I’d like to share some Open Source project management points. While I’ve gone over 9 Drupal project management tips before, I think it’s time to share some broader points. Open Source project management on an international scale with a digital, distributed workforce takes more than just the right remote team tools.
Successful Open Source project management like the kind we’re talking about takes certain considerations. Thoughts outside of the technical or the mechanical. These things are practical, common concepts. And if you don’t get all 10 right? You lose. If you get these right, you’re ready to move on to the how.
1. Remote Management
When writing this blog I thought long and hard about how to get to certain points across that people don’t realise are so important for remote teams. We know there are awesome tools out there that help us stay in touch and share information and minimize remote work challenges. We also know about the many benefits as to why remote working/companies can work.
Remote Open Source Talent Guide (PDF)
But managing the actual work, even with a skilled team, takes something different. I’ve spearheaded a project with a developer in India, a themer in UAE, a client in France, QA personnel in Ukraine, and a project manager (me!) in Israel. This takes a few things.
Going through remote workplace tips roundups and remote management manuals helps!
There are tons of remote work resources available. It’s best to take advantage of these first and continuously turn to them—follow the blogs, keep an eye on the changing remote landscape.
Those who haven’t telecommuted often forget that remote work engagement matters. We’re talking about something completely different from interpersonal exchanges. Remote team calls can be a gruelling challenge if you don’t do them right. You’ve got to keep spirits up, have a laugh, ask what they did over the weekend; it’s a skill.
Sometimes playing virtual games designed for global teams can help. Definitely don’t freak out over “the wall of silence.” That’s what I call it when you’re on a team call and everyone is on mute with no video. Even if you know they are listening—most of the time!—it can be disheartening to see the team on mute. If you work in global Open Source project management, you can’t let it get to you. Check in to make sure they’re tracking.
When looking to get interaction, call upon people in the team members that you know will step up, if you are a manager, you will know who they are.This will get conversations flowing, whether it’s just a general catch up or an Open Source project call.
3. Common Ground
When we start a meeting in an office, one of the first things we ask is for people to stop talking, with a remote team it is the opposite. You have to ask people to come off mute.
Take time out and engage the team on common ground. This connection building is even more important when you’re dealing with a remote, global team—find that common ground. Share with them something completely unrelated to work or digital life.
These are all things that happen naturally when in an office environment but are often missed in a remote environment. By searching for and finding common ground, you open the doors to know if someone is in good or poor shape on that particular day. Making these judgements is important vis-a-vis the telecommuting space.
In a brick and mortar office, we can easily judge this; they’re right there in front of you. But not on a call with videos off. If you’re a freelancer, then every team is new. We need to do this routinely either way.
4. Define “Flexible Time”
Remote working means some flexibility of hours. These need to be as clearly defined as possible. Remote working isn’t for everyone, it takes more discipline than just going into the office every single day. For this, you need to keep a close eye on progression—the pace of the work. Personally, I find our stand-ups a great way to keep an eye on that.
Watch the productivity of each member, this also includes being aware of those that are working late.
Flexible time means that the team can also manage their time according to the needs of the client, however the needs of the internal team matters; there’s always a balance. Watch the call times. Calls can run on in an office and tend to in a remote environment as well. As a remote project manager you may not be actually in or aware of some of these calls, but it’s important to know when these calls are held generally, definitely know for how long, and which members of your team are taking part.
This is how you save time strategically and keep the team focused. Sometimes a lot of time can be wasted on an issue if you’re not careful. I ask my teams to timebox these meetings and bring me in if they don’t resolve them.
5. Work Culture
When we are remote the only communication we have is our writing, our voice, and how we present ourselves on camera—maybe a photo or avatar sometimes. Global Open Source project management means global interactions. International exchanges within a remote work environment; it can be different.
Different cultures speak in different ways. Accents, word choices, phrasings these are all different when you’re a global Open Source agency. It’s just different, not weird. Consider too that within these different cultural backdrops you have different personalities. This diversity makes for incredible opportunities to learn new things or Open Source projects from different perspectives.
Some are sensitive some are more forward; that’s the way it works. In Israel, it isn’t considered rude to be typing on your laptop during a meeting, in the USA? Not so much.
6. Timezone Strategy
Respect the time zones and their awesome power. You can use time zones to your advantage. If the spread is right and you manage it well then you can have people working round the clock. If you don’t manage it well you can be left days waiting for answers and suffering from bottlenecks. When setting up meetings you have to consider each person carefully. Tools can certainly help with this.
Recurring calls, especially daily ones can be planned carefully. Projects go on for months and it isn’t always fair for some—switching it up should be mandatory. In the rare case that there is no comfortable shared time, the sprint should be rotated week-to-week.
In one of my Open Source project management cases, there wasn’t a shared time at which we could all come together comfortable. The client had to change the planned scrum master so it would be a better sync for the team. That’s the worst case scenario but it should be on the table. Obviously this is something that should be identified early on.
As project manager you are a part of the team. Encouraging the team to take ownership of their work individually and as a team is part of your job. In my opinion, ownership means it’s for you to care for and to ensure team members take ownership of their own portions. At the end of the day, it’s on you. Which is why you have to ensure your people understand that they’ll be held accountable for their taskings.
When you’re working with Open Source project management, a good PM will say my door is always open. Ok, not door but channels of communication. Coworkers should feel that they can come to you. It’s that simple. Anything other than that is problematic.
Here we believe in openness, it’s the O in Axelerant’s EGO. Openness with our partners and ourselves, to make sure no stone is unturned in finding collaborative solutions.
It’s simple. With Open Source project management I’ve found that working remote is at a faster pace and I’ve also found that people are far more available. With this acceleration, trust becomes the central pillar. Without taking the time to build trust on remote teams, your Open Source projects will fall apart.
When communicating with the team be direct. In remote work environments you can’t afford to be anything other than that. Ask someone to start the meeting, even with video there isn’t eye contact, don’t throw too many open-ended questions out there. This is like the bystander effect. Without a project manager’s strength in communication, others might take a while to step up.
With all the remote communication tools available (and their awesome apps!) it’s tempting to shy away from face-to-face video conferences. It’s good to enable video. It keeps people awake and engaged.
Ask “who is starting?” without reserve, or “who wants to go next?”. It may feel slightly like micro managing but it isn’t, keeps things going.
These 11 points are strengths. With these strengths, a trained PM can handle global Open Source project management. With these basics covered, you’re good to go Open Source.