Brent Owens is one of Beanstream’s Developer Liaisons. Two weeks ago, on April 20th, he gave a talk on Managing Distributed Teams – Best Practices, which we are sharing in a two part series. Don’t forget to read Managing Distributed Teams: Part 1.
Managing Distributed Teams: Part 2:
Autonomy is key for remote employees, and for teams. Granting this autonomy frees up time for the employee, by removing the need for daily status reports and by empowering them to make their own decisions and not have to wait for sign-off.
To help build autonomy, your company’s culture must embrace your company’s values. To set this up, you should consider your company’s 3-C’s: Core Purpose, Creed, and Camaraderie.
The core purpose establishes the values you believe will make the company succeed. Projects, roles, and people must meet those values. It should be a measure of success for project delivery and can be part of the employee review process. Make sure to define values that are achievable and can be made into tangible features for products and actions for employees.
This is where the day-to-day work of each employee can be made autonomous. With a well-defined creed that is applicable across job types, you can help the employees keep their decisions in line with what the company’s goals are. Define your creed in the first person and make it actionable, it will guide your employee’s actions. Here is an example of a creed for a technology company:
“I will ask for help when I run into problems. I will ensure I test what I make to be best of my ability, and seek help for testing beyond that. I will make sure my designs stick to the style guide. When I run into a problem with documentation, I will improve it and add to it…”
Similar beliefs and expectations will give birth to shared expectations. This will allow people to police each other and lower the burden on management to ensure everyone is performing the way they should be.
Camaraderie is a crucial part of getting people to work together. Without friendships and professional and friendly relationships in a workplace, collaboration won’t occur as often as it should. Building up camaraderie will ensure people work together for the good of the company, not because they were told to.
You can build up camaraderie by running fun events online that include everyone. Hold pizza or beer Fridays and video cast it. When a product is released, celebrate it across the company. Make an announcement, showcase the success of the program, and praise the team that helped deliver it.
For all of the 3-C’s, you need to practice them daily, not just once a year at an employee review. Make it part of defining a product, think “how will this new product fit into our company values, and how can I measure that it does.” Practicing this makes it more than just words on a wall, it becomes part of your company culture. By defining and practising your company’s 3-C’s, you can trust that your employees will deliver towards your company’s vision, act the way you expect them to, and make decisions that you would agree with.
Tools To Help Your Digital Office
There are many great tools out there that will help you transition to a digital office. It is important to remember that if a tool isn’t working for you, try another one. But it is even more important not to switch to the next new and shiny technology when it comes out. If a tool works for 80% of your need, then stick with it until it really is time to move to a new one. Remember, trust in the tools is key.
Here are some tools we at Beanstream and Bambora, as well as other companies, find useful in creating our digital office:
- Webex/GoTo Meeting
- Teleconference lines as a backup
- Google Docs
With the vast difference of opinions, perspectives, and talents, working on a global team can be exhilarating. It can also be a nuisance, but by building trust, overcoming technology barriers, building autonomy and providing your team with tools to help solve the pain points, you can truly become a unified team and deliver something unique.