Whether you were prepared for it or not, your teams are likely remote right now thanks to COVID-19. Luckily for software development teams, most of us had a flexible working environment already. Managing and leading remote software development teams comes with it’s own set of challenges. Here are 7 tips to help with the transition.
Figure Out What You Do In The Office
One of the first things to do is figure out what you do in the office as a team. What kind of things happen naturally when you are all located in the same office?
For example, a few things that come to mind for me are pair programming, impromptu white board sessions, and team lunches.
These fall into two categories, collaboration and connectedness. Figure out how to foster that same in office collaboration and connectedness remotely.
Put Together A Team Working Agreement
If you are moving from an colocated team to a remote team, it’s important to figure out how you work together.
Team working agreements are a great place to start. One template that I’m currently using is the V2MOM Trello Template created by Salesforce.
It walks through your team Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. We’ve added on a few columns for specific Scrum Ceremonies, but I think this makes for a really good dialogue as a team.
Here’s a quick excerpt from the “Why V2MOM” card:
V2MOM can give your business a clarified direction and help eliminate the anxiety that can arise during times of change. A V2MOM provides a “North Star” that helps steer the organizational ship and keeps everyone aligned.
Think about your business goals and use this template to outline the steps to succeed in your effort through the V2M0M process. It’s okay to have more than one answer to each question but be sure to prioritize your answers.
I consider the team working agreement almost like a team SLA that can be agreed upon and a great way to provide feedback.
A few items that will be really important when you are remote are when you will be online and how fast you will respond to messages.
Figure Out Remote Communication Channels
I talked about fostering collaboration remotely earlier, but figure out your communication channels.
How will your team let other team members they have a pull request and need a code review?
How will they let others know something is ready for QA?
How will they ask for help?
There is real power being able to just say something out loud to to someone sitting next to you. Figure out how you can do that remotely.
One thing I have been trying is setting up “workspaces” all day.
I tried Zoom workspaces, but it becomes a tedious trying to assign people so they can freely come and go to workspaces.
I’m currently trying setting up two Skype meetings that run all day focused on different topics so team members can choose which path and work together.
We also have a group message where we can talk as a group about what’s going on.
In my opinion, Slack is the best tool for enabling your team to communicate together.
Give Your Team The Collaboration Tools They Need For Better Remote Work
If you want your team to collaborate and work efficiently remotely, you need to give them the tools they need.
Earlier, we talked about walking through what you do in the office. Now figure out the BEST tools for that.
Notice the emphasis on BEST. Don’t just give them any tool. Give them what they need.
Some areas that come to mind:
- White boarding
- Video calls
Giving your team the tools they need will not only improve collaboration, but it will make them happier. Very few things make technology folks more frustrated than using outdated tools, especially when they know there are better ways.
Make sure you set your team up with the best, because if you don’t, someone else will.
Give Your Team The Hardware They Need
Another overlooked item is hardware.
If your team is suddenly forced to work remote like a lot of us now, do they have the right hardware?
If you read through some of the benefits of the top full-time remote companies, they usually give their teams a stipend to setup their office and a monthly stipend for things like gigabyte internet.
Is it worth an extra $200 to get a 20% in productivity?
I think so. If your team usually doesn’t work remote, they probably don’t have this setup already. It’s a great way to show you care while also enabling them to do better work.
Use Video To Improve Remote Meetings
One of the easiest ways to foster connectedness is to use video.
A lot of developers are naturally introverts and it could be a struggle to get them to use their camera so you will have to be the change.
You have to have your video on if you want your team to. It can take a lot of inner courage to do this.
Worried about your house being a mess? So is every one else. Luckily Zoom allows virtual backgrounds. Also, what a fun way to lighten the mood in a meeting.
Worried about your hair? Who cares. Hopefully you have built up enough trust with your team that you shouldn’t have to worry about this.
Video makes everything much more personal and can definitely help keep your team connected. I’ve even heard of teams doing virtual happy hours or virtual lunches to chat.
Set Daily Goals
I really love the idea of setting daily goals.
What I love even more is the idea of talking with a team about how you are going to accomplish daily goals.
I think this is a great way to facilitate discussion with the team about who is going to complete certain tasks. It ends up being just an easy way to encourage your team to continue collaborating remotely.
Remote work can be a transition, but it offers a ton of benefits.
I won’t say there are more distractions, but there are certainly different distractions.
It’s a little to easy to just not talk to anyone all day which isn’t exactly great for teamwork.
It’s important for you as a leader to work hard figuring out what you can do to continue the collaboration and give your team what they need.
If you do this, your team will handle remote work without a problem.