The Problem-Solving Checklist for Distant Teams

It is true that, in terms of the practical aspects of resolving a problem, there may not be a great deal of difference between a face-to-face meeting and a remote team. However, logistical challenges such as time differences and other limitations can present a significant obstacle for those working in a geographically dispersed team.

If you’re uncertain about how to adapt your existing problem-solving approach for a remote team, we’d be delighted to offer our assistance. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us and we will be happy to make any necessary modifications to ensure that your problem-solving process is optimised for a remote team.

The American Society for Quality has identified four distinct stages of problem-solving: identification of the problem, generation of potential solutions, evaluation of these solutions to narrow the choices, and finally implementation and monitoring of the selected solution. Each of these steps is important for ensuring an effective and efficient resolution.

It is essential to provide clear instructions on the hierarchies and procedures to be followed in case of any issues in order to ensure the effectiveness of a remote team. Additionally, the ability of the team to work through difficulties may be affected by intangible factors such as team culture. Therefore, it is important to consider these elements when developing a structure for remote teams.

Here is a guide on working effectively in a remote team to solve problems.

A Problem Statement

In order to fix an issue, you must first understand what it is and how it is affecting your project.

  • Problem’s Characteristics Considering who to involve and what to do can be made easier if you understand the type of problem you are dealing with (technical, process-oriented or decision-making). For example, the team leader and designer could have a discussion about whether a squeeze page or a sign-up form would be the most suitable. Before switching to a different programming language, it would be important to get the approval of management and customers.
  • Cause vs Effect versus Chronicity of an Issue If the symptoms of a condition are serious, it is essential that they are addressed immediately. Conversely, if there is sufficient time available, it may be more beneficial to identify and address the underlying issue. Generally, any problem that is recurrent will have an origin behind it.
  • Reporting Mechanism for Emergencies With regards to the classification of issues, it is beneficial to have a method of disseminating a warning in the event of an emergency when team members are not all present in the same location simultaneously. This way, whether it is a serious situation that requires the immediate attention of everyone or something less critical, the team will be aware of it.

Structured Ranks and Appropriate Etiquette

In the event that a manager, team lead, or subject matter expert (SME) is unable to respond to pressing matters in a distributed team, it is essential that a reliable procedure is in place to ensure order, communication, and clarity. This procedure is non-negotiable and must be followed.

  • Mediums of Interaction It is essential for distributed teams to utilise online chat rooms like Slack in order to remain connected and productive. However, it is important that all members of the team have access to the same method of communication, particularly in times of crisis.
  • Devices for Distant Administration Problem-solving often requires a series of attempts, modifications to specifications, delegation of tasks and careful time management. Asana and Trello are two popular remote project management tools that can be used to help keep track of each step in the process.
  • Separation of Duties As members of a cross-functional team working in an agile setting, it is essential to be clear on which aspects of the issue should be addressed by each individual. By using analytical and creative approaches such as lateral thinking and breaking down the issue into smaller parts, we can make significant progress towards finding a solution.
  • Remote Teams Have a Time Limit Given that members of a globally-dispersed team may not be available simultaneously, it is important that they commit to a pre-determined response time. This will ensure that all members of the team remain on the same page and enable them to make the most of the available resources when attempting to solve any challenges which may arise. Without this commitment, it would be difficult for the team to find effective solutions.
  • Emergency Situation Signaling Code Red In times of crisis, an alternative set of procedures should be put into place in order to ensure that the remote team can find a resolution quickly and efficiently. To facilitate this, it is important to ensure that emergency communication methods have been established, response times have been reduced, and that both the project team and the client’s primary contact are aware of who to seek support from.
  • Complications We Can’t Currently Predict It is essential to plan ahead in order to prepare for any potential emergencies. In software development, it is not uncommon for unexpected events to arise, such as the need to incorporate a new feature or to extend the deadline. By anticipating these potential issues, the remote team will be aware of the necessary steps to take should they occur.
  • Making Notes In order to maintain order and ensure that everyone is held accountable, it is advisable to record any changes, alterations and comments in the project management software. This will help to ensure that the project runs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Producing Options and Choosing the Most Effective One

The remote team should have a strong understanding of whether or not they will be participating in the problem-solving process before it ever begins.

  • Discussion and Ideas Generation in Small Groups It is essential that all members of the project team are consulted when there is an issue that needs to be resolved. Discussion between the team can result in a more comprehensive solution to the problem, as it allows for the synthesis of multiple perspectives. For a distributed team, video conferencing via Skype or Zoom is an effective way of facilitating such a discussion.
  • Decision Made by Autocracy In the event that the issue at hand is not of great importance or there is insufficient time to consult everyone involved, the project managers and specialists will endeavour to develop potential solutions.
  • The Indispensable Metrics of Success The most suitable solution can be chosen according to criteria such as the time required for implementation, the impact it will have on other objectives and subordinate goals, and the resources required for completion.

Putting the Best Plan into Action

In order to ensure the successful implementation of the plan, it may be necessary to reallocate certain duties or draw personnel from a different team. To guarantee the success of the team, it is important that everyone is aware of and understands their new roles and responsibilities.

  • Who is Taking Part? Not everyone would have to be a part of the solution’s execution. However, guidance with job and time management may sometimes need their services.
  • Timeframe In order to ensure that the solution is implemented in a timely manner, it is important to establish a timeline that is aligned with the overall deadline of the project and its relationship to the other objectives. This will help to ensure that the project is completed within the desired timeframe.
  • Task Redistribution Team members working on the solution may need to take charge of other areas of the project to ensure it is completed on time.

Social Climate of a Group

Having a positive and supportive team culture may be the initial step in tackling any difficulty, even if it is not directly involved in the problem-solving process. To help address an issue when working as a remote team, the following recommendations should be considered:

  • Encourage independent thought.
  • Support a wide range of thought and exploration.
  • Rather of always intervening, allow for some independence.
  • Foster Cooperation
  • Assist in training new, distant members on the necessary processes

A problem-solving checklist can be a useful tool in helping to organise and streamline the process of resolving an issue. By having a plan in place, it can ensure that the group can focus their collective energy and attention on the task in hand, rather than having to think about the steps involved in the process. This may help to reduce the levels of disruption and chaos that can be associated with such a situation.

Whilst checklists are useful, there are often nuances to an issue which require further consideration. To ensure success of the remote team, it is important to find employees who are able to think quickly and adapt to changing situations, as well as having the commitment to put in the necessary time and effort. We are happy to provide assistance in sourcing suitable candidates who have the flexibility to work within your desired business hours; please let us know when you would like us to begin.

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