84-Stories-of-remoteteams

In the past, we had to go to a specific geographic place in order to access the information we needed for our work. Now, that information is likely accessible from anywhere. This gives us the opportunity to play with new ways of working and new business models.

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Technology is changing what it means today to be present, we’ve gone from the old spider phones on the conference room tables where you’re standing over asking if they are hearing you to things such as info presence where we are simulating what it’s like to be sitting across the table from somebody who’s all the way on the other side of the world.

Stories of new ways of working and new business models

  • DIGITAL NOMADS.Because of new technologies like VoIP phones and technical configurations more and more people are seeking to balance their work with the freedom to pursue their passions. Jeffry Hesse loves his job, as well as photography, mountain climbing and spending time with his grandmother. Thanks to his job being remote he combines his passions and works while he travels. He once tested his productivity while traveling by conducting an experiment: without telling his colleagues, he would travel one month in Argentina and see if they noticed. While it was very difficult, due in part to the bad internet connection in Argentina, he did manage to go a month without his team noticing that he was on the road.
  • ONLINE HAPPINESS NETWORK. Happy Melly is a global happiness association that strives to connect like-minded people and organizations and provide them with access to practical, insightful and tangible resources — all of which focus on what it takes find the way to happiness, job satisfaction, professional development and to leading productive and fulfilling lives in meaningful work environments
  • NETWORK OF SELF-ORGANIZED ENTREPRENEURS. StarterSquad develops software for startups, all care of their international team of highly skilled developers, designers, and “growth hackers.” Their team has an interesting “How did you get together?” story. A client with a software development project hired various freelancers using the online working site Elance (now called Upwork). Though they didn’t know each other before the project started, over time the team clicked—so well that, when the client unexpectedly ran out of money, the team members weren’t ready to partways. They’ve operated as a self-organized team of entrepreneurs ever since.
  • TEAMS AS A SERVICE. Teamed.io prides themselves on having no central office, no meetings, no phone calls, no Skype calls, no video calls and no team building. The company is made up of a large group of freelance software developers that have never met. They work solely through chat and task management systems and get paid for work completed.
  • GLOBAL TEAM OF VOLUNTEERS COMPETING FOR SPACEX. It all started when someone on reddit posted in the SpaceX forum “Let’s work on a submission for the Hyperloop design competition“. One year later, rLoop is a team of 400 volunteers, entirely distributed around the globe. From a pool of 1800 competitors, they’ve made it to a final group of 30. Talk about remote teams doing great things! Here is a prime example of what a passionate group of distributed people can do.

Useful resources

39 – How To Be A Self Organizing Remote Team

25 – A Remote Team Perspective With StarterSquad

8 – Extreme Results Oriented Working With Yegor Bugayenko

83 – A Self Organized Team Of Remote Redditors Competing For SpaceX Hyperloop

 


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Graphic design by Alfred Boland

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Original transcript

Welcome to episode eighty four everyone thanks for being here, I’m very excited because next week I’ve been invited to speak at the Dev Experience Conference in Iași Romania so I’ve created a whole presentation about the secrets and the great stories of successful remote teams and I thought for this podcast episode I could do two things at once which is practice for my talk and record a podcast at the same time. So what I’d like to do is give a short condensed version of the secrets of successful remote teams, the talk that I’m going to be giving next week. I’d like to start by taking you back to two thousand and seven., I was living in Los Angeles at the time and I belonged to a social community that was interested in the future, technology and staying healthy. Every Sunday we’d meet up and go hiking together and then after the hike we would either go to a restaurant or to somebodies house and hang out for the rest of the day and just spend time together and talk it was a great and prolific time for the group. Lots of people were working on interesting ideas and concepts and really cool projects, one guy in the group was particularly interesting to me because he was working on a wild idea. To the outside world he was building an online project management tool which was a very normal startup idea even for ten years ago, but what most people didn’t know was that he was building the tool because he didn’t want to die he thought that if he could get longevity scientists from all over the world to get together and collaborate and share data that they could solve the problem of aging. He was frustrated that the best people that were needed to solve this problem were not located in one place and that they weren’t talking and that everybody had data that the other person needed, so his vision was to build a tool that they could use to work together remotely. I have to say it was a profound aha! experience for me to be working on this project, I realize that once we remove the issue of being geographically dispersed we can gather the best most enthusiastic passionate people together virtually to work on the most challenging problems of our day. As all of you know I have been completely hooked on the concept and obsessed with this idea and have been interviewing the people in companies working remotely to learn what they’re doing to create successful remote teams and down the rabbit hole I went and life has never been the same. So that was two thousand and seven but fast forward almost ten years and increasingly work is something we do and not somewhere we go. In the past we had to go to a specific geographic place in order to access the information we needed for our work, now that information is mostly accessible from anywhere which gives us the opportunity to play with new ways of working and new business models. In addition the nine to five lifestyle is becoming less and less attractive to people, people want more work life freedom and we’re seeing increasingly a move from the model of work life balance which assumes that work and life shouldn’t overlap or blend to work life fusion where the lines between work and life are really blurring. Let me share an example with you one of the people that I interviewed was Jeffry Hesse who is an agile coach at Sonatype who really smells, I’m totally kidding that’s an inside joke between me and Jeffrey. I’ve met him in person and he doesn’t smell but he is an agile coach at Sonatype and he works with a distributed development team of approximately forty people. Now it’s really clear when you meet Jeffrey that he loves his job, he loves his work, he loves his colleagues, he loves what he does, he also loves photography, mountain climbing and spending time with his grandmother with who me as a really close relationship. Because he can work from anywhere Jeffrey combines his passions by working while traveling, he started by trying an experiment with his team where he spent one month traveling in Argentina and he didn’t tell any of his colleagues that he would be on the road. He wanted to test how productive he could be while traveling and if anyone on the team would notice. Now admittedly it was really hard, really hard finding a decent internet connection in Argentina is very challenging and he tried all kinds of things like co-working spaces and staying with friends and his technical know-how definitely came in handy while he was experimenting with all the various VoIP phones and technical configurations that he had to go through, but while it was hard work and sometimes quite shaky he managed to get his work done without the distributed team noticing that he was on the road, and while this kind of lifestyle may seem like a radically unconventional way of working compared to the traditional nine to five job, it does give us a glimpse into what’s becoming possible and increasingly common. Because of these new technologies more and more people like Jeffrey are seeking to balance their work with the freedom to pursue their passions and what it means to actually be at work is changing very quickly, but it’s not just people that are evolving businesses are evolving as well and I want to give you a few examples and I’ll start with one of my favorite businesses in the whole wide world which is Happy Melly. Happy Melly is a social entrepreneurship network of individuals and small businesses dedicated to happiness at work. Supporters include coaches, all kinds of creative, authors, speakers, managers, workshop givers, entrepreneurs you get the idea. The way it works is that members of Happy Melly help amplify and globalized great business ideas through virtual and in person workshops, blogs, guides, books, tools and videos. I personally joined the network in order to get business advice from people who shared the same purpose and values as I did I wanted to grow my business but I wanted to grow it in a specific way. I didn’t want to just focus on profits but I also wanted to focus on my purpose and the way that I wanted to get to my purpose. So with the help of my colleagues or network I should say from all over the world I learned how to scale Collaboration Superpowers so that my work together anywhere workshop could be offered online and in person around the globe. I’m happy to say that I currently in one year have six licensed facilitators including myself giving workshops and thirteen different countries and speaking five different languages. All of this could not have been possible without the global network of people that I’ve been working with and the amazing business advice that I’ve gotten over the last year. I want to give you another example of a new kind of business model, I did a couple of interviews with the team at Starter Squad, now they first started working together remotely when a client hired them for a software development project. They didn’t know each other before the project started but over time the team clicked, at one point the client unexpectedly ran out of money but the team members weren’t ready to part ways yet. So they decided that they were each going to go and find other clients so that they could stay working together. They now operate as a self-organized team of entrepreneurs specializing in building minimum viable products for software startups, in addition they offer seed funding for startups whose ideas they believe in. Another company that I interviewed Team Daioh, prides themselves on having no central office, no meetings, no phone, no Skype, no video calls and no team building. The company is made up of a large group of freelance software developers that have never met or spoken to each other. They work entirely through chat and task management systems, specific people are brought together for projects depending on the skill set that’s needed for the project and then programmers are paid as they complete tasks and they’re not paid if the tasks are not completed. When the project is over the team is dissolved and everyone moves on to new projects, does it sound extreme? Perhaps and it perhaps is but it does show ways of working that were never before possible. Technology is changing what it means today to be present, we’ve gone from the old spider phones on the conference room tables where you’re standing over saying ‘hey Bob, it’s Lisette can you hear me?’ to things such as Info Presence where we’re actually simulating what it’s like to be sitting across the table from somebody who’s all the way on the other side of the world and we now have fabulous video conferencing tools like Zoom and squiggle and virtual offices like the Sococo and of course the amazing robots of Tele presence like the Kubi and the Beam Pro all of these things are making it easier to bridge distance and the tech is only getting better from here. One of the things that I find so exciting about this distributed culture of people is that now more than in any other time in history we can proactively get together and move resources and make things happen without getting permission from anybody. So we can not only change things with incredible speed we can do it without any individual person suffering a decrease in the quality of their life or income or anything else. More and more businesses really need to leverage the remote advantage, many companies need to work remote. They can’t find the talent locally, they need to reduce the somehow or their team is growing and the people simply don’t exist in the town in order to accommodate that growth, its super common. In addition HR departments and hiring managers want to offer flexible benefits to their employees and as we’ve seen in study after study work life freedom contributes to employee happiness and it’s not just employee happiness, I mean it’s exciting that people can work on the things that they’re most passionate about but for me it’s a great opportunity for businesses to actually hire people who love what they do versus people who are just doing their jobs, and even if you don’t want to go remote having the processes in place so that you could work remotely if you had to, if a situation did arise that you can continue working seamlessly because the things that make remote working successful are the same things that you want in place anyways. Which are you know effortless and fast communication, a shared place for files and conversation, having everybody working on the same page and towards a common vision. These are all things that you want in your team anyways, so if it’s been a while since you’ve thought about remote collaboration options you might be surprised by what’s happening and what’s possible. We’ve come a long way in the last five years, and I encourage you to do some more exploring. Now I want to leave you with some pro tips for successful remote working the first one is have good internet and good equipment. If you don’t have this you’re going to be doomed and I don’t mean that we all need to go out and buy gold plated laptops and fancy equipment, I mean we need at the very least a fast internet connection noise canceling headsets and a webcam, if you have those three things then we’re off to a good start. My next tip is to start now start small and iterate, in the interview that I did with Jessie Fuel he talks about the process that he went through in setting up his home office which took a number of different steps and a number of different configurations. He had to learn what worked for him and what didn’t work for him, so just know that when you go remote you’re not going to get it right the first time it’s going to be a process and it’s going to need to be massaged along the way and the last protest that I’ll leave you with is of course take my workshop. The work together anywhere workshop was put together from all the best practices stories and tips that I’ve gotten from the almost one hundred interviews that I’ve done and when you take the workshop you’ll learn how to create a smooth, high bandwidth, non-glitch, team bonding experience online. You can find more information at collaborationsuperpowers.com Alright everybody that’s it for this week, I hope you enjoyed the stories and I would love to hear yours. Join me next week when I interviewed Jessie Shternshus, she is the founder at Improve Effect and the co-author of Control shift. Fifty games for fifty days like today. Jessie uses Improve to help software teams with onboarding communication team building and more and as you probably suspected it’s a really fun interview and she is a really fun person so stay tuned for that. A huge things to Nick the podcast monster who makes this podcast shine, you can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. All right everyone until next week be powerful.

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