Managing a group of people who may be based hundreds or thousands of miles away can be very difficult for both the workers and the manager. Leaving aside potential language problems, the simple time offsets might delay simple conversation by a half a day or more. So how can a manager do their job well if their workers are far away?
If your team is based in another country with a different primary language your top responsibility is to find a competent translator. Most important is to find someone who can speak conversationally in both languages and also write well in both. The reason this is so important is because expensive mistakes can often be attributed to a single word misunderstood by either the workers or the manager.
Also, if you are building something, it is going to be necessary for someone to translate the workers’ instructions into a document that can be understood by the managers evaluating the work and ultimately the customers who buy the product. Without a translator, these documents are impossible to produce, and undocumented products are often many times more expensive.
While time zones are a fact of life, far too often they can be used as an excuse by remote workers to add a day or more to the turnaround time for every task. As a manager, you must put a hard time limit on everything unless you want to spend your time chasing routine tasks and missing deadlines because of the time magnification problem.
Remember: All tasks expand to fill the time allotted for their completion.
This is applicable to nearly any project that involves a supervisor and a team. Whenever possible, complex tasks should be broken up into simple tasks. The reason for this is experiencing failure on a simple task does not put the entire project at risk. At the same time, declaring failure on the entire project at once can be catastrophic for everyone involved. This technique is often called “avoiding a single point of failure” for task management.
Managing work and the teams that build important projects is difficult enough without language, time and distance barriers. However, it is possible to get good work out of remote teams if you follow a few simple principles.
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