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Leading Without Seeing: managing distributed teams


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The rules are the same. Treat people well. Expect great things from them. Be human. The details though, they make all the difference. Managing the nuances of engagement and productivity with a couple thousand miles between you and your team is both science and art. My name is Shane. I have been running a fully distributed team of 20-40 North American creatives for the last 5 years. Our success has come from a cohesive set of technical and cultural systems: the right people, the right environment and the right tools.

* Build the right team: happy, helpful, curious & accountable
* The rhythm: offer consistency
* Relationships in the void
* Use the right tools

Published in: Business, Technology

Leading Without Seeing: managing distributed teams

  1. Managing a Distributed Team LEADING WITHOUT SEEING @justlikeair #remotemgt
  2. Hi, I’m Shane & I run a 100% DISTRIBUTED company.  
  3. (some people call them clients) ACOUPLE OF OUR FRIENDS
  4. CHALLENGES FOR DISTRIBUTEDTEAMS •  Leadership •  Accountability •  Synchronicity •  Trust •  Culture •  Isolation •  Balance
  5. 1.  The Future of Teams 2.  Building the Right team 3.  Rhythm 4.  Relationships 5.  Communication & Technology 6.  Conclusion DISTRIBUTEDTEAMS REQUIRE AUNIQUEAPPROACH
  6. The Future ofTeams 1. THE FUTURE OFTEAMS
  7. A team of people using technology to work on the same stuff from different places. DISTRIBUTED TEAM
  8. Team Structures Co-located Co-located part time Remote offices Distributed w/ overlapping hours Distributed w/ different hours Increasing Distribution
  9. 50-FOOT RULE Teams on separate floors (more than 50 feet apart) actually talk less than a distributed team. Distance Probability of collaboration Same corridor……………………………………. 10.3% Same floor………………………………………... 1.9% Different floor……………………………………... 0.3% Different building………………………………….. 0.4% Study by Bell Labs & University of Arizona 1988
  10. ADVANTAGES •  Talent •  Productivity •  Diversity •  Minimal infrastructure •  Cost savings •  Ecological •  Work - life balance •  Individual control
  11. •  The future of work •  Highly productive •  Major benefits •  Significant challenges •  Calling all leaders FUTURE OFTEAMS REVIEW
  13. THE RIGHT PEOPLE •  Talented •  Happy •  Helpful •  Curious •  Accountable
  14. TALENTED 1)  Normal interviews often don’t work 2)  Remote interviews certainly don’t 3)  Try before you buy 4) Hire slowly and fire quickly
  15. PERSONALITYMATTERS MORETHANTALENT When it comes to Distributed Teams:
  20. get multiple contracts Not everyone is going to be the perfect fit * In 2010, we tried 43 contractors of which 15 have multiple contracts (good year) 1 OUT OF 3*
  21. •  Failures are inevitable, plan for them •  Try before you buy •  Figure out YOUR culture •  S&P’s: Happy, Helpful, Curious, •  Accountable THE RIGHT TEAM REVIEW
  22. Can anyone succeed as a valuable member of distributed team with the right training and support? Do people have specific predispositions that make them more likely to succeed? CHALLENGEBreak  into  groups  and  discuss  the  following  ques6on:  
  24. I can predict the long-term outcome of your success if you show me your daily habits. John Maxwell “
  25. How do I win?If your team can’t answer this right off the bat, stop what you are doing. You are about to loose a lot more money.
  26. •  What’s next? •  Why, who, how and when •  Why more Is less AREYOU MANAGINGTHE QUEUE?
  27. •  What did you do last? •  What will you do next? •  What is in your way? •  Do you need a meeting? We  call  it  a  “Scrum”   THE REGULAR STANDUP: SCRUM
  28. Everything has an Just because you asked for help or for someone else to collaborate does not relinquish accountability. It is yours until it is done. OWNER
  29. Clear Feedback is Not Optional The only true measure of feedback quality: WTFs / Minute Adapted froman comic
  30. MEASURE PERFOMANCE NOT HOURS We should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don't have a nine-to-five day policy, we don't need a vacation policy. From the Netflix “Reference Guide on our Freedom & Responsibility Culture” “
  31. Flex time is contingent on availability within communication patterns.
  32. OPEN DOOR OFFICE HOURS It’s your call, just be available OR
  33. Help your team with scheduling. Even our PMs need this. It’s not out of sight if it’s in your calendar!
  34. Every time I break rhythm MYTEAM LOSES DAYS.
  35. Rhythm Review •  Create regular habits •  Make sure everyone knows how to win •  Manage the queue artfully •  Run a regular standup meeting •  Everything has an owner •  Provide clear and explicit feedback •  Figure out a consistent communication pattern •  Measure performance not time •  Help people with their time management •  Respect personal load and priorities
  36. A couple times a year, one of our highest performers will simply vanish mid-sprint. No explanations, no warnings, no call-backs. 98% of the time we can count of him, but those time he disappears are painful. The cause is burnout. How do you monitor your distributed team’s mental health? How is it different with a remote worker? CHALLENGEBreak  into  groups  and  discuss  the  following  ques6on:  
  37. 4. RELATIONSHIPS INTHEVOID Hello?   Anyone  there?  
  38. LOVE Where is the ?
  39. BEARTFULLY It is the natural state of things to be disconnected from a distance. It takes additional effort to create camaraderie through commonality. INTRUSIVE
  40. D   I   S  C   Outgoing   Reserved   Task   People   Dominant   Driving   Do’er   Inspiring   InteracDve   InteresDng   SupporDve   Stable   SensiDve   ConscienDous   Competent   Careful  
  41. SocialHR does it when hiring, shouldn’t you?
  42. Online“Water Cooler”: Dear  Bullies,  You  made  me  cry   Painted  Pelicans  on  My  SurKoard   Ladybug  Family  on  Halloween   New  Floors!!   Brandon  &  Alaire’s  Puppy   Serenity  Walks  on  Her  Own!   Dan   Peter   Brandon   Shane   Reid   Shane  
  44. COMINGTOGETHER Meeting people builds trust S&P Trip: Panama 2010
  45. HIT SOME HOME RUNS Motivation & trust comes from hitting home runs. You pitch to hit their bat. ©  Ed  Yourdon  via  flickr  
  46. WAIT FOR ME! It is incredibly easy to become disconnected. As a leader, you might want to pause and see if anyone is following you. Ask your team “How can I be a better manager”? I’m your leader!
  47. 6TH SENSE Working with people you can’t see is like surfing in the dark.
  48. Relationship Review •  Be open, honest and nosy •  Pay attention to personality •  Hit home runs •  Engage using social media •  Create online social spaces •  Check out Co-Working •  You can’t replace face to face •  Intuition & self reflection
  49. CHALLENGE What are good ways to reward remote workers? I want to give a small reward to my developer for accomplishing a goal, such as taking them to lunch. However, we are a remote team, so I cannot take them to lunch. Yet, it seems like just sending them a gift card or something doesn't convey the same sense of gratitude. In other words, it isn't about the's the thought that counts. ” “ Question from Quora: Break  into  groups  and  discuss  the  following  ques6on:  
  51. THE PROBLEMS FOR WHICH WE USE TOOLS •  Communication •  Community •  Meetings •  Track Work / Accountability •  Knowledge Tracking •  Source Control •  Collaboration
  54. Avdi Grimm, Wide Teams The more universally captured, visible, and searchable communication mediums you use, the better. “
  55. Your systems should fit into a user’s habitual workflow. The less they have to change, the higher the rate of adoption. WORK COMFORTABLY
  56. Adium One Duck to rule them all WORK COMFORTABLY
  57. Email   RSS   Web   API   Mobile   Get your tasks & comments in any way you like WORK COMFORTABLY
  58. One-on-One Meetings
  59. Group Meetings •  Conference call : iPhone & •  Conference suites : Go to Meeting, Adobe Connect •  Group chat : Campfire / ICQ / Skype GROUP MEETINGS
  60. Getting an idea across •  Files & screen shots : CloudApp •  Doodles and notes : Skitch •  Screen-casts and audio : Jing •  Screen sharing : Team Viewer, Skype, iChat, •  Code : Jsfiddle, Pastebin Group MeetingsGETTING THE IDEAACROSS
  61. EMAIL:TOOL OF LAST RESORT •  Not transparent •  Not accountable
  62. ASSET MANAGEMENT What happens when you can’t get a hold of a file from a key person?
  63. BAD Source   GOOD You   Team   Team   Team   You   Team   Team   Team   Team  
  64. Control the Source •  Dropbox •  SVN / GIT •  Shared drives •  Google Docs, Open Office •  Documentation (Wikis) CONTROLTHE SOURCE
  65. Try things •  Be agile with your systems •  Have reviews and elicit feedback from your whole team. •  Ask people: “What do you know about our team & tools that I don’t see?” Synchronize your watchesControl the SourceTRYTHINGS
  66. S&PTools Chest
  67. •  Be agile with your systems •  Synchronous vs asynchronous •  Work comfortably •  Email is the last option •  Control the source •  Collaboration is easy with the right tools •  Review for feedback Technology Review
  69. If you ask most people, they love the idea of working from home, and would gladly leave your company for the opportunity. This is not a fad
  70. Be On Scope, Budget & Time No matter where you work from
  71. Find the Right PeopleTo accomplish your goals while having a great time!
  72. Set them up to winProvide the information, support and consistency they will need to succeed fabulously.
  73. Bring people togetherThe art of management is in transforming a group into a team.
  74. Use the toolsand find the ones you are missing.
  75. And in the famous words of Bobby McFerrin Don’t Worry, Be Happy
  76. @justlikeair