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A simple, mental exercise

by Tamara Sanderson
Indian Management April 2023

The Remote Works Blueprint can become a simple, mental exercise you run through before kicking off a project rather than a methodical process you complete step by step.

Approaching work when your team is remote can feel like trudging through the woods without a map. There’s information overload across several platforms—Slack, Microsoft, SharePoint, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Notion, and, of course, email. There are different points of contact across the company and team members simultaneously working on various aspects of a project or deliverable.

To help you find your way through the thickets of your workplace, we developed the Remote Works Blueprint, a simple, fourstep process that works in any situation, from a small project to an intricate multi-team product launch. It can take a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days to complete based on the level of complexity of the task.

The Remote Works Blueprint takes the fundamentals of most project management processes, from agile to lean, and distills it into a few steps, regardless of the type of project at hand.

Step 1: Set clear goals

First things first. Where do you want to go? Here are a few questions that can help crystallise your project-specific goals and objectives:

  1. How does this project help us accomplish our team’s overall mission?
  2. What do we plan to do?
  3. What will change if this project or team succeeds?
  4. What does ‘done’ look like?
  5. How will we measure success? We recommended keeping it simple. Focus on one goal at a time and make it easy to remember. When possible, try to use familiar tools and methods for tracking. This may sound obvious, but as we know, it is a fundamental law that nature always moves from order to disorder. You need to make conscious decisions to quell the chaos.

Step 2: Create a task list

Once you have a goal in mind, it is time to take inventory of what everyone is already working on before you can add new tasks related to the goal. This is to account for what is on everyone’s plates; if you skip this step, you are bound to have too much work— leaving teams tired and stressed, which will most likely result in mediocre results and missed deadlines.

We recommend having everyone on the team list and divide their tasks into two categories:  

  • Business-as-usual tasks: These are all the routine tasks and existing activities your team is currently (or will be) doing that overlap with the new goal.
  • Blueprint tasks: This is a forward-thinking list where you brainstorm all the necessary steps to accomplish your new goal. Remember, this isn’t the time to constrain yourself. The longer the list, the more fun it is to cross things off later (at least, it is for me).

Step 3: Determine top priorities

Now it is time to re-evaluate the goal you set in Step 1 and the task list you developed in Step 2. With a critical eye, start prioritising what really matters.

We recommend using the exercise ‘Stay’, ‘Start’, ‘Stop’, ‘Shift’ to help you prioritise:

  • Stay: These are business-as-usual tasks that need to continue during the new project.
  • Start: These are tasks you need to start pronto to accomplish your new goal.
  • Stop: These are tasks that take a lot of time and are out of scope.
  • Shift: These are tasks that need some tinkering. You may want to automate them, delegate them to another team member, or outsource them to a contractor.

After prioritising your team task list using the ‘Stay, Start, Stop, Shift’ exercise, we recommend using a simple three-point scale—such as low, medium, and high— to indicate urgency, or a chronological prioritisation—like now, near, and far—to decide where to get started.

 Step 4: Assign ownership, set expectations, and agree on accountability

Finally, it is critical to get clarity on who will be doing what and when by assigning ownership, setting expectations (especially, around deadlines), and agreeing on accountability. By completing this step, you can track progress along the way and help with any roadblocks.

 In conclusion

While this might seem like a lot, we promise, it becomes second nature. And it is a must for remote teams. Do not get bogged down in the details or the how-to. Eventually, the Remote Works Blueprint can become a simple, mental exercise you run through before kicking off a project rather than a methodical process you complete step by step.  

Tamara Sanderson Tamara (Tam) Sanderson is the co-founder of Remote Works. Tamara is also co-author, Remote Works: Managing for Freedom, Flexibility, and Focus.

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