Pack #4

Remote Teams

Self-organised teams can only function if their online habits are great too. Increasingly in fact we see that the best self-organised teams are even fully online, sometimes called 'Remote Teams'. These teams offer us an edge case for great practice in terms of online collaboration and they're ways of working if applied to a more traditional organisation can be a great source of change.

COVID-19 WEBINAR

Download the slides .pdf

> Download link here

Watch the webinar recording

> Video link here

FEATURED VIDEO

Remote Practices with Victor Vorski

In this recording I speak to Victor Vorski, an expert in distributed teams. Together, we cover real practices for effective online collaboration with Victor screensharing to give us an insight into how he runs teams across many time zones. We talk about tools for teams to work well online. For more information on Victor's website here: vorski.com.

Episodes

Section Introduction - Pack 4

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

In the study surrounding habit formation, there is a term called a ‘Keystone Habit’. A keystone habit is a habit that changes all other habits. For instance, when I read books in the evenings, I tend to not watch TVs, I tend to go to bed earlier, I tend to sleep better…etc. I use keystone habits as a shortcut, by changing that one habit, I will inevitably change many other habits.

When it comes to changing habits inside organisations, our digital environments are one of those shortcuts. It is actually a good topic to do the Implications Map on from Pack 1. What happens when people work remotely? Well there are many implications:

• Have access to the same information becomes important, and therefore transparent and collaborative documentation becomes important
• We can’t always access people all the time, and so speaking in open channels becomes more valuable
• We can’t really man manage because there’s no looking over anybody’s shoulders, so self management makes more sense and is more frequent in remote teams
• Because people to a degree will be able to decide when and where they work, our motivation becomes really important, presentism isn’t a thing anymore.
• …etc.

So I think our organisation’s IT or digital habits, is a topic that we can consciously use as a shortcut to speed up some elements of cultural and organisational change with the main benefits being more transparency and more self-management. Where these two things are essential to any team, in a remote team, the team just doesn’t work without those two elements! So to work well as a remote team we must be transparent and participative. This can then spread.

Remote Teams are often the best trained versions of Self Organised Teams. They are the edge case and often provide great case studies for progressive ways of working. There isn’t a good remote team I know that doesn’t have a great team heartbeat or rhythm, that doesn’t have a playbook or constitution, that doesn’t use consent, that doesn’t have full transparency…etc.

In this pack we’ll go through some of the important elements of digital collaboration including some principles and many very specific practices. Being a good remote team is often the most practical and thorough good work gets.

This pack is super practical. In every episode pause and take an action at the end. You really can implement something small for every episode here. Do that.

Open Documentation

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Open documentation is key to remote teams. If everybody in the team has access to the same information we can build on each other’s work, we can fork documentations to run tests, we all have access to common information thus increasing clarity in a team, we work far quicker because we can all work at the same time in the same document, and in theory we should have far fewer documents which increases clarity also. So what should we do when it comes to open documentation?

1. Default to open: Next time you create a document, put it somewhere everybody can access. You will make place for serendipity. You will find out somebody else has experience on this or had been needing just that, we create this collective learning machine. It's important that everybody have access to all information.

2. Collaborate Directly: Rather than send each other loads of messages with different versions of a document, just work in it directly. No games of document tennis, we simply go to the source together and do our work there. We should in theory all be able to edit the same document at the same team.

3. Master Versions: Because we work directly in a document, there is very little need to copy and replicate files. Simply work straight into it. One master deck for all client presentations. One guideline document for all your ways of working. These documents improve and evolve over time. No messiness or static files. This keeps things clean and keeps us rigorous to improving the collectives work. In Software Development this is common practice. We would only copy & paste the source code in an attempt to ‘fork’ a piece of software, i.e. to start a new community or platform all together.

4. Open & Closed Phases: It can be valuable to have periods of time where all can edit a document, and then other periods where people can only comment. This depends on if we’re looking for input, speed, or feedback and suggestions.

What document have you got private? Share it.

What are you stuck on? Share the doc openly and ask for help.

Only work in documents that everybody can access and everybody can edit.

Open Channels

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

When I’ve helped companies move away from email to open communication platforms which are organised in totally transparent channels around projects a lot of things happen. The main thing is a shift in the politics. Information is power in politics, controlling leaders tend to control conversations in 1-2-1 forums all information goes through them not with each other. It’s exactly why apps like Uber don’t give taxi drivers a feature to speak to each other or form communities. They want total control.

In progressive organisations we know that keeping conversations open requires a different moral standard of us, our mistakes and even moral mishaps don’t get hidden only to resurface as catastrophes later on. In progressive organisations we know that speaking in the open forces us to improve together, it disempowers people with too much power, it allows us to learn from each other, it allows people to ask for help knowing the crowd is there for them, it requires us to speak clearly because it will be all too obvious when we don’t.

One fear that people have is that everything being open makes conversations messy. I don’t find that but I do see the point, which is why I have this mentality about open channels. If the channel requires a team to be focussed on something, I still keep the channel open for everybody to listen in but I make some guidelines explicit. E.g. Listen but don’t speak. Then when I need help from a wider group say for feedback, I say for the next 24hrs I would love opinions please. The openness means there is learning and silos breakdown. The closed nature means there can still be focussed.

I’ve heard from clients that moving from emails to open channels has:
• helped junior staff members share their ideas more freely
• therefore flattened hierarchy and created more participation and engagement
• saved huge amounts of time (up to 20% according to Slack and personal experience), indeed I actually know some people who stopped working fridays when they did this, the time saving is due to people solving each others problems when they see them appear, it turns out somebody already has the answer, they just don’t know you need them
• improved culture and a sense of community

Speaking in open channels is a winner.

I actually think it's one of the single best shortcuts to positive change.

Managing Distractions

Perspective

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

If in the office we can get distracted by the open plan culture, or people interrupting us, in remote teams, our notifications become that same nightmare. Sometimes worse. I often say that self-management really does require us to manage ourselves first. Here are some tips to do that digitally.

1. Schedule time for ‘Deep Work': Deep Work is undistracted time where you are out of touch from people. I have it most mornings. If I check my emails or receive notifications I lose any intellectual sharpness or focus and I’m actually living to somebody else needs. By having scheduled blocks where people know I’m offline, I can get the important work done. And then be available for people at other times. You will be amazed how much you can get done by 10.30 just by having an hour and a half offline. Scheduling this is vital.

2. Notifications defulated to 'off': Most decent software has functions to manage notifications. I would default to ‘off’. On Slack teams I typically only receive notifications when people ping me directly, if that.

3. Expectations: Always on culture is terrible. It’s bad for work and bad for health. It also creates this weird culture where we expect everybody to be at our beck and call all the time. I think it’s important to be clear with others when we are available and not. How we organise our calendars and what delays they can typically expect. Not just for you but for them. Clarity is kindness.

The Human Touch

Perspective

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

Something that can be lost in remote teams is the human touch. We don’t cross each other and ask each other how our families are. We don’t do small talk (which is shown to really help teams be effective weirdly enough). We don’t have human context because we can’t read each other’s facial expressions, energy and our mirror neurons don’t fire so we can be guilty of diminished empathy.

The most effective remote teams I’ve seen are really deliberate about ensuring that their teams have real human connection. Here are some common tools:

1. In Person Retreats: There isn’t a successful remote team that doesn’t do this. They meet once every 6 months or once per year and have a real retreat. They work together and mainly hangout. That gives them another 6 months of good will and connection to form the basis of an awesome culture.

2. Dedicated Digital Channels: I always suggest that teams have channels which are dedicated to the human stuff. It might be a channel to talk about a passion for a topic like 60s Psychedelia. Or it might be a #thank-you channel where we post our gratitude for teams mates who we are grateful for this week. Whatever it is, these gif filled, emoji fluent channels are great for keeping us good with each other.

3. Digital Hangouts: Having the occasional hangout time on a video call can be nice too. Whether with individual colleagues or all together, taking the time to hear how people are doing is key. It can be lonely working remotely and it can be disconnecting never seeing each other. Taking this short time creates months of great work.

Having a real intention to create human environments digitally can really impact organisational culture far more widely and it's important to focus on this.

Work Sheet

Download

On Being Explicit

Perspective

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

A remote team full of highly disorganised people is not great. It requires us to be very structured, and it often requires people with that process driven personality type to excel. It means having basic folder structures, a ‘read-me’ file for each folder, it requires tiny details like using bold or capitals for headlines, it requires channels to have a basic naming structure, it requires taxonomies and hierarchies of information...etc

Essentially, there is no room for implicit rules in a remote team, all guidelines should be explicit. This particularly applies to a few areas:

1. Well structured meetings
It’s important that meetings have a designated facilitator who is clear about the steps of the meeting. Check-in, crowdsource topics, use this document, check-out. You’ll find there are benefits to a remote team in this sense because that well structured meeting can be so so effective that it’s better than in person we sometimes get slack.

2. Team Playbook
We’ve spoken about a team constitution before. This is sometimes called a playbook, essentially it’s important to have a resource where the guidelines and rules are explicit in one document, it helps everybody be so clear on everything, it’s amazing how effective we can be. Have that document, pin it to the main channels, create a habit of getting people to update it.

I really think that working in digital enviornments can be way more effective, but this requires us to be organised and to make all rules explicit.

Work Sheet

Download

Personal Development & Remote Teams

Perspective

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

One implication or rather a desired implication of remote teams that I’ve seen is kind of unexpected and that’s personal development. I’ve seen remote team environments help people grow. And certainly I’ve seen those who grow to be great in remote teams. Let me share a little about how:

1. Transparency: Being in an open environment where you’re asked to share unfinished work in shared drives, or where your work is accessible, is new to many people. I know some perfectionists who have had to come to terms with sharing early, feeling vulnerable to feedback, and then improving, really seeing themselves drop some controlling behaviours. Another is competitiveness, transparency kind of makes competition a bit pointless because everything is shared already so there’s little to be competitive with. This can make some people drop that behaviour and put what was a competitive motivation towards helping the whole group do great work.

2. Clear communication: The clarity required to work well in remote teams is important. I’ve seen it help people to be far better at saying specifically what they need, or what can be expected and not expected of them on a project or in terms of their working hours for example. This necessity to speak clearly so there’s no crossed wires can help us be clearer with ourselves and more honest about what we need.

3. Discipline: Working remotely away from colleagues can require us to really be our own boss. Nobody will know if you’re in your PJs, which can be tempting. But after a couple of weeks, it’s no fun anymore. You start wearing a shirt even if you’re alone or having little habits and routines come in. This is great. If taken seriously working remotely can be a real opportunity to understand yourself better and become very good at managing yourself.

4. Trust: You can’t control people in a remote team, so it forces us to learn to trust others, it forces some patience. This can be a huge opportunity to work better and have better relationships. It particularly means that we will employ people where we feel we can trust them.

I believe that working remotely can really help us to be better workers.

Work Sheet

Download

Making Work Visible

Practice

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

People not knowing what work each other is doing is not good. It means work gets duplicated, that work is poorly prioritised, that opportunities to help each other go a miss…etc. It’s bad. When working remotely this just isn’t an option. All work must be visible all the time. In fact all must be visible all the time. Documents, chats, task...etc.

One particular element that is often really important to make transparent is the work itself, tasks. Whether it’s tools like Trello, or Asanna, the very effective remote teams will document their tasks very clearly with each other so that everybody has context for the overall systems output. It helps track dependencies, to know what you’re responsible for…etc.

It's really important that in a team we all know what our overall objective is. Not so we can check up on each other but so we know how we can contribute. But because we have context for each others' workloads. This way we can help each other.

Ask yourself: What parts of your work can you make visible to your whole team?

Work Sheet

Download

Action Episode

Reflection

Read Transcript

This pack is designed to help people consider a shifting global context which requires us to build different types of organisation and see to reconsider traditional organisations, work and our own mindsets. It includes "perspective" episodes designed to provoke new thoughts, "reflection" episodes to make sense of new insights and a "mini-workshop" to share insights related to change management in a group.

  • Section Introduction
  • The Straight Line Instinct
  • The Destiny Instinct
  • Losing Control
  • Ice or Liquid
  • The Implications Map
  • [BONUS] Daily Anchor Canvas

I’m going to ask you a series of questions that I’d like you to consider. For each question, I’d like you jot down an action you’re going to take. You might want to pause the recording as you go along, what I want you to do is DO. So listen, think, do is the order of things. Let’s give this a go.

1. What conversations are you having privately? Pick at least one that you should be having openly (if it’s about work it should be open!). Make it open. That might mean creating a new channel, or just nudging your colleagues to that open forum.

2. What’s a document you're working on that you’re keeping to yourself? A presentation perhaps? Or a document? Put it in an open space and make the permissions so that you’re colleagues can at least comment on elements in the document, ideally edit.

3. What projects are you working on? For each one, create an open channel of the same name. Ask all conversations about that project to happen in that open channel.

4. What are you tech habits? Do you always have your email open? Or your notifications on? Put a time in your calendar each day where you’re busy. No comms. You’re doing deep work.

5. What is perhaps stopping you from working in the open? How do you feel when I keep asking you to work in open channels? Is it a fear of being seen, or a lack of trust…? Try to examine the beliefs that are perhaps holding you back here.

Work Sheet

Download

Related PODCAST Episodes

#1 How might we make chaos our friend?

#1 How might we make chaos our friend?

with
Bruno Marion

COVID-19 WEBINAR

Download the slides .pdf

> Download link here

Watch the webinar recording

> Video link here

Let's talk

Interested in helping your organisation to work differently? Not sure where to start? Drop me a note here. I'd be happy to chat.

Get in touch