Interview with Brett Harned: digital project management and the challenges of working with a remote team
We recently spoke with Brett Harned, a digital project management consultant, author and coach.
Brett’s expertise in digital project management has led him to blogging, writing and speaking professionally about project management for years, as well as running workshops and teaching a course in the subject at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Here at Hibox, we’re really passionate about helping teams collaborate more effectively and in turn, maximise their productivity. We’ve worked with numerous managers and team leaders to help them improve their internal communication, manage tasks and projects better, and bolster office morale.
That’s why it was such a pleasure to interview Brett and get his insights and answers to some of the most pressing questions in digital project management today!
First of all, I really wanted to get Brett’s thoughts on a quote from his recent book that really struck me. He mentioned that “basic project management concepts” come up in everyday life and that in a way, “we’re all project managers”.
A lot of us may not realise it but we’re likely utilising a lot of project management skills outside of work.
Whether you’re planning a dinner party, vacation or birthday event, you’re probably managing tasks, following a budget and organising people.
These are the essential principles of digital project management that any of us can benefit from honing, whatever our role.
Often, it’s something that even project managers themselves should brush up on from time to time to strengthen their skill set.
This prompts the question whether it’s possible to take a skill from your personal life, and subsequently apply it to managing a project or team.
Brett really emphasised context, but more importantly communication.
“A large part of project management is communication skills… If you think about the way that you behave in your personal life versus your professional life – they shouldn’t be so different.”
As our conversation went on, it emerged that communication skills really are vital to any area of project management. Whether it’s construction or IT or digital project management, there are principles that any manager and team leader should always keep in mind.
“It’s down to solid communication skills, being willing to ask difficult questions, having difficult conversations, and having empathy for people… put yourself in their shoes and help to resolve issues and communicate in way that is effective across the board.”
So how do we tackle effective communication and empathy for your team members – things that are the foundations of relationships – when you’re perhaps working with or managing a team that’s spread across the globe?
Here at Hibox, we work with a lot of managers that are in exactly that position. They’re working with a remote team and as such, have to do all of their communication, collaboration and task management online.
Certainly, this creates a lot of new obstacles for project management.
Brett was quick to pick up on this issue. He emphasised that you need to pay even closer attention to the way you engage with your team because every point of communication becomes just a little bit harder, when it’s remote.
Although jumping on a conference call is quick and easy, a lot is missing compared to in-person communication.
Brett emphasised the methods of communication and tools that make team communication easier and more natural. Chat platforms are great for building a sense of camaraderie and fostering effortless communication, without feeling like you’re micromanaging your team or constantly checking up on them.
When they think about how they communicate with their team, a project manager should always be considering: “how am I following up on tasks and making sure the team is accountable for the work we’re doing, meeting deadlines and working within budgets… in a way that’s not annoying?’’
“It comes down to choosing the right tools and deciding on the level of engagement within those tools… Then figuring out a communication plan for how everyone wants to work or will best work.”
When looking to the future of digital project management, strategy is key.
Although timelines and budgets will always be important, Brett was convinced that the role will require more strategic thinking in the next decade or two, as the landscape of work continues to change. Project managers will have to become an active member of the team, contributing to deliverables and identifying the key project goals.
If you’re managing a team – or several – make sure you’re using a communication and project management platform to guarantee there are no crossed wires or miscommunication with your team.