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). And then, of course, there is the extra complexity of leading, coordinating and managing others while physically distributed! If you are in this situation, I hope you find this checklist helpful.
- (1) LeadByExample: Read and do everything on the manag-ee list. Crisp clear communications are live-or-die essential in a distributed team.
- (2) GroupChat: Arrange channels carefully. Moderate who is in them, discussing what, where. Prune obsolete channels. Be a constant gardener.
- (3) GroupChat: The phrase “I cant keep up with all the channels” is a warning sign. Remind everyone that all chat is transient.
- (4) SingleSourceOfTruth: Multiple communication channels make it hard to know what’s going on. Agree on one place as accurate SSoT. Use it.
- (5) SingleSourceOfTruth: If emails & project docs are inconsistent, people hold status meetings. If SSoT accurate, hold fewer status meetings.
- (6) SingleSourceOfTruth: Brainstorm ideas anywhere. If you discover something others should know, your work isn’t done until you update SSoT.
- (7) SingleSourceOfTruth: Don’t ask for status. Do ask where to find status. (Dont ask people to write things down then ignore what they write)
- (8) SingleSourceOfTruth: Read SSoT before asking people questions. If you still have questions, then ask and get the answer added to SSoT.
- (9) Meetings: Make sure every meeting invite has a link to the video call and a link to the shared editable document for agenda/notes.
- (10) Meetings: Have people *append* items to the shared agenda, including topics added during meeting. Get better notes and better inclusion.
- (11) Meetings: Don’t ask someone to take notes. Do ask *everyone* to take shared notes. Use the shared agenda doc for also taking shared notes.
- (12) Meetings: As people join, say hello and comment on their video. This helps them informally test audio and fix errors before meeting starts.
- (13) Culture: Use video in all meetings. Video meetings are usually faster than audio-only mtgs and video helps if tricky conversations arise.
- (14) Culture: Have 1x1s every week. 30mins every week is better than 60mins every two weeks. Always on head-and-shoulders camera.
- (15) Culture: Isolation is a real concern. Encourage ad-hoc coffee breaks and schedule weekly group “social meetings”. On video, as usual.
- (16) Culture: Weekly “virtual happy hour” meetings, on video, help team cohesion – if people can talk freely and the “boss” talks the *least*
- (17) Hiring: Are you hiring “the best person for the job”? Or “the best person for the job who lives near your office or is willing to relocate”?
- (18) RealCostOfAnOffice: Physical offices cost money to lease, operate and maintain. Compare those hidden costs with costs of distributed teams.
- (19) RealCostOfAnOffice: Why spend good money on physical offices in order to create a single point of failure for your organization?
- (20) LeadByExample: As leaders, read this list and everything on the manag-ee list again. Yes, leading by example is *that* important.
These 20 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.
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