February 14th, 2019

How To Manage Teams in a Remote R&D Office

A general set of principles that will help you fully unleash the power of remote teams. See how you could seamlessly manage an integral unit that is far away from you.
The more we live, the more we see that the distant workers are slowly becoming an integral part of many businesses, especially those who want to become an international success. In spite of various protection measures from the governments, we still see how the vast number of ventures are wishing to explore the advantages of remote teams as more than 63% of them have adopted the practice of having distant workers, according to Future Workforce Report.
And while this number is growing, many companies are still lacking skills or experience in how to manage such teams. In fact, 57% of them still struggle to have a strict set of rules to support these practices, but there's a general pattern that should rather be followed for the smooth connection between an employer and a distant team.

On paper, it looks like an easy affair but you may quickly find yourself in a troublesome situation: the workers can lose their mojo, as deadlines start getting missed, the same thing can happen about the meetings.

As a remote development team can pose real problems, you should rather tackle them in a real-life manner but with some adjustments here and there:

Communication

Especially in a distant context, the way you communicate is the key to everything. In fact, it's the case when over-communicating won't be a problem, as you don't get to talk face-to-face. Seeing facial expressions of your workers is a powerful factor when you want to know what your workers have on their minds, so try to compensate for the lack of their presence with a help of video-chat tools like Skype or Slack.

According to studies, verbal communication is only 7% of how you are perceived (38% is para-verbal and 55% stands for non-verbal), so make sure that the lack of facial clues is counteracted by regular check-in meetings. Having at least one face-to-face meeting during the project is arguably the best way to set up a sense of mutual respect and feeling that both parties are here for the product's success. Remember that the lack of contact is a major contributor to the "deal with these issues later on" attitude from distant workers, especially if the info exchange was unclear, therefore, don't mind to remind them the actual requirements.
Dedicated team development | X1 Group
Image courtesy: Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash
Proactivity is what you can't miss under this scenario - just have a rule in your mind that you should communicate three times as much when dealing with distant workers when compared to people who you come across in the office. So if you want some real engagement and strong work ethics from a remote team, always have your video conference tools active - they're miles away more effective then all sorts of messages and even phone calls.

Make It Meaningful

When you introduce new people to a project, it's not only about telling them requirements and specifications. The importance of each employee should always be something clear: their role, responsibilities, and most importantly, the goal that they serve. Seeing the bigger picture for a remote team is as important as for the head executives, as it allows for bringing your distant workers to the same page and care about the end result.

You don't have to share all behind-the-scene details with the distant workers but knowing their purpose on a larger scale can make lives for both parties easier. Don't mind bringing each member to the forefront; if you're making, let's say, a betting platform, then introducing a monetization system can give them a bigger picture to realize how the platform should work from a performance standpoint so that even non-gambling workers will be eager to try it out. It's needless to say how making your workers care about the product improves the overall engagement.

Just make it so that your company vision is not compressed into a .doc file but rather a powerful speech that fires up every crew member via a personal face-to-face video call. The same rule applies to each particular project - don't mind explaining why their role matters.

Building a Community

Although remote teams are no Reddit, they should have one thing in common - a strong community atmosphere. While trust is built on both cognitive and affective factors, the second one often falls by the wayside. It's what we call a "heart factor", a seemingly unimportant one when it comes to hi-tech development, but a very crucial one if you want your distant workers to really care. Acknowledging and celebrating the smallest of achievements in front of the whole crew is a strong cement for team-building, even if it's done in virtual conference space.
Dedicated team development | X1 Group
Image courtesy: Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
But when it's too crowded, people often hesitate to ask their questions and concerns, so make it clear to everyone that you're available for one-on-one conversations at the time zones that fit your employees. Moreover, don't mind asking the questions yourself - even the proactive distant workers can be silent about the qualms. So try to figure out which parts of their job each employee find the most compelling or what are the best incentives to make their work a productive affair.

Getting feedback is both great for the product quality and making the remote team feel that their work matters. This also allows for sorting out the most enthusiastic members who will be the finest candidates for promoting them to leaders as the project develops.

Tracking

You might be well aware of all the ongoing processes inside the project and trust every member but keeping your eye out should be a baseline ability in your professional toolkit. Luckily, there's a ton of programs for that matter. Whether it's Asana, Trello, Jira, or Google Drive, pick one to be a measure that displays how well your project is going and which issues should be addressed in the first place.

This will allow every member to be on the same page and not distract workers who are under a high load of tasks and do their best to meet the deadlines. Your presence is a must as you will be able to adjust monthly and yearly goals based on the current team performance - many teams have adopted Agile methodology to work in the ever-changing requirements scenario.

Setting up appropriate roles, realistic goals, and intrusion-free tracking is the oil to make every cog of your engine work regardless of how far the team is located.

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