Genchi founder, using individual sentiment to reveal team health and project status.
As every child of the ‘80’s knows – the most effective way to become a karate expert is not through years of dedicated training, but rather by completing a sequence of seemingly tedious chores for an elderly Japanese neighbor. Thanks to the miracle of muscle memory, before you know it, you’ll have won the all-valley karate tournament. (Actually, now I think about it, this might have been one of the first, and most effective “hacks” I was ever exposed to).
Recently many of us have found ourselves suddenly coping with a new, remote team dynamic. While some might find this liberating, I know most are finding it a challenge. At the very least, suddenly switching from an in-office to a remote working environment is disruptive. Setting aside the whole logistical challenge of whether you can actually complete your work remotely, there is a general consensus that working remotely simply isn’t as good as having the team together physically.
While this sentiment definitely has some merit, what if instead of seeing this recent change as a disruptive pain, we treat it as an opportunity to expose some of the shortcomings in our team processes and communications?
What if working remotely, even for a short period of time, is the tedious chore that when completed (in true Miyagi-esque fashion) is the hack that really improves your team dynamic?
Instead of waxing a row of classic automobiles, a remote hiatus will help you develop the muscle memory to sharpen your team interaction and
We already know that some companies already excel at remote work.
Automattic and Zapier are two that spring immediately to mind. So that should provide some comfort that working remotely isn’t just tolerable but can effective – preferable even.
So, we know that it CAN work, and these companies are very open about sharing their best practices on HOW it works. I think it is worth considering WHY it works, and more importantly why that is relevant to you.
It can be easy for more mainstream companies to dismiss working
remotely as a Silicon Valley “quirk’ like having a ping-pong table or free
lunch. However, I think that undervalues a crucial insight that these companies have figured out.
That is, by being mindful about critical practices, and in particular being explicit about how their intra-team and inter-team communication takes place they add a robustness and flexibility to their team dynamic to the extent that the need to be physically present is diminished. Ergo enabling the ability to work effectively remotely .
The most common complaint about working remotely is that it deprives
teams of the opportunity to interact in an ad-hoc manner. Coffee time, lunch, chatting around the water cooler etc. These informal activities are widely recognized as being crucial for team collaboration and problem solving. But what if that’s the wrong way of looking at it?
What if ad-hoc interpersonal interaction rather than being the solution to effective collaboration, is actually a hinderance?
Is it possible that the ability to turn around and tap a colleague on the shoulder is the crutch that props up an ineffective (or at the very least sub-optimal) process?
Bear with me as I know this is a little counter-intuitive. When it comes to project management (or the management of any system for that matter), we want to have processes that are repeatable and (ideally) scalable. Ad-hoc conversations, whether at your desk or during a chance hallway encounters, are neither repeatable nor scalable.
Obviously, they work, but they should be recognised as more of a kludge than a process. The shortcomings of which are exposed every time we encounter minimal disruption, like when someone is out sick, on holiday or off-site. Miscommunications happen, things fall between the cracks. We
can see evidence of this every time we are surprised by a missed deadline or degraded deployment. This is, unfortunately, an all too frequent occurrence, and one which creates a lot of unnecessary stress.
Taking the simple action of being explicit about how your team communicates internally (sharing current activity and highlighting obstacles) and externally (communicaing current status and timelines) will not only alleviate some of the strain you are feeling from your current situation, but also create a framework that will up-level your performance whenever you get back into the office. In short, you’ll be blocking punches without even thinking about it.
There are loads of resources out there that outline best practices, for doing this. However, there is wide agreement that the most instrumental one, is having a regular team check-in (or "stand-up").
That is, figuring out a mechanism to communicate current activity and identify the obstacles hindering progress internally within the team, as well as sharing current project status and team health externally with project stakeholders. This will reduce miscommunication, alleviate the associated stress and increase your overall team velocity.
I'd be remiss not to insert a quick plug here. This is exactly the task that Genchi solves in an easy and lightweight way. Check it out!
Of course, unfortunately none of this will actually help you develop your karate skills, but perhaps the time you save commuting could be dedicated to improving your form, or (and I’m quite sure of this) actually going out and painting your neighbors fence would be an act appreciated in and of itself!
(Disclosure: The Author is the Founder of Genchi. Get a Free Trial by Clicking on my Writer Ad on my Hacker Noon User Profile))