One of the most common questions from managers of remote teams is “how do we know what our remote teams are doing?”. While each company is different, the real question is, how much do you need to know about what people on your team are doing?”.

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When we’re results-oriented it doesn’t matter what people are doing as long as they’re delivering results. A successful remote team is one that’s aligned around a common goal and purpose and having a great time achieving it. In order to get that, we need to have an atmosphere where we are helping each other succeed.

How can we see if we’re producing results?

How can we know what each other are doing?

WORK OUT LOUD. We have to make our work visible in a way that’s useful for our colleagues.

On remote teams, it comes in many different forms: daily stand-ups, intranets, email updates, or a plethora of online apps like idonethis, Jell and Sococo. Some keep their instant message status updated so their colleagues always know what they are working on. Some teams record their meetings for team members who couldn’t attend. Whatever the method, the idea of working out loud is to simulate a new form of proximity to each other online.

360-DEGREE FEEDBACK LOOPS. One way is to loop back with our teammates on a regular basis to check how things are progressing, or to offer our feedback or support. When we’re together in person, our feedback loops are almost natural. We know when others like our ideas. We can stop by someone’s office and ask his or her advice. On a remote team, we need to be more proactive in order to keep the connections

The Happy Melly team uses a system called Merit Money where we distribute points to each other on a monthly basis as a way of giving feedback. There are a number of great apps for that (such as Bonusly and YouEarnedIt) or you could simply use a spreadsheet to track points.

TELEPRESENCE. Telepresence is a combination of technologies that gives you presence somewhere other than your actual location. In this modern age, you really can be in two places at once! Both Beam Pro and  Kubi are interesting ways to actually peer in and see what people are doing.

Pro tips

  • Take small steps
  • Iterate
  • Be patient with the process

 

More resources

Tools for remote teams

125 – Management By Working Out Loud

46 – Lisette’s Current Favorite Online Communication Tools

133 – Superpower Hour: Feedback On Virtual Teams

40 – Feedback On Virtual Teams

78 – Focus On Process Not Tools With Ade Olonoh

48 – Telepresence! Why I Welcome Our Robot Potential

 

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Graphic design by Alfred Boland

 

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Original transcript

Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome back to another episode, everyone. Thanks for being here. This is episode 77, and I want to spend it talking about how do we know what people are doing when we work together on a remote team. I ask this question in my workshops to all the teams that attend. And the most common response that I’ve gotten is we don’t know what people are actually doing. So then we have to ask the question how much do we really need to know. And every team has its own answer for that. My definition of a successful remote team is a team that’s aligned around a common goal and purpose and having a great time achieving it. In order to get that, we need to have an atmosphere where we are helping each other succeed. So then how much do we need to know about what each other are doing? I’d say enough to be useful for each other and to help each other succeed. One of the most overarching concepts here when we talk about how do we know what each other are doing is the idea that we need to be results-oriented. So it kind of doesn’t matter what people are doing as long as they’re delivering results, and legally, of course. Going results-oriented for every company is going to look very different. And for inspiration on how to do that and for inspiration on why to do that, I highly recommend listening to Jacob Morgan’s The Future of Work podcast episode number 46 where he speaks to Eric Severson who dealt with employee engagement at the gap. And I’ll just say this is not an easy transition going from time-based work to results-oriented work for any company. So expect to take small steps and experiment and iterate along the way.

Okay, back to how do we know what each other are doing. Some of the most common ways of doing this are the weekly status meeting and daily standups and regular retrospectives. And really, every team, remote or not, needs to find its own meeting rhythm, whatever that might be. And of course it will evolve over time. Besides meetings, there are other ways of keeping each other in the loop, of course. And my favorite method which you’ve heard me talk about over and over again is the idea that we can work out loud, and that means making our work visible in a way that’s useful for our colleagues. I’m not going to go too far into it because I’ve covered it in a number of episodes before. But of course, common ways of working out loud are group instant messaging systems and various tools like I had done this in Jell and Sococo. And I’ll talk about those in a second.

Besides being results-oriented, having a meeting rhythm, working out loud, the last thing I would recommend is to set up some sort of a regular, 360-degree team feedback system. You’ve heard me talk a lot about this before as well. On the Happy Melly team, we use a system called Merit Money where we distribute points to each other on a monthly basis as a way of giving feedback to each other. There are a number of great apps for that. You could simply use a spreadsheet to track points. Or there are tools called Bonusly and YouEarnedIt. Those are two of the most common ones that I know about.

Speaking of tools, I want to mention some that I’ve seen come up a lot in the interviews that I’ve done for keeping track of how we know what each other are doing. The first one that I really like and use with the Happy Melly team is called I Done This where you post what you’ve been working on throughout the day.

There is another tool that I just learned about whose founder will be on next week’s podcast, by the way, and that tool is called Jell, jell.com. And jell ties daily to-do’s to long-term goals. It’s a very interesting app, very interesting process. So I recommend listening to the interview with Aday Alano next week, number 78.

Other things people are using are various virtual offices like Sococo where you can actually work together and see where people are. And then of course there’s telepresence, which more and more people are experimenting with. Whether you’re using the drivable robot, the Beam Pro, or whether you’re using the Kubi, which can move itself from side to side and up and down, these are interesting systems in which to try how you know what people are doing.

What I’m really learning from these interviews is that it’s important to experiment and to take small steps and iterate and just be very patient with the process. The first thing that you try is very likely not going to be the thing that you end up with, but it’s important to take that first step, try something out, see how it works out for you, and then iterate from there. So how much do you need to know about what people on your team are doing? Enough to be useful for each other and to help each other succeed. I’d love to hear about some of the things that you’re trying, so please get in touch. You can find me at collaborationsuperpowers.com. You’ll also find a host of great best practices, podcast stories, and tips for how to work together from anywhere. Stay tuned next week when I speak with Aday Alano, the founder of Formstack and the creator of Jell.com, the product that we just spoke about that ties your daily, to-do’s to long-term goals. So not only do we talk about that but we also talk about how his company went from being co-located to remote, a very interesting transition. Our weekly shoutout to the awesome Nick, the podcast monster, producer of this podcast, you can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com.

All right, everybody. Until next week, let me know what you’re doing, and be powerful.

 


 

46 – Lisette’s Current Favorite Online Communication Tools

Managers, Podcast
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