Communication is paramount for the success of remote teams
It’s commonly acknowledged that communication is one of the greatest challenges for the distributed teams. At the same time, it builds opportunities for the experienced managers to sand out and actually show that solid projects can be built using distant talent.
1. Have a specific person to be responsible for communication
Modern practices suggest company or team culture to become more and more important and there’s a tendency to move from processes and management to building a performance driven culture. However, to achieve that we would still suggest starting with the basics – having a person responsible for communication and bearing this task as his duty. By default, it’s the task of a PM.
2. Build communication-based culture
Once you have at someone responsible, it’s time to align everyone on board and start building communication as one of the key attributes of the team’s culture. Have a team discussion about their preferences, habits and tools. Make sure everyone is involved and is able to express their suggestions. Make sure the team is aligned upon their most convenient way to be sure communication happens at different levels. From this point, it’a all about repetition and reminders to execute it regularly till it becomes a habit, defining the teams culture.
Successful remote teams are performance driven. Focus on goals, milestones and other tangibles. Make sure you step in early if you see that the team or its members are underperforming. This will remove much of the communicational clutter and motivate more.
4. Use morning standups and 1-2 week sprints
Even it sounds as the basics of agile, it’s still at the core of having a constant exchange of information, performance driven culture and organized communication flows. The morning standups include everyone presenting what they did the day before as well as the day plan, while the weekly meetings summarize the 5 day achievements and set the directions for the next week.
5. Respect others time
Simply bear in mind that responding to any type of communication takes time and distract from other tasks. So in order not to make the communication a negative experience or a scape-goat for underperformance, make sure the team respects each other and engages with relevant questions at appropriate time using reasonable means. It would be healthy to educate everyone to think before the interaction about the need of it, other potential solutions, which tool should be used as well as what other information would help the person to prepare the answer. Stay precise. Respect others.
6. Use appropriate tools
It’s very easy to create clutter and general noise by talking about a bit of everything in bits of different places. Make sure you have an agreement of how you execute the communication and your team is aware of that. For sure, you need different types of tools.
6.1. Video conference tools. Use them for standups and meetings. The video attribute adds rapport and human touch to the conversation. Verbal speech allows you to exchange thoughts quicker. Check: Skype, Google Hangouts, GotoMeetings.
6.2. Voice recorders. This is something, which worked for us. Expressing your thoughts in written takes time, while having meetings mean occupying specific time slots. Use voice recorders to pass specific feedback and a bit longer messages. Check: Facebook Chat Instant Messenger.
6.3. Messengers and chats. Even though verbally thoughts are expressed faster, people are reluctant to too many skype calls. Having a simple chat in many cases forms the basis of short communication. Just make sure the information is structured and presented in appropriate places (chats). Check: Slack, Hipchat, Skype.
6.4. Email. It’s still one of most common communication tools in the industry, so inevitably you will face the need of using the email. Use it to forward important information. Just remember that it’s goal is to pass the message and not to have a discussion. Leave, the discussions for other tools. Make sure everyone is responsive and checks the emails regularly. It’s also wise to inform someone about the email you sent via the chat tool.
6.5. Project management tools. They form the basics of project management and development coordination. Make sure the information is structured and task related information is present in these tools. It will save a lot of time for you. Most companies use powerful agile development tools like Jira, while smaller teams might stick to free, yet still powerful apps like Asana or Trello.
7. Paraphrase and ask questions
It’s of utmost importance to understand each other well and it becomes one of the challenges for distributed teams. Therefore build the habit of paraphrasing what you heard, explain loud how you understand the topics and ask many questions to be sure to reach mutual understanding.
8. Multiply the positive
It’s really easy to be perceived as too negative, insulted or even aggressive in chat programs or emails. That’s why use smiles, other signs and generally more positive messages to illustrate your mood and avoid frustrating someone.
9. Maintain chitchatting and personal touch
Strong teams have strong relationships. Make sure you build rapport, trust and instill some excitement into your team and the work process by having fun, talking about non-business related topics as well as sincerely being interested in your team.
So here are the Aciety tips to enhance one of the most important attributes of remote team management – the communication. Sure, there is so much more about the topic so feel free to express your thoughts.