A Distributed Product Manager’s Guide to Effective Communication

The presence of remote and dispersed teams in modern organisations brings about exclusive communication difficulties for product managers. To succeed, product managers need to possess outstanding communication skills, and accommodate the diverse levels of knowledge, regional origins, and communication styles of the team members they engage with.

It is clear that efficient project managers should not only have exceptional communication abilities, but also the ability to communicate in a structured and dependable manner. While effective communication offers several benefits, we will majorly highlight the challenges associated with managing a dispersed team.

Although there isn’t a standard law, certain principles are valid and persistent even when the rule is not applicable.

  1. Come prepared

    It is a standard expectation that a product manager should respond confidently and accurately to questions to maintain the credibility of their statements. However, with the increasing number of product managers feeling the pressure, it is tempting to adopt a “wing it” approach. It is crucial that product managers have the required knowledge to provide insightful answers to any posited question as failure to do so may jeopardise the credibility of their entire presentation.

    Since accessing information can be problematic and a distributed team may experience a decrease in focus, it is even more necessary to be well-versed in the topic at hand. Being thoroughly prepared will not only save you time and vigour, but it will also enable you to offer comprehensive responses to any questions raised. If you have a limited understanding of the subject, it may be problematic to provide a suitable response.

    It is fundamental to take ample time to read the email carefully, peruse through the Product Requirements Document, and explore the company of your client. This will help you develop an in-depth understanding of the subject, allowing you to create and deliver an engaging message that captures and holds your audience’s attention.
  2. Consistent routine

    This means maintaining a somewhat consistent pace and sticking to a routine that can be repeatedly used.

    Undoubtedly, synchronous communication and adhering to a fixed schedule are advantageous for most teams, but this is particularly crucial for dispersed teams. Having a well-defined routine enables team members and stakeholders located in different time zones to plan their schedules around yours.

    An orderly structure is essential for any remote team, and having a set schedule can significantly help in managing the expectations of all stakeholders, both internal and external. Not only does this take away their burden of figuring out what comes next, but it also puts you in a position to become a planning expert. Establishing a regular routine will ensure that everyone is aligned and capable of proceeding with their tasks in a timely manner.

    It is imperative to establish a standard operating procedure (SOP) for team meetings, product updates, pairing sessions, and debriefs. Every team member should be well-informed of the SOP, and everybody should put forth a collective effort to adhere to the schedule.
  3. Avoid Unnecessary Elaboration

    Verbosity refers to the excessive use of words to convey a message or idea. However, in this context, it means using the appropriate words to ensure that your message is correctly and effectively conveyed.

    When communicating with someone geographically distant, finding the apt words to express yourself accurately can be challenging. This can lead to a detrimental cycle of misunderstandings and miscommunications, resulting in rework, scope creep, and ultimately, possible failure.

    Notwithstanding the significance of being concise, it is imperative to bear in mind the requirements of your target audience when creating your message. Clarity should not be sacrificed for the sake of brevity; your top priority should be ensuring that your message is clear and easily understood.

    If there is any uncertainty as to whether the recipient will grasp the subject matter, it’s advisable to carefully review the material. To guarantee complete comprehension, it is recommended to review the content as many times as needed.
  4. Communicate Frequently and Early

    Efficient collaboration among team members is necessary for the successful completion of a project. Access to relevant information in a timely and appropriate manner is crucial for this purpose.

    As a dispersed Project Manager, reducing the effort and resources required for consensus-building is imperative due to the absence of physical proximity between team members.

    Consensus-building requires knowledge and understanding. Although it may seem uncomfortable to share information when there are unanswered questions, the advantages of keeping others informed and involved in the process should outweigh any initial discomfort. The 5-to-30-to-90-percent feedback structure is a valuable tool for achieving consensus through communication and knowledge-sharing.

Despite the increasing level of comfort with remote and distributed working across numerous industries, efficient communication remains a vital factor for the success of product managers. Although the proximity of product managers to their engineers and stakeholders can enhance their work’s effectiveness, managing a dispersed team requires careful consideration of crucial nuances for achieving the same level of triumph.

Check out this article for more information on making remote team communication easier.

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