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Remote Management: practical tools to make it work

Last week we looked at the 5 key components to lead effective remote management and this week we follow up with 5 key tools that organisations need to use to make it work in practice.

These 5 tools look directly at the programme level and what needs to be part of any successful remote management plan.   The following recommendations should be used as a GUIDE only: the exact changes each organisation will need to have in place to successfully manage their programming remotely will vary.

1. Planning

Not all programmes – or all parts of all programmes – can be delivered remotely. An honest conversation about this can prevent a lot of frustration in the long run. It could be that the remaining staff lack the skills or experience to run the programme successfully. Or, that the systems aren’t in place to support them. Sometimes, these can be built in short order and sometimes it is in the programme’s interest to hibernate activities until it can be managed again normally. However, proceeding without a plan that realistically evaluates the programme’s ability to run remotely is dangerous.  

2. Risk Assessment

Moving from in-person management to remote management requires a reassessment of risk – both risk linked to duty of care but also risk newly presented by the programme being remote managed. The risk assessment conducted previously will be a good starting point but insufficient for a new form of management.

3. Support

Remote management requires an assessment of the support necessary and a plan to either enhance or create that support if it doesn’t exist. This usually only works well if the managers are trained on, and understand, good management. Remote management means that they will have to work doubly hard at management issues which are difficult to deal with in person and even more difficult at a distance. Providing good support also means being clear on who are the decision-makers. If decision-making is delegated to the local level, then remote managers need to be careful to not step in and usurp that authority.

4. Ongoing Communication

Good communication is critical for all management, but it is especially critical for remote managers. Managers need to involve remotely managed staff in meetings, discussions, and decisions. The possibility for misunderstanding and difficulties in interpersonal relationships is magnified by distance and communication can easily break down if it is not a focus. Resources which might be readily available to international or national staff – mobile phones, phone credit, and internet access – might be well out of the reach of local staff if the organisation has not factored this in the plan. Training on different modes of communication might also be necessary. While most people know how to use a mobile phone not everyone would be as well acquainted with internet-based technologies – like Skype or Zoom.

5. Monitoring & Accountability Managers need assurance that programming is proceeding as planned so need to agree a plan for reporting and mutual monitoring. Many remote management relationships start off on the wrong foot without such a plan. Local staff can be suddenly handed immense responsibility and then feel they are treated with suspicion rather than trust. Senior managers who are not present and cannot fully understand the context can become more demanding and suspicious. Are staff coming to work on time? Why aren’t projects progressing as quickly as they should? This can breakdown the critical trust that is necessary to make remote management work. Staff in the field location need to know that they are valued and delivering critical services. Managers need reporting. Both can be achieved through a monitoring and accountability plan. Stopping to develop a remote management strategy and employing these tools at a programme level can see overwhelming in the midst of the initial response but it's foundational to managing the evolving environment we will work in for the next few years. If you're developing your remote management strategies and want more support send us an email.  


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