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Hi,

can you please share some good sources of information on remote cooperation? 

Team management, partners management, project management. Somehow my experience seems to work against me when it comes to "remote". 

If you have experience with remote teams, please advise what works for you and what did not. 

Thank you.

 

svibanez's picture

The thing that works best for me is to communicate constantly. I'm on the phone with my remote team leader twice a day during the week. One of those calls is during his evening and one is during my evening due to the time difference. The calls happen even when I don't have anything specific to discuss - you never know what's going to come out of the conversation. Our call last night had only one agenda item when we started, and the call lasted almost an hour discussing a variety of work-related things that came up in the first few minutes.

It's the relationship between you and your directs that makes it work. It doesn't matter whether you sit next to them or they're on the opposite side of the planet. Communicate frequently and openly. I think you'll be happy with the results.

Steve

skac1919's picture

I have a weekly call for each team member to give 3 minute update of current work priorities, then we spend more time if an item needs discussion or clarification from entire group. I inherited this from previous manager of the team and it works well. It allows team members to collaborate and help each other, often a more senior staff who is not officially assigned to the project will offer advice based on previous work. And the meetings allow me to identify concerns that require proactive attention outside one on ones and with staff who do not report directly to me.

 

mbatchler's picture

I manage 4 directs who each, in turn, have 2-5 directs.  When we were a "flat" team that I managed (~14 at the time) I encouraged "personal" responses at the end of a meeting to a question I would ask at the begining.  For example, I would start off our weekly call with the usual roll call then would provide a brief question that had to be answered in 30 seconds or less.  I made sure we had ~10 minutes at the end of the call to have everyone answer.  The questions were intended to be lighthearted and something to just briefly drift their mind off work  the overall intent was to generate a stronger team chemestry and piull everyone together.  

It was successful and has been carried forward into my manager's meetings with their teams now. 

Some examples of quesions we used were:

-Favorite drink

-Least favorite city and why

-Dumbest thing you heard a customer say this week

-Birthmonth and do you lke it?

-Worst TV show currently airing.

-If every job paid the exact same (POTUS to tire changer), what job would you pick?

-Favorite movie?

 

 

Hope that helps!!

 

mb

ashdenver's picture

When I had 7 remote team members and one local DR, I met with each of them weekly for their O3's. The remote folks were over the phone and the local was face-to-face, because we could. The remote folks were split between working from home solo and working in other offices of the company with people they know but not on their team. Our company had internal-only instant messaging so I would alternate between group emails, group chats and individual IM's on a more frequent basis (good morning, how's it going, anything I can do, need help on anything, etc.) to remind them of the virtual team support. We did a monthly team meeting with Live Meeting (shared visual content in a live presentation) with a conference call and occasionally an anonymous meeting.  By that, I would allow them to type questions or answers onto the screen / shared space anonymously in case there was something they wanted to address without feeling self-conscious. (They'd still login to the meeting with their name so I could see that everyone was there but when they added content, there was no way of knowing for sure who wrote what - with the rare exception of folks who had a unique style or always used the exact same font choices as in email.)

When I first got the team, the only person I'd ever heard of was the local DR so the O3's were a way for the true-remotes and I to get to know each other. Some time later, I transferred to another division with another 8 DR's but only 3 were remote. During our first phone call, I shared with "Penny" the concept of the O3 and that we'd be talking weekly and that it would help us get to know each other.  After three months of weekly O3's, she said to me "Are we done now? Are we moving to quarterly O3's?" I asked her why she thought we'd move from weekly to quarterly and she had thought the sole purpose of the O3 was to get to know each other and we'd obviously accomplished that. I told her I still wanted to reserve the time for her each week and we could play it by ear. The first week, she said she had nothing to talk about so we skipped it. The second week, she said she was too busy so we skipped it. With the third week, she had something and we talked.  And then we continued talking each week after that! She had come to rely on having a dedicated resource, a focal point for escalations, a champion in her corner, etc. I also think she had gotten to appreciate the dedicated focus on her that other managers had not provided in the past: "out of sight, out of mind."  In some ways, remote folks like that aspect because they can "get away with things" (cut corners, put in extra hours, etc.) that they couldn't in a face-to-face environment.  But the trade-off is oftentimes feeling isolated and forgotten about.

As everyone has stressed thus far: communication and inclusion, as well as amongst each other.

There was one meeting where I did break-out rooms in Live Meeting and hand them pair-off to work on tangrams (spatial alignment puzzles) as part of a teamwork and "shift your perspective / think outside the box" focus.  They enjoyed doing something fun with a partner - probably because they spent so much time isolated from each other.

Good luck!

SteveAnderson's picture

Communication is the key to managing any effective team but managing a remote team requires more of an advanced understanding of the nature of communication. If you look at quality of communication, the highest quality is face to face and it goes downhill from there: video telephony, phone, SMS/instant messaging, and email, respectively. So with a remote team, the quality is diminished by the nature of the team which means that quantity needs to increase drastically to compensate. How much? Well, consider that the different mediums are not ranked from the bottom up as "good, better, best" but as "worst, okay, best." My point there is that there's a huge gap in quality between face to face and and any technology-assisted medium. So with that understanding, here's what worked for me when I managed a team of 11 remote employees:

O3s were the core of managing the team. Follow the M-T guidelines and make this a meeting that happens no matter what. If I'm traveling, if they're traveling, if people are on leave part of the week. Especially when they're in a huge deadline crunch.

Weekly staff meetings need to happen. I struggled with the M-T model for a while because it was hard for me to scale it to the size of my team but eventually found a model that worked.

Cadence meetings are also key and this is highly dependent on the type of work your team does. It could be weekly project meetings, daily scrum meetings, etc.

Making yourself available via internal messenger, SMS, and phone calls is important but make sure you're using your calendar to manage your priorities, otherwise this type of communication has a tendency to fill every space available.

Also, virtual platforms for meetings (WebEx, Adobe Connect, etc.) are very helpful as are collaboration platforms (SharePoint comes to mind).

Good luck with your team and please feel free to message me with any specific questions.

JustHere's picture

I managed a remote team for many years.  Every morning we had a quick 15 minute meeting to see where everything stands.  Also, if people had obstacles it was the time to talk about it so that we can develop solutions offline.  Worked like a charm.

williamelledgepe's picture

There are a number of casts that deal exactly and directly with this. Start here:

http://www.manager-tools.com/2010/10/distant-manager-basics-part-1

From there use the similar cast link in the right.  Over the course of 3 casts (or so) you will find a list of exaclty what works and what doesn't. 

Most important thing to do: O3. 

alexblack's picture

When you are planning to work with a remote team, a lot of new problems come to the fore. Do you know anything about managing software development process? Well, it is eternal source of problems. And to solve them, 75% of IT companies use Agile methodology. For example, we love Scrum and Kanban in Artjoker. In this article, I gathered Agile communication tools for working with offshore outsourcing teams.

Read also How to Hire a Remote Development Team?

alex north's picture

The hardest part of managing a remote team is setting smooth communication between client and developers. To do so, we have an adaptation plan for both parties. Client should inform programmers about corporate values, business hours, vacations, etc. 
Personally I like this tip taken from the article about managing remote teams:

"The efficiency of your interaction with the team depends on trust. Your research and detailed explanation of the project should make your team believe in your common goals. In the same time, you have to trust your team. If an experienced outsource team tells you that something in your solution is bad and will not work, or may turn into potential problems, you should believe them and work together on finding out another solution."
 

Bessalitskykh's picture

Thanks for sharing!
 
For a different kind of work, we use different tools: we can make quick notes either with a pen on paper or by using a smartphone. We can also use the tip of a sword and a stone but that is not convenient and quite old-fashioned.
 
Agile frameworks, such as Kanban and Scrum, can also be viewed as tools. They are designed to help regulate and organize the work on a project. To find out what kinds of projects Scrum and Kanban are good for, you need to analyze their advantages and disadvantages. Follow this article https://mlsdev.com/blog/kanban-vs-scrum to figure out it.

Tammy Alvarez's picture

I found when managing global teams, there was a tendency to schedule meetings during the business hours of the headquarters or the leader’s location  - typically in the US. That meant many of the other team members let’s say in Europe or Asia were always dialing in during the early morning or late evenings.  I would rotate the meeting times so everyone got to have a meeting during their normal business hours at least once a month and the inconvenience of meeting early or late was spread amongst the entire team.  I always scheduled our one-on-ones during their business hours.  I found that when colleagues were meeting during their normal business hours they were far more interactive than when they’re attending the meeting off hours.  This really helped making sure we had a global perspective and functioned as an inclusive team.