Developing a Product with a Remote Team:  Dos and Don’ts

Developing a Product with a Remote Team: Dos and Don’ts

 

“The surprising question we get is,

‘How many people telecommute (or work as a remote team) at Google?’

And our answer is, ‘As few as possible.'”

 

—Patrick Pichette

 

 

In 2013, Google’s CFO Patrick Pichette was making headlines regarding remote teams.

 

At a time when most companies were investing in remote work, Pichette strongly believed that the best work was work completed on-site not as a remote team. A little research shows that he may have had cause to complain—studies show there is value from in-person, in-office interactions.

 

Now, seven years later, a pandemic has rendered his points moot. 2020 has vindicated companies that set up remote support in years past. Even Google has followed suit: In May, Google announced that the majority of its employees would telecommute for at least the rest of the year.

 

Like it or not, remote work is likely the new norm. However, this doesn’t mean that remote teams can’t have value-filled interactions! With a little creativity and intentionality, we can inject ingredients for success into the every-day work we do at home.

 

Whether you use Zoom or Google Meet, Teams, or Slack, there are a few hacks you can keep in mind to keep your product development team on point—no matter where you all are.

 

DO: Over-communicate. Send your team status updates. Schedule calls. Frequently. (Answer them, too.) Even though it’s true that many don’t love meetings, even though many believe that most meetings should be emails, it’s important to hear your team’s voices and see their faces.

 

Team calls are essential. Individual calls matter, too. Each member of your team is likely feeling isolated. Having a little individual personal contact can go a long way towards making your team feel healthy and whole, even when you’re all apart. (Plus, you can check up on each member’s unique progress more efficiently that way.)

 

DON’T: Over-supervise. It can be tempting to micro-manage, but to some, this can feel like a lack of trust. This kind of management style can be a lot for everyone concerned, with computer programs and screenshots and more calls than anyone needs.

 

Continuous monitoring is counterproductive—studies out of Rutgers how that constantly-hovering supervisors don’t exactly inspire confidence and creativity in their employees. Check-in during team meetings, and otherwise, let your employees manage their own time.

 

DO: Check-in. Every so often, at random times, check-in with your team. If you’re unpredictable, your team won’t expect your calls—which will invite them to be working consistently. Your team won’t feel like they’re under a microscope, yet they’ll feel like their work is being seen (much like they would if you casually walked past their desk while in-office). It’s a win-win.

 

DON’T: Over-schedule your staff. Many believe that remote teams get less done. The solution? Jam-pack your team’s day with as many meetings as possible.

 

This is tiring. This is over-compensating. This is not sustainable. Your team needs breaks, your team needs a few minutes to regroup and socialize, and your team needs to be able to call it a day when the time comes!

 

DO: Add time to deadlines. While it’s important to be productive regardless, remember that we are living through a pandemic. For many, working remotely is an entirely new paradigm.

 

Plan on things taking a little more time. Expect delays. Provide flexibility on deadlines.

 

Even under normal situations, we often underestimate the amount of time that it takes to coordinate a team. When working remotely, it’s even easier to miscommunicate or confuse accidentally. Extend this grace to everyone; remember, we’re all in the same boat. If the pressure is on to get a deliverable out the door—remember that the person receiving it is likely facing the same issues you are.

 

 

 

About the Author
Sharon Muniz
Sharon Muniz established her software development consulting firm in Reston, VA after 15 years of working in the software industry. NCN Technology helps clients implement best practices and software to drive their business to success. Ms. Muniz is skilled at strategic planning, business process management, technology evaluation, project and agile software development methodologies.

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