Friday, April 03, 2020

Distributed Teams - Team Timings

Usually when we work in the office there is usually a check-in time and a check-out time and break out meeting times, so the whole team is together at the same time and working together and interacting and sharing and contributing.

When working at home or at a remote location, we do not take timings seriously. What happens is that each one in the team starts to work at their own timing taking mostly family into account and chores to do and just being lethargic in the morning. We get into the mode of saying if I eventually put in 8 hours that would be enough.

The truth is this destroys the rhythm of the team. One might be a morning person, another a night person, another likes to work in bursts and so on. This makes people waiting on each other endless and delays tasks getting done leading to frustration and doubts if the person is actually working.

Set a timing for the team, connect over a group conversation where everyone checks in and then work through the day being connected with each other and then break off at a set time.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Distributed Teams - Reporting Status

When working in distributed teams one must remember that each one cannot see the other, so there is always that lingering thought that people are not working. When in the office one sees the person at the desk and hence assumes that the person is working. Secondly when working together, you always overhear conversations so you get a sense of what is happening.

Hence it is very important for everyone to share the status of what they are working on along with any dependencies and challenges they are facing with everyone else. Any changes to the task timelines also need to be communicated so that everyone is on the same page. Over time you will notice members of the team getting comfortable and candid in their status as long as an open communication without prejudice is maintained.

It is also very important to respond as soon as it is done to inform everyone else that it is done. Do not wait until the end of the day to inform other members of the team. This way it becomes clear to all the progress being made in the project.

Some teams maintain shared excel sheets, others use tools like Trello, Microsoft Teams, Bitrix, etc. What ever it is, encourage all to update it freely and openly.

Do not ever try to get everyone to send the status to one person, that person filters, collates and then distributes it.  This will give you the status of the tasks through the lens of one person, which need not necessarily be the exact status of the project depending on the persons view of the project.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Distributed Teams - Vision and Tasks


In these challenging times, almost a third of the world is not working together in an office. This is not new, the tools and methods have been developed almost from the time the internet started becoming mainstream. With outsourcing the remote working concept had really developed into a way of life for many especially in the information technology industry.

I would like to look at different aspects of remote working that have helped me through my career of working with remote teams for over 20 years.

Vision is very important. The team should have a vision of what they need to achieve. Vision could be to develop a new process, a new product, achieve 99% up-time, response rates, etc. The team should have a goal to work towards, a north star. This helps the team to stay focused and on track even when not together.

Once the team has a vision, it is very important to break this vision down into tasks. Tasks should have a clear definition (set of steps), a defined outcome, an estimate and a deadline. Yes, there might be times one can't define any of these but the important thing is to note down the task with the information that one has at the moment and then as one works through the task, you can add more tasks or modify the one you are working on to add more clarity. Do not wait to get complete clarity on a task as you would get it only when the task is done. Which would be too late as there would be no reason to define the task any more as it is already done.

Last but not least, meet often for a short quick meeting with the entire team to discuss challenges, progress and  clarifications. There are many free and paid online collaboration tools that can help one with the vision, the tasks tracking and the online meetings. Use them if you have a team !