Tips to Manage Distributed Teams Effectively

Tips to Manage Distributed Teams Effectively
Tips to Manage Distributed Teams Effectively

The agile manifesto suggests physical colocation of the team. However, over the years, with globalization and evolution of businesses, it may not be feasible to have teams at a single location. The reality of the distributed team is here and expected to grow due to various factors primarily because of the availability of talent and business environments.

Having a physically distributed team brings up its own set of challenges and problems like:

  • Coordination
  • Communication
  • Team rapport
  • Productivity
  • Scheduling

The above are not unsolvable but may have some trade-offs compared to a physically co-located team. The gaps for distributed teams can be addressed by the use of technology and tools. However, the key to success is building a culture of collaboration and agile delivery.

Below, we've gathered the top list of tools, technology, and tips that enterprises can use to collaborate effectively.

8 Tips to Manage Remote Teams 

While tools enable the collaboration and connection the key factors go beyond the tools. It is of utmost importance to build a culture of trust and agility within the team. Let's look at some options that will help on this front.

  1. Educate
    Have an induction session for each team member joining and take them through the project process and more importantly culture and mindset needed.
    If feasible, have the new team member co-located physically with existing team members for the initial period. It is worth the investment on this.
  2. Set Expectations
    Set clear expectations with each team member and enable them to go about their work uninterrupted Have a working agreement and set ground rules with inputs from entire team
  3. (Over) Communicate
    Since team members are distributed very the communication gets diluted or misinterpreted. To avoid this ensure critical information is repeated as many times till all are on the same page.
    Document/ record information sharing sessions for a revisit.
  4. Build Ownerships and rotate roles
    Give ownership of different work aspects and encourage team members to take roles beyond their core area of work
  5. Plan meetings at suitable times
    Whenever feasible, do plan for coworking or get togethers at a feasible frequency. Team leadership can plan and spend at each location to have personal with the teams. While in situations like the current pandemic, physical meeting might not be possible, in such scenarios, virtual meetings can substitute the physical connection.

    Daily standups can avoid this common pitfall of remote work and help stay organized.
  6. Things to watch for
    With lack of physical proximity in working remotely there is a chance of non participation by individuals especially if they are introverts. In each of the meetings ensure all participants are addressed individually and are encouraged to contribute.
  7. Language
    Use of language and choice of word is very important as this may lead to being misunderstood and lead to demotivation
  8. Build and have trust
    Once the team is set, trust them to deliver and keep them enabled to improvise, DO NOT get into a surveillance or micromanaging mindset. 

Tools and Technology for Collaboration 

  • Video conferencing
    Agile ceremonies to give a touch of face to face communication.
    Tools you can use: Zoom, Hangouts 
  • Screen Sharing sessions
    When team members need to work in peer mode
    Tools you can use: Zoom, Hangouts, TeamViewer
    • Messaging Platform
      Continuous updates and queries response in real-time
      Tools you can use: Slack, Hangouts
    • Project management tools
      For planning, daily work updates and monitoring progress
      Dashboards for visibility 
      Tools you can use: JIRA, VersionOne
  •  Email
    Routine communications
    Tools you can use: Corporate email service, Gmail
  • Common repositories and cloud shared drives 
    All code and artifacts should be available commonly accessible
    Tools you can use:  GitHub, SVN, Bitbucket
  • Phone 
    In case of critical situations members to reach out on their phones

In Conclusion

As businesses evolve and technology enables remote work distributed agile teams will be a norm in near future. The key to succeed with distributed  teams is Expectation Setting, Enablement, Collaboration and Building a Culture that every team member relates to and practices.

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