• 10 steps to jump-start your remote team

    30 juli 2018 | randy
  • In my previous post on remote teams I elaborated on the 10 most-heard prejudices about remote teams. Everybody has heard the horror stories about working with offshore- or nearshore teams. Unfortunately, the success stories are maybe shared less often, because “hey, I have a great team that does an awesome job” is far less ‘juicy’ than the big failure stories.

    In that video I have busted a few myths around remote teams and I promised to come up with a post on how I jump-start successful remote teams. Most of it boils down to supporting your team. Working Agile, and being aware of the fact that you are not hiring individual developers, one by one, which you add to an existing team. You are spinning up an entirely new team. At once.

    So here it is: A 10-step program to jumpstart a remote team

    1.      Basic Agile hygiene in your local environment

    For me, the best way to work with a remote team, is by using Scrum. To be able to effectively work with a remote Scrum team, your have to have at least the basic Agile hygiene in your local environment. If there are issues in your local environment, this is likely to spill over on your remote team.

    So, it is important that the basic Agile hygiene in the local environment is there. The organization and local teams have an Agile mindset. The organization truly understands, encourages and supports the Agile way of working and the teams are pretty mature in Scrum, have the right energy, work by good quality standards and continuously keep improving.

    I would really encourage organizations to get an agile-checkup by an experienced coach, get the latest insights and maybe implement some improvements. If you are not working Agile at the moment, this might be the ideal reason to start with your organizations Agile transition.

    2.      Preparing the organization

    It is important to give the organization some background information. Why are you starting up a remote team? How is this going to work? What is the remote team going to do? How can the local co-workers help to make it a success?

    Depending on the team sizes it is a good idea to check if there are one or two developers in your local team that would like to act as a guide or anchor point for your remote team.

    Also prepare the product owner for the team to reserve extra time for the remote team to support them until they are more familiar and confident with the product. This will significantly reduce the time the team will need to get up to speed.

    3.      Selecting a good partner

    There are a lot of good partners that deliver high quality Agile teams in different countries on the European and Asian continent. What I always for, is a partner that encourages in person contact with the team. This makes it a lot easier to collaborate with the team and it helps the team to understand the business and expectations. The goal is to work with the team like they were hired locally by your own organization. Same trust, same standards, same goal.

    4.      Hire your team

    The partners that I’ve worked with allow you to get the CV’s upfront and have job interviews with potential team members before they join your team. This way you can also assess if the skills are as expected and if there is a personal fit.

    5.      Get the team over for a few weeks

    Have the teams to come over for 3 to 4 weeks, so you can spend time face-to-face. Get to know each other, let them get to know the organization and the product and intensively work together in the first period. This is also the moment where you can build an open, trusted relationship with the team. This is key for good collaboration and communication in the future.

    6.      Have a solid induction program

    Now the team is with you, spend time to have a solid induction program. Explain about the organization, the products, the culture and the people. Get familiar with the product that the team is going to work on. Collaborate on coding standards, quality standards and the way of working.

    Also spent some offline time together. Visit some iconic places. In the Netherlands the Zaanse Schans, Neeltje Jans (the storm surge barrier) and Scheveningen (e.g. Madurodam) work out great 😊. Don’t forget to introduce the typical Dutch things like stroopwafels, raw herring and bitterballs.

    7.      Run a few short sprints

    Now it is important to run a few short sprints. Usually my advice is to run 2-week sprints, but when a team is just starting up I prefer running three or four one-week sprints. This way the teams can fail fast and improve quickly. There will be only really small increments delivered, but that is OK. The team needs to be able to make the mistakes a new team will probably make without a really big impact. They can try if the way of working they have come up with during the induction program works and which improvements must be made, without wasting too much time. This might initially feel like a lot of overhead, but usually these scrum events are quite quick because they cover a short period. This time is well spent, since your team has a change to rapidly improve.

    8.      Accompany them at their first ‘real’ sprint at the remote office

    I prefer to join the team to their home country with the local organization’s ‘guides’ during their first real sprint at the partner’s office. This is a pretty exciting moment for the team, and now they will have the reassurance that there’s somebody to help if they encounter difficulties. It is also important to invest time to make the team aware of the need to keep communicating. Up until now, it used to be really easy to communicate because everybody was collocated during the first period. But when the team is on their own, this must become a conscious action.

    Also spent some ‘offline’ time with the team to show your interest in the team’s country and culture. Usually the team will be more than happy to show you around over the weekend.

    9.      Actively collaborate with the team in decision making

    Collaborate with the team in decision making of the product from day one. At first by explaining why you are building the product and what you want to build. In the beginning the team might ask for guidance on how to build it. Coach and mentor the team to take responsibility of how to build it as quickly as possible. After the initial startup, as the team matures, collaborate with the team on what to build next.

    This unleashes a great feeling of responsibility and ownership within the team. An essential step of having a great high-performing team.

    10.      Keep improving

    When the team has reached a sustainable way of working after a few months, keep focus on further improving. Take time every now and then to ‘sharpen the axe’. This helps the team to keep focus on- and get energy out of delivering quality, transparency and improving overall performance. And don’t forget to celebrate success!

    If you need more information or if you would like me to help your organization to explore the possibilities; do not hesitate to contact me!