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OPERATIONS

5 Tips for Managing a Decentralized Workforce

Follow this five-step program to help you manage a workforce scattered over various offices and locations.
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At Formula we have offices located in three locations: New York, Los Angeles and San Diego. Having various staff located in offices different from their managers necessitates an amazing amount of planning, communication and collaboration. When an entire team works under the same roof challenges exist; but their proximity allows them to quickly address any issue and deal with it directly. It's much more complicated when you have a team spread across multiple offices. The following five- step program will help you manage a decentralized workforce.

1. Clear Understanding of Program/Project Objectives

One of the greatest challenges facing any decentralized work force is a clear understanding of what they need to accomplish. In order to be effective, it is imperative that all program components are clearly defined and actionable. The more you eliminate any gray area here, the greater the likelihood that everything will go smoothly and be accomplished on time and on budget.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Though communication is imperative for any project to be completed, it is of paramount importance when you have a decentralized team.  All aspects of the project should be openly shared with the entire team to ensure that everyone follows the project's progression along with any potential issues that might arise. When regular communication is lacking, there is a high likelihood that problems will surface and ultimately impede the effectiveness of the project.

3. Clearly Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Problems are sure to arise when members of the team are unsure about the role they play and, in particular, the specific deliverables expected of them. We typically develop a program timeline and corresponding work flow spreadsheet that defines who is doing what and the deliverable date for each item. The benefits of this are two-fold: 1) it allows the team to manage all aspects of the program and track their progress and 2) it provides the client with a clear breakdown of activities and when they need to be accomplished.

4. Don't Rely on Nonverbal Communication

Oftentimes managers become over-reliant on emailing, texting or other forms of written communication. If managing a decentralized team, this can be a matter of convenience or an opportunity to communicate to many team members at once. While I'm not suggesting ruling out written communication altogether, I am cautioning against overusing it as a standard form of communication because it lacks the personal touch necessary for developing any good working relationship.

5. Flexibility

Because your team doesn't have the same access to you from afar as they would if working in the same office, we encourage greater flexibility and latitude regarding work hours, deliverables, timelines and general understanding. When your team has flexibility, they feel more empowered to manage their own schedule and deliverables, which ultimately has a positive effect on the end product being delivered to the client.

Managing a decentralized team is becoming much more commonplace in today's workforce. In order to be an effective manager and leader of such a team, you must be willing to evolve and recognize that you cannot guide and communicate to them as you would a team all located under one roof. By providing clear direction on program objectives and personal deliverables, supported by regular and ongoing verbal communication, you will be able to build a dispersed team that operates as one.

Last updated: Jul 10, 2012

MICHAEL A. OLGUIN | President of Formula PR

Michael A. Olguin is the president of Formula PR, a national public relations boutique with offices in New York, Los Angeles and San Diego. With over 25 years of experience, he has represented such high-profile brands as Newcastle, Kashi, and ESPN.




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