With this post, I want to share the six pillars for setting up a team that works remotely. I do it taking inspiration from the various projects I’m following now with different people. Each project has different objectives and areas, but there is one common element: each team needs a minimum of direction and organization. To work well together, and even more so at a distance, we must necessarily compare each other on some fundamental aspects. Otherwise, the work will consist only of spot activities and chaotic messages on Whatsapp. The risk is to waste time, and energy, lower the quality of the work carried out and increase the stress and loss of the participants.
Pillars And Flexible Structures Are Consistent
When working together remotely, you need to know how to move independently within the project while simultaneously feeling involved to overcome a sense of isolation. Therefore, there is a need to create a structure that supports team members’ autonomy and facilitates interaction and exchange. When I speak of “structure,” I mean having clarified some fundamental points and having set up a comparison and feedback system that allows this structure to adapt to changes and follow the project’s development flexibly.
Pillar 1: Fast Communication
This pillar is about the tools you use to communicate. The more tools you use, the greater the risk of information leakage. Almost all the tools are asynchronous; therefore, it is necessary to establish how an emergency is communicated or, in any case, how information is shared that needs an urgent or immediate response. Note a tendency to work a lot with Whatsapp, but it’s important to clarify that messaging tools are only for information that doesn’t need to be archived or managed. Otherwise, someone would likely lose it along the way. Whatsapp cannot be a tool that contains all types of information. Guidelines for deciding which tool to use for the type of information should be:
- How do I increase the probability that this information will be “recorded” by everyone?
- How do I find this information (and how will others?)? For example, if I send a vowel with dates, deadlines, or things to do, maybe it takes me less (did you notice that all the voicemails begin with the phrase “I’m sending you a vowel because I do this sooner”?) but I complicate life for the other. Since the time spent on a project is the sum of the time spent by each component, even if I send a vow first, but then five people take more time to receive, memorize, archive, plan and find that information, here is that time spent by the team remotely borders on waste.
Pillar 2: Workflow (Who Does What)
To avoid the whole project being managed on Whatsapp or via email, deciding on the tool to collect and monitor the activities is essential. This tool is used for:
- Have the overview of the project
- Know what are the activities to be carried out and what the deadlines are to meet
- Know who does what by when
In almost every project I follow, the tool we use is Trello. You should invest some time in sharing the logic of the chosen instrument. Otherwise, this pillar becomes a boomerang that complicates life for everyone rather than simplifying it.
Pillar 3: Periodic Communication (Periodic Checks)
Between emails, Whatsapp, and Trello, we are always in contact, and the information circulates in real-time. But setting up online meetings and periodic “voice” checks keeps the energy up and avoids dragging on the misunderstandings that written messages sometimes involve. It can be a fixed team appointment or decided from time to time according to need. It is essential to use a tool like Doodle to determine the day/time of the meeting. If you use Zoom, it is convenient to create a “recurring” event as if it were your meeting room so as not to have to send the link every time.
Pillar 4: Archiving
If the project foresees the creation of files and documents, it is necessary to decide where they are archived, how they are named, and how they are managed. Email and Trello are tools for sharing information, but they are not the archive of files. The files remain in the library; what you send or share is just a link. The platforms I use in the projects I follow are Dropbox and Drive. Drive is essential if several people work on the same file simultaneously. If this isn’t a feature of your team, then Dropbox is fine too. The point is always to simplify your life and therefore consider the risk of having versions of the file that are not synchronized because you waste a lot of time finding the key to the problem.
Pillar 5: The Shared Calendar
The shared calendar helps to overview group commitments and can serve as an editorial calendar or appointment management. In this case, it depends on the type of project but consider this option if you have many shared activities and appointments in your remote team.
Pillar 6: Brainstorming
It is challenging, especially for those used to office life and “gathering ideas in the corridors,” to circulate energy and ideas remotely. And if you are among the lucky ones who can choose when and whether to work face-to-face or remotely, then you can plan this activity when you are face-to-face in the office. Those who have always worked remotely need a “space” dedicated to discussion and brainstorming.
While waiting for augmented reality tools (help…), plan a space to collect ideas and plan online meetings to discuss them. There are more or less complex tools ( Mural, Miro). Still, you can also dedicate an ad hoc space on the Trello board or create a file on Drive (a text sheet or a Jamboard ) that everyone can access to write down an idea, or a proposal, which can stimulate others to have new ideas.
Ten years ago, we would have handled everything via email. Today the risk is to manage everything on Whatsapp and disperse information and energy. In between, there is the possibility of simply structuring a few ad hoc tools to help remote teams manage the complexity of projects and channel energy toward achieving objectives with clarity and serenity. To do this, you need awareness and sharing.