Remote Teams: A Structure that Works

Social distancing policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have required teams to work remotely across many industries. At Key Tech the transition from on-site to remote interaction has been seamless, and our projects continue to run as planned.

How do we do it? – For Key Tech, running programs remotely begins and ends with a team structure that facilitates open communication, starting with the Project Manager.

Project Manager – The tools available to a Project Manager (PM) have evolved over the last 10 years, but the fundamentals remain constant; they set the priorities, drive decisions, foster relationships within the team and, of course, manage the schedule and budget. The Project Manager has been given the task of understanding all requirements of a project and balancing the resources and deliverables. A very tall order!

Fortunately, our Project Managers are up to the task. Key Tech PMs are experienced product designers who have the skills, training, and know-how to navigate complex projects. This is critical to our success. But we also know that a single person does not guarantee a successful project. That’s why we built infrastructure at Key Tech to help PMs excel in their role. The foundation of this infrastructure is great people who form excellent project teams and freely communicate with their Project Managers. We couple this with documented work processes refined over many years, state of the art management tools, and a culture of exceeding expectations.

Discipline Leads – At Key Tech we have adopted a leadership model that allows team members to focus on what they do best. In this model, the PM serves a traditional role of steering the overall project but relies on discipline team leaders to keep the sub-tasks with their respective teams on track. Discipline leads are in control of mapping out their team schedules and objectives, leveraging their expertise, while allowing the PM to focus on the big picture. Weekly, and sometimes daily, one-on-one meetings with the discipline leads allows the PM concentrated communications of day to day technical progress in between regular weekly meetings with the entire team.

Project Management Peer Support – An important PM resource within Key Tech is what we often call a Senior Reviewer. This is another experienced Project Manager who supports the PM with strategic decisions and provides a different project perspective. The PM touches base with a Senior Reviewer regularly to review progress, risks, resource planning, and a number of other topics prescribed by our custom Senior Reviewer checklist. Our PMs benefit from swapping insight with another experienced “Key Techer” who may look at the project differently than the discipline leads who are tied up in day to day project demands.

Flat Team Structure – The third, and most important aspect of Key Tech’s project team model is our flat communication structure. Our teams may look tiered for organizational purposes, but all project members are encouraged to communicate freely across all levels. Junior engineers often report concerns directly to the Project Manager, and conversely, the PM may check-in directly with a junior engineer working on a critical task. These open lines of communication ensure that our talented employees impact the project regardless of their role.

This model of a peer oversight organization offers us the best opportunity to meet the needs of our clients’ most challenging projects whether on-site or as a remote team working in unison.

Does it work? – We like to think so, but I encourage you to learn more about our success stories by visiting Key Tech’s website and requesting more information. As an employee-owned company, every person at Key Tech is invested in the success of each project and the success of our clients. Please TalkToUs to see how we can support your product development imperatives.

Jake Cowperthwaite
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