Setting Up an Effective Long Term Plan with Remote Teams

Here at Sophaya, we took time in January to look ahead and lay out our operating plan for 2018. This is so important for any team, but it’s particularly critical for remote teams. Having a clear roadmap that is communicated to all team members keeps everyone excited and focused. Your team may be virtual, but they still want to know they are moving together towards a shared vision and it’s our job, as team leaders, to provide that vision for them.

This is especially important for remote professionals because they are highly autonomous. Transparent long-term goals and clearly defined business objectives help your remote team members schedule their time efficiently and enable them to understand how their efforts impact others. Skilled, smart remote professionals can be very driven and they don’t like to waste time. They want to know what’s happening because clear direction provides an opportunity for them to see their team contributions. Remote professionals enjoy evaluating themselves against tangible, meaningful goals every day.

How to Approach Setting Goals and Objectives

The best place to start with setting goals and objectives is with the company’s mission and business purpose. When goals and objectives flow from and are aligned with the company’s stated reason for being and their business expectations, it makes better sense to the people who have to execute on that vision.

When you have a team, you will want to think about goals as a cascade effect. You start with the company’s goals, which will help to determine your team’s goals, which helps your team prioritize their day-to-day. Don’t forget to consider the professional and personal goals of your individual team members. When all these are aligned, you set the stage for increased productivity.

That’s the cascade. You start with the company’s goals/objectives and then determine department goals/objectives that support the company’s plan. And finally, you set individual goals/objectives that support all of the above!

Getting Everyone Involved

Companies do best when everyone is included in the planning process. This sets the stage for engagement. People are more likely to support actions and activities when they have a hand in defining them. It also makes good business sense to get multiple perspectives. The leadership team has the high-level overview and the strategic vision, while individual team members can offer important insights based on their tactical knowledge of what it takes to actually do the work.

This process of setting goals and objectives offers a great opportunity to build and reinforce culture within a remote workforce and provides team bonding opportunities.

There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Have an onsite meeting that brings people together for face-to-face (f2f) time. This allows for in-person interactions that can augment virtual communications. If it’s impossible to get the entire team together physically, consider video tools like Skype or Zoom for those who can’t join live.
  •   Arrange for a company-wide teleconference or videoconference. This could be a time for people who don’t usually get to interact to meet and share ideas. If the company is too large for a single event, it could be done with smaller groups with you, the team leader, reporting out the consolidated plan as a final step.
  • Include everyone by soliciting written comments. This could be done cost-effectively with targeted questions or through an electronic survey tool such as Survey Monkey.

Implementing Goals and Objectives

Going through this exercise of establishing group goals and objectives can really bring the team closer. But the impacts to your organization are greatest if these goals and objectives are actually put into use.

Communication is critical, and it has to come from the top down. Your goal is to get people moving together towards a shared goal with the intention of driving daily activities and teamwork prioritization. Give your team a clear way forward by breaking the big plan down into smaller action steps with timelines, reviewing accountability measures for all team players and designing one system to measure and report progress. This is a huge benefit for remote teams and provides a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished each day or week. This operating framework eliminates the need for micromanaging because managers know what to expect from each team member and each team member knows what is expected of them.

Once your plan is up and running, prepare to monitor and adjust as dictated by circumstances you and the team encounter along the way. While goals are set annually, periodic reviews ensure that they are working as expected and continue to support with the current business landscape. Flexibility and continued communication are critical. If you must adjust, do so, but communicate, communicate, communicate to your team so they know about the sea change and can adjust accordingly.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes