By David Haimes
I joined Oracle in 1997 working out of the UK, in a team split between Redwood Shores in California and the UK; my first project was working with people in The Netherlands and my boss was in Finland. So working globally is nothing new to me. At the moment my team are located in California, New York, U.K., Bangalore and Hyderabad. I have almost 15 years experience working in remote teams, to me it is the norm but some organizations are still getting used to it. So he are a few techniques I have found useful.
1) One team – Everyone is equal regardless of location
If you try to have one team your treat as an outsourcing team you will fail. You need to treat everyone as art of the same team and have everyone involved in design, code, test, etc. Having one location do a design and pas it to another team to code is not going to work. If you treat everyone as a single team you will be more productive, get the best out of all members of the team and have better motivated people who will stay in the team longer as they will get better opportunities to learn and grow. If you disagree with this, the rest of the post is not going to be relevant to you.
2) Get to Know Each Other
I did something called “Knowing Me, Knowing You” where each team member has to interview another and write up a little article about them. This should be trivial and light hearted and it’s essential that you decide who interviews who, to make sure everybody talks to somebody they don’t know well yet. After you have all written the articles, then post them in a central place and you can all read about each other.
3) Use Timezones to your advantage
You can get 24 hour coverage, so nobody should have to work through the night on critical issues – pass them around the globe. There are challenges here as you can lose efficiency with different people working an issue if it is not done right. I always recommend a warm handover – so you speak live to the person you’re passing the issue to and they get a chance to ask questions. Dropping them a mail and going to bed is not the right way!
4) Pick Up the Phone
It is very easy, particularly in a tech company to use electronic communication (IM, email, blogs, ec) all the time. These are great tools, but when you are remote you should use all the different communication tools available to you and sometimes you need t pick up the phone and talk.
5) Regular team meetings
This is something I have always struggled with, I don’t want to create a meeting that people don’t want to attend and get no benefit from, people’s time is valuable. However if I stop having regular meetings people feel they are out of touch, so I do my best to bring valuable content ie. not me droning on.
6) Have some fun together
Take a few minutes of team meetings or interactions for something light hearted. This checks everyone is awake and listening and lightens the mood, remember it will be early morning or late a night for some people. It is also good to share pictures of any team meals or events in each location with other locations. I was amazed when some team members in Hyderabad shared this Bollywood flash mob they were part of, great to see another side to them.
So these are 6 thoughts I had, but it is not the complete picture and I’d like to here your thoughts. The comments sections is below…