Updated: Mar 22, 2020
I’ve been setting up teams and businesses to work remotely since the web began in the 90’s. Theron, director of development at Riot Games, has been an agile coach and tech innovator for just as long. Between us we've helped hundreds of teams work effectively remotely. No one has the time right now to make the errors we made when we first started, so here's what we learned and tonne of resources to use.
You suddenly have to adapt your business to remote work. What now? All the questions rush in: Where do I start? Will my teams still be able to coordinate? What tools do I use? The following tools, tips and techniques can help you transition your business to remote work quite smoothly.
start your day with a max 15 minute gathering of all team members to set the day
end your day with a max 15 minute gathering of all team members to action improvements to the remote process
use a synchronous/asynchronous group chat tool to replace in-person conversation
use shared online document tools to co-create
DO NOT RAMP UP EMAILING
Step 1: daily standup
At a team level, meet every single morning at the exact same time for 15 minutes. Standup practice comes from Agile software development but it works for any type of team up to 10 people.
How to do standup
set a calendar invite with a video conference link recurring every day at the start of the day (10:30 is the absolute latest)
get on a video call - often people will join a few minutes early to get some morning pleasantries out of the way
start exactly on time
each person answers three questions:
what did I do yesterday?
what do I plan to do today?
do I need help to unblock any issues?
end as soon as the last person has finished - I often end with a single clap or coordinated sign-off so that everyone agrees that it has come to an end
if there are issues that come up, the necessary people can connect to resolve them as a team
Tips for better standup
You don't want standup to go on for more than 15 minutes maximum, so try to:
make the answers brief with just enough information for everyone to understand your activities but not too much detail
prepare for standup with a summary of what you did and plan to do, keeping a to-do list can help
let the order of people change naturally from day-to-day - if you are the person in charge, try not to go first or last
make this about focusing on coordinating with each other moving forward, not reporting to ‘the boss’
Larger organisation variation: standups of standups
If you have a larger organisation, there are variations and additional tools that can scale to any size.
Step 2: retrospective
The transition will challenge you and your team and like all new processes it will not work perfectly the first time. This guide will give you a strong starting point, however take the time to review the process together so that you can improve it daily until you have the right process for your team. Do what works.
How to run a retrospective
add a table with three columns:
instruct everyone to think of the process they went through in the last 24 hours and list anything that worked for them 😀, things that really did not work 😞and things that they simply want to discuss 😐
when everyone is done, go through the lists, one by one: discuss anything that needs discussion and write any action(s) that need to be taken to improve
tips for better retrospectives
focus on the process of remote work, avoid topics that have nothing to do with what you want to improve
do not go down the lists in order but skip from place to place, mixing items from the three columns
Step 3: synchronous/asynchronous group chat
When in the office we often chat with someone who walks by the office, or walk to someone’s desk or speak to the person next to you. A lot of important work gets done this way. Casual conversation can lead to breakthroughs. We have tools that can mimic this pretty well. Use them.
How to supercharge remote comms
set up shared channels
send everyone info on how to use it casually and formally for
Tips for better remote communications
start to call members of your team to ask questions and diagnose problems so they see how to do it - show don’t tell
set up a place at home with a good background and decent light so you feel comfortable with video calls
Step 4: shared files
When working together people tend to sit next to each other or go to a meeting room. When remote we have to use technology to work on things at the same time. It is vital to stop doing things like emailing around a single word doc with confusing version numbers and initials appended to the filename. Use shared documents and co-create.
How to create shared files
invite others to the file
talk as you create the files together as you would in-person
Tips for better shared files
use shared files as a whiteboard so that you can all contribute at the same time
vary between presentations, documents or spreadsheets as necessary to create anything with up to ten people
talk to make everyone contribute
Step 5: not email!
When faced with remote work, teams often feel they ought to start sending more email than usual for internal communications. Do not do it. This inevitably leads to everyone spending more time in their inbox and less time being productive.
Use the steps above to avoid this, stay connected and stay effective.
Bringing it all together... remotely
The transition from in-person work to remote work is not easy, but it does not have to be frustrating. A few tools, a few new habits and you can grow your own system that makes everyone feel included, productive and actually enjoy the process.
It will not be perfect day one, but use those retros to improve the process daily. If you would like help setting it up, or improving your remote work practices contact our team and we can help you out.
Remote Work Experience
Remote versus Co-located Work - Martin Fowler
In this article, Fowler defined terminologies regarding remote vs. co-located teams.
Since China lockdown, Fowler has been observing the remote-first teams approach and productivities impact and has since summarized challenges and discussed solutions.
An article on preparing setups for teams suddenly went remotely.
Training or Webinars
The world has already been moving toward supporting remote workers and globally distributed teams. Now with COVID-19, record numbers of people are being told to work from home on short notice. In this conversation, Sacha Connor, Founder of Virtual Work Insider will share strategies for individuals and companies to cope with the new remote reality and how to turn remote work into a strength.
Slido Pretty good remote tool for Q&As
Zoom - is the LS choice for remote interactions. Really good breakout room feature
Miro - Team collaboration software, “create a shared canvas which feels very much like being there in person, the UX is superb” - Chris Krause
Slack - great tool to replace casual conversations
Trello - a shared online list of initiatives, projects and tasks
Jamboard - for Retro, etc
DirectPoll - Fist of Five confidence vote
Chrome Remote Desktop - for remote assistant
Meet - Google's messaging and calling platform
Teams - Microsoft's messaging and calling platform
Drive - Google shared document platform
Quip- Salesforce's shared document platform
Office 365 - Microsoft's shared document platform
icloud - Apple's shared document platform
cauri jaye, co-founder and chief technology innovation officer of Sesh is a technologist and futurist with over 25 years experience working with the likes of AT&T, NBC/Universal and National Geographic coaching Agile transformation as well as increased productivity, strategy and product innovation
Theron James, director of development at Riot Games, is an agile ninja with a career of helping organizations go beyond the “mechanics” of Agile and leading them to deliver complex and business critical products and systems leveraging the best of Agile and Lean methods
Theron and cauri have a combined 50+ years experience improving teams