Exponential Organisations (ExO) Podcast

I was recently invited onto the Exponential Organisations (ExO) podcast by Lance Peppler – and the recording is now publicly available here and via your local podcast supplier.

Our recording date had been scheduled weeks before COVID-19 became top-of-mind here in US, and South Africa, but the timing of this podcast discussion now feels very, very, relevant.

We covered some topics from my book about how to work effectively while physically distributed, as well as why distributed teams (working from home, etc) are good for business – including workforce diversity, ability to hire and retain, and of course office real estate costs. In these COVID-19 days, of course, we also allocated a bunch of time discussing how COVID-19 has forced a sudden, widespread, change to how most “knowledge workers” actually do their work and handle prolonged “disaster” events like this. Including of course, an interesting discussion on whether we will return to the way worklife was before (the “old normal”) or are we going to have a permanently changed “new normal”?

Have a listen, and let us know what you think!

Effective Distributed Teams in Government

I’m extending my free video training sessions until the end of April. I’ve also broadened the audience to include government employees, government contractors and civictech/NGO groups that work with government. For more info and to register, see here: https://civicactions.com/distributed-government

As always, these webinars focus on practical mechanical tips+tricks, suggestions to reduce work disruptions as well as help keep the humans connected as a team over a prolonged period… all with lots of Q+A to make sure it is immediately helpful to those who attend. Based on changing demand, I’m changing some of these sessions to be deep-dives on specific requested topics:

  • Running large remote meetings with 50+ people
  • Running effective and secure remote meetings
  • Knowing what others are working on and staying in sync
  • Dealing with isolation, trust, and team cohesion

All are free.

For those of you who attended any sessions (running since 11March!), and found them helpful, please do help spread the word. The goal of these sessions is still the same – we need government services to work in a crisis – so these sessions are to help government services keep running, even when the humans who work in government are suddenly not able to go into their usual government buildings. If you work in government (at any level), and your team suddenly transitioned from “working in a government office building” to distributed teams / telework / remote / “work from home”, these are for you.

Also, if you think it would help to arrange a dedicated session for your team, separate from these webinars, just let me know and I’ll be happy to do that too.

Speaking at RemoteAID today – how you (yes, you!) can help…

Today is RemoteAID conference.

This free day-long event is fully online, in these #covid-19 times and is helping raise donations for the Red Cross. I’ll be the closing speaker on main stage at the end of the day, with “How You (Yes, You!) Can Help Rebuild Economies”.

Come join this conference, learn tips and tricks from an amazing collection of seasoned industry leaders and share your knowledge with others. This looks to be an exciting day, Chris Herd, David Heinemeier Hansson, Jo Palmer, Paul Estes and Tracy Keogh were the first 5 to make me stop and go “wow”, but you should see the entire list at https://runningremote.com/remote-aid-agenda/.

See you all later today?

15 Tweet Checklist for Distributed Teams

Migrating from working in an office to working from home is tricky and takes careful effort. This is even trickier when done at short notice and for prolonged periods of time (like scenarios triggered by COVID-19). If you are in this situation, I hope you find this checklist helpful.

  • (1) BeforeLeavingOffice: Work from a different desk for a day. Notice what you still need at your desk. Solve before you leave the building.
  • (2) BeforeLeavingOffice: Connect laptop to internet via your cellphone’s hotspot. Verify access to systems work before you leave the building. 
  • (3) Camera: Use head-and-shoulders camera for all meetings. Facial expressions and non-verbal cues help meetings go faster and builds trust. 
  • (4) Camera: Put your camera at eye level. Avoid looking down at laptop camera on desk – it means everyone else is looking up your nose. 
  • (5) Camera: Move the meeting video window near the camera. This helps you instinctively look at others in the meeting when speaking.
  • (6) Camera: Check your rearview mirror when joining a call. How do others see you? Small changes to camera, chair or lighting fix most problems.
  • (7) Camera: Check your rearview mirror when joining a call. What is visible behind you? Does it look professional?
  • (8) Camera: Sit with your back to a wall to avoid backlighting. Avoid sitting with your back to windows, glass doors or bright lights.
  • (9) Camera: Watch old silent B&W movies. Learn how camera placement and lighting change unspoken “moods”. How would that help your next call?
  • (10) Audio: Use an external microphone or a headset. Don’t use your laptop’s microphone and speakers – ok when they work but bad when they fail.
  • (11) Audio: If someone on a video call has audio problems, don’t use *audio* to tell them. Instead, use non-audio cues visible on camera.
  • (12) GroupChat: Treat all chat as transient. Don’t expect everyone to read all messages in all channels all the time.
  • (13) GroupChat: Tell people when you start/stop workday, go for lunch, etc. This keeps others in ebb/flow and helps you take guilt-free breaks.
  • (14) Soul: Structure your workday. Create a “fake commute” to walk out of your home at start and end of day. Good for your body, mind and soul.
  • (15) Soul: At home, prearrange non-verbal cues with others, so they know when you can/can’t be interrupted, are on video calls, etc.

These 15 tweet-able protips are obviously intentionally short. If you have questions on any of these, you can find more details in my book “Distributed Teams: The Art and Practice of Working Together While Physically Apart“. Or of course, just ask me – I’d be happy to help.


Zoom Security and Fixing “Zoom Bombing”

(updated 12apr2020)

Given all the newly-working-from-home zoom users out there, and the recent flurry of security alerts for Zoom video conference software, I thought this summary would be helpful.

(1) A few zero-day security exploits for zoom were announced recently. Many are already fixed in the latest version of zoom. And watch carefully for new updates from zoom in the coming days. As expected, soon after writing this post, zoom released a updated version with security fixes. Make sure you are running at least v4.6.10 (20041.0408).

(2) “zoom bombing” happens when someone guesses your meeting url, joins un-invited and disrupts your meeting. To prevent this, there is an existing setting in zoom to add a password to your meetings. Use it. To make this easy for users, zoom appends the password to the meeting URL, so most people using zoom just click on the URL and join instantly without needing to type in the password. Importantly, people without the URL cannot zoombomb your meeting unless they guess the meetingID and the long password! To review your settings (and if needed change this setting), login to your zoom profile on zoom.us and look at your user profile settings. Under “Personal -> Settings -> Meeting”, make sure you have *at least* these three settings turned on.

(3) Zoom changed the default settings on Sunday (05apr2020), to address press coverage around zoom-bombings, and push users to use these passwords by default. Watch for changes to default zoom meeting behavior Monday morning – depending on your existing meeting invites, you may have to re-notify attendees of new longer-URL-with-password for upcoming meetings. NOTE: I recommend putting the zoom URL into your calendar invite, so all attendees see the same info at the same time. This helps you avoid delaying meetings while people search for the correct/updated URL and end up joining the meeting late. Zoom also wrote their own “tips and tricks for secure zoom meetings” post which you might also find helpful to read.

(4) The Washington Post reported that a bunch of Zoom “cloud” recordings were found on publicly-accessible Amazon S3 buckets. Details still developing, but until this is clarified, I recommend checking your zoom meeting invites for any meetings you record and change them from “cloud” to “local recordings”.

Thats all for now. If you know of any other zoom essential tips I should share, please let me know.