
Maximizing your time is important to your team’s productivity so creating a routine and followable system is a must.