Part 2 – Building a remote high-performing Team
In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, remote work has become more common for many organizations. While the debate is heating up between remote work detractors and remote work advocates, I’d like to offer my version of what it takes to start building remote high-performing teams.
Remote work offers numerous benefits such as flexibility and access to a global talent pool, it also poses unique challenges, particularly when it comes to building high-performing teams. In this four-part blog series, I will explore 4 key aspects of creating and nurturing successful remote teams around Purpose, Process, People, and Outcome. I like to call this the 3PsO model.
In the previous post, I explored the significance of establishing a compelling purpose for remote teams. Now, I turn my attention to team processes, which play a vital role in creating a structure that fosters collaboration, productivity, and success. In this second part of our blog series, I will delve into the importance of clarifying roles and expectations for all team members, establishing a communication strategy, and making the various aspects of planning, participation, decision-making, inspection, and adaptation explicit.
Buckle up for a fun ride!
Clarifying Roles and Expectations
In a remote team, it becomes even more crucial to define clear roles and expectations for each team member. When roles are well-defined, individuals clearly understand their responsibilities, tasks, and areas of expertise. This clarity eliminates confusion and reduces redundancy, ensuring that everyone knows their part in achieving the team’s goals. Additionally, explicit role definitions foster a sense of accountability and ownership among team members, driving higher levels of engagement and performance.
Driving higher levels of engagement and performance is crucial. In its recent surveys on the workplace, Gallup shows us that best-practices organizations score a whooping 70% in employee engagement against 23% globally.
Levels of stress, however, are higher among remote and hybrid workers.
There are also vast disparities in employee engagement levels between regions. Europe scores at the lowest (13%).
A highlight on the importance to dedicate time and effort for a team to build its processes.
Effective communication is the lifeblood of remote teams. Without physical proximity, it is essential to establish a communication strategy that accounts for time zones, work formats, and individual preferences. Firstly, it is important to determine when the team will have synchronous meetings to allow for real-time collaboration. These meetings should be scheduled at a time that accommodates the availability of team members across different time zones. Those synchronous meetings should serve a purpose, have a desired outcome and have the right amount of participants. The team needs to feel empowered by their leadership to be ruthless in decreasing the unnecessary amount of meetings that don’t serve their members in accomplishing their goals.
Secondly, asynchronous communication channels should be utilized for non-real-time discussions and updates. This ensures that team members can contribute and access information at their convenience, making the most of their working hours. Leveraging the tools and educating stakeholders around them is key. No status report meeting.
Making Things Explicit
Remote teams rely heavily on written communication, making it crucial to make things explicit rather than relying on implicit assumptions. This applies to various aspects of team processes, including planning, participation, decision-making, inspection, and adaptation.
By clearly articulating these processes, the team avoids misunderstandings and minimizes the potential for misalignment. Explicitness allows everyone to be on the same page and reduces the risk of important information being missed or overlooked. Furthermore, explicit processes provide a framework for continuous improvement, enabling the team to reflect on their practices and make necessary adjustments.
Planning, Participation, Decision-Making, Inspection, and Adaptation:
Explicitly defining the processes surrounding planning, participation, decision-making, inspection, and adaptation is essential for remote teams to operate smoothly and efficiently. When it comes to planning, remote teams should establish a clear process for defining goals, setting priorities, and how work is being distributed. Decision-making processes should be transparent, with clearly defined roles and criteria for decision authority. Inspecting and adapting should be built into the team’s routine, allowing them to review progress, identify areas for improvement, and make necessary changes to their approach.
Facilitating role expectations and team agreements
I facilitate this exercise with remote teams in different cadences. An asynchronous cadence and a synchronous one using an interactive board such as Miro.
First, introduce the goal of the exercise to the team members, and check with them how it resonates.
Asynchronously – Plan the prep work with a few days window for each team member to fill out the expectations, responsibilities, and outcomes they expect from other roles present in the team, including their own.
What you need to prepare: Miro board as in the image below.
For each role you have in your team create one frame, i.e. if your team has a Product Manager, Product Owner, QA, Developer, or Designer then you should have 5 frames.
The top part is reserved for notes that everybody agrees upon reading during the prep work.
The bottom left quadrant is for notes that should apply to everybody on the team.
Finally, the bottom right quadrant is for notes that need to be discussed.
Synchronously – Time estimated – 70 min (depending on the number of roles in the team)
Discuss the sticky notes in the “Need to discuss” area. Go through them one role at a time.
Let the person/group who wrote the note explain why they think it applies, and let the person/group who moved it explain why.
Facilitate the discussion so the team reaches an agreement on what to do with the note.
Once you are done discussing all the roles, ask the people in their respective roles to rephrase the notes for their roles as a list of role expectations when you work in the team.
This can be done asynchronously by the team members after the workshop.
Make sure to follow up on the action.
Group the notes in the different “Should apply to everybody” to the “Overall Team working agreements” frame. Let the participants dot vote on the agreements they think should be part of the team working agreements.
Include all sticky notes that have more than 2 votes. Verify there is no opposition.
Review the roles and team working agreements as often as the team needs or changes (new roles, different people joining or leaving).
Clarifying roles and expectations, establishing a communication strategy, and making team processes explicit are crucial for the success of remote teams. By defining roles, team members understand their responsibilities and areas of expertise, leading to increased accountability and engagement. A well-thought-out communication strategy ensures effective collaboration despite physical distance and time zone differences. Making processes explicit fosters clarity, alignment, and continuous improvement. As an Agile coach, you are responsible for guiding and coaching the team in establishing these essential elements of team structure. In the next article of this series, we will explore techniques for fostering trust and building strong relationships in remote teams. Stay tuned for more insights and strategies to create high-performing remote teams!
If you are a Leader, a Change Agent, a Scrum Master, or a fellow Agile Coach and you’d like to know more, feel free to book a conversation with me.