Building visibility and credibility for your project or team in a distributed company
Techniques to improve your presence regardless of the timezone
With the pandemic, more people are working remotely. Since we all are remote, it became an equaliser. Everyone is now on even footing and dialling in from outside the physical office.
Visibility is important. It can increase collaboration with your team, make a case for promotion or more resources/investment, give opportunities to contribute to strategic projects, and acknowledge your team's efforts. Being visible and adding to the noise isn't enough, it should add some kind of value. Visibility can show accountability - for example how the project has progressed.
This article will introduce some ideas to help with visibility and credibility.
Stakeholder identification and targeted communication
Spend some time listing your direct and indirect stakeholders and how best to reach them. Ensure that you are relaying the right level of information to the right audience. Very senior stakeholders will focus more on outcomes and business impact. Direct stakeholders and people more closely involved would want more details and the full context.
By knowing your stakeholders, what they are interested in and the level of detail they need, you can plan your information and communication channel.
Tip: If your organisation uses Slack, identify channels which your stakeholders use. Create your own channel for your team or project to give updates. Go where your stakeholders are.
Showcase your purpose and your team’s value
At the beginning of the project, create a simple narrative of the work. For a Product Manager, this could have a vision of the project, impact and a roadmap to achieve it. It will help in drumming up interest and help to align your stakeholders.
One channel of communicating your narrative is a slide deck. Outline the teams, point of contact, communication channels (e.g. Slack channels or Confluence pages), and the status of the project. This deck should be easy to read on its own, without being presented live. This format would be more information-heavy than a typical slide deck used for presentations. Put your most important information at the beginning of the deck, for your time-poor stakeholders.
Tip: Make it easy for your distributed stakeholders to consume the content in their own time by creating a pre-recorded video. Zoom and Loom are good tools to record videos. Keep the length short and to the point. Annotations help too, if there is a call to action make it clear what you want the viewer to do next.
Showing accountability/ progress, celebrating milestones
Proactive updates show transparency and accountability, highlighting the responsibilities of your team. Use it to celebrate wins or milestones as well as to communicate delays, implications and impact. Leverage asynchronous communication to share updates if your stakeholders are in a different time zone.
It’s important these updates are written clearly, concisely and timely. Again, it needs to include the point of contact and link to other resources if people want to know more.
Make it real for your stakeholders by sharing demos of the Proof of Concept (POC). It could be a video of you explaining what was built or worked on by the team. Or share a preset login so people can access and test it out themselves. Let people know about the stage of the project and whether you are open to feedback.
Find opportunities to share the work with a broader audience. Getting your work in front of other teams in the organization could help with alignment and further investment in the future. These meetings could be Product or Design reviews, department meetings and company town halls. In these bigger forums make sure there’s one thing memorable for the audience to take away. Given the audience is broad in this situation, it should not be information-heavy.
Tip: To help your stakeholders read it during their work day, leverage scheduling tools such as Gmail and Slack. Your stakeholders will get notified during their work day, and are more likely to review it then. If using Slack or a similar tool, a thread of conversations could start as a result of what was shared. Have your team members keep an eye on it so they can answer questions and moderate the conversation in a timely fashion.
Amplifying your voice through others
It’s easier and better at times to have others speak your praises. It could be particularly helpful when your stakeholders are in a different timezone than yours. Be direct about how they can support you. They may be attending meetings that you don’t even know about. They could also be communicating with your future potential collaborators.
Team members in other regions might be able to cover the bases. It doesn’t always have to be from the same team as long as the message is consistent.
Tip: Equip your stakeholders with easy to access information that can be shared including projects or your team's mandate.
What are other techniques you do to help with your visibility in a large or global organisation?
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