Edgehill Consulting Group
Turbulent Times: Effective Remote Work Practices To Keep Your Company Rowing In The Same Direction
While we cannot control the world around us, every business today can and should have remote working practices in place to minimize damages when faced with unforeseen adversity. Take the Corona Virus. Its impact is hurting businesses around the globe. By employing these 3 key remote working practices NOW companies can avoid irreversible damage and lower risks.
Maintaining value delivery in times of crisis
These 3 key remote work practices will help you and your leadership team minimize the impact of this very serious situation. We cannot stress the importance of starting this work as soon as possible to ensure your teams have time to adopt these concepts and work out the kinks before it is too late.
Practice #1: Establishing Organization and Team Rules & Norms
The first step to successful remote collaboration is for the team to develop rules & norms. These are essentially guidelines for the team to ensure the environment for collaboration is as productive as possible. They vary team to team and business to business. To give you an idea of what the overarching categories for these may look like, here are some examples:
Work environment (either physical or virtual) - how will the team use the space and tools to communicate and collaborate
Respect for each other – how will the team keep interruptions to a minimum to devote as much time as possible to value added activities
Raising issues – especially important in a remote environment since you will not be able to discuss in person
Keeping commitments – how will the team hold each other accountable to their commitments
Focusing on priorities – how do leaders keep the team aligned on what is most important
Mindset – how will the team help each other focus on the positive and always assume good intentions in highly stressful personal and professional situations.
Recently I was consulting at a managed service provider. I led a distributed team - we were across multiple geographic locations. I instituted a daily “Stand Up” meeting. The entire team would dial into this virtual meeting (including the co-located employees) to allow everyone to have a similar experience. We learned that having a few people dialed in and the majority in a conference room was less effective due to the excessive noise coming out of the conference room. Switching to a virtual meeting made the meeting effective for everyone. We also leveraged a Kanban process that the whole team understood. It created a common view into priorities and delivered common work items that were also well documented.
Practice #2: Re-vamping or installing a remote working delivery framework
If you have a current delivery framework, you will need to inspect it closely to ensure your team understands how to operate in a completely different way.
For example: an in-person stand-up meeting may work very well in a co-located environment, but without the proper tools, practice and guidance many teams struggle to maintain the same level of effectiveness remotely.
The same holds true for planning sessions, customer demonstrations, and process reviews. Leveraging a framework like a Lean Management System or Agile Management System can help your team focus on what is immediately important to your business. These systems establish a strong connection between the customer, the teams delivering the work and the stakeholders requesting the work. Adapting any of your existing work process ceremonies for a remote workforce will require deliberate thought and planning. We cannot stress the importance of starting to work on this now so that you and your team can identify issues that will impact your productivity.
Scrum – a great framework to leverage when teams need to figure out how to solve difficult problems. The team works within a set timeframe called a sprint (typically 2 weeks) to deliver the most valuable work as early and often as possible.
Kanban - a flow-based framework to help teams focus on delivering work product in an end to end fashion leveraging a pull-based system. When teams have a solid grasp of their delivery process and repeatable products to deliver Kanban helps provide visibility into your workflow and transparency into your impediments.
Lean Management System – this framework is based on the Mission of the Company and creates a prioritization and communication system that works in both co-located and remote team scenarios.
Practice #3: Adopting the right technology; the Top 3 Remote Working Tools
There are so many tools available to assist with working remotely, however, in my experience teams are only scratching the surface of what they are capable of remotely.
I recently led a large technology organization at a major financial institution. My team and I would facilitate large scale planning sessions to help product stakeholders (also known as Product Owners) and teams collaborate on solutions to deliver value to our customers. We leveraged virtual meeting tools and virtual whiteboards to capture ideas and develop a product backlog that the team would also breakdown into product backlog items (User Stories and tasks) that were captured in a visual work tracking tool. This allowed teams from across the country to collectively gain a solid understanding of what was needed and how the team was going to deliver.
Here are the top 3 tool types that are a must have in order for remote work to be truly effective.
1. Visual work tracking – Tools like Version One, Jira or Azure DevOps are very well suited to visually track the progress of work through your delivery process.
2. Collaborative work product creation – Microsoft Office 365 has so many tools to help your team work together either remote or in person. Here are just a few highlights of the Office 365 suite.
SharePoint – Team members can work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations together and see the changes everyone is making in real time. This allows for immediate review and feedback.
Teams – This is becoming one of Microsoft’s flagship products. It allows for chat, file sharing and virtual meeting collaboration.
Whiteboard – A virtual whiteboard that multiple team members can use to share ideas visually.
3. Virtual meeting and collaboration - These tools include audio and video conferencing as well as screen sharing and whiteboard capabilities. We encourage your teams to leverage the video aspects as it tends to keep everyone more connected and engaged.
Microsoft Teams - This is very effective for hosting meetings and leveraging screen sharing and whiteboard tools for team members (see reference above).
Zoom – Similar to Teams it offers some additional capabilities like breakout rooms so sub-meetings can be quickly setup within the meeting to allow for a smaller group to discuss a side topic then rejoin the meeting.
I will say it again. Get. Started. Now. Waiting until your entire team is quarantined will only make this more difficult. I realize it is daunting and that there are plenty of other items on your personal backlog that need to be addressed.
Having an experienced coach guide you and your team through the proper implementation of these practices is a critical factor as to how successful they will be. For more information on how to engage an Edgehill consultant to assist please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are here to help.
Co-authored by Jason Bane and Paige Henry