[QCon 2019] High-Performance Remote and Distributed Teams

Randy Shoup @randyshoup

For other QCon blog posts, see QCon live blog table of contents

Remote

  • You to not often interact face-to-face with the people that you work with
  • Models- single site, multi site, remote first
  • Anti-pattern; Centralized HQ control. Most things and all decisions done at HQ. Others get work doled out to them
  • Anti-pattern: Site + Satellite Remote – One or several site where people work every day and one or two on own
  • Remote first – everyone on video and slack. Model that Ok to interrupt b/c net slow

Benefits

  • Larger talent pool
  • Take advance of localized supply and demand
  • Parallel hiring – can grow teams in parallel. Not tied to a recruiting team. Each site can hire in parallel
  • Geographic hedge – can hire more in one region if things slow down in one
  • Diversity and inclusion – flexible location/hours, geographic/cultural, neurodiversity (b/c communication styles vary)
  • Retention – can live different places, employee satisfaction, productivity
  • Little/no commute
  • Flexibility
  • Personalize work environment
  • If at HQ and work with remote people, more flexibility because your teammates are remote
  • Ensure each team full stack so not relying on team in another country for communication
  • Follow the sun. Round the clock triage, on call handoffs
  • Close to customers. Local presence, customer empathy, local implementation/customization

Challenges

  • Local laws (hire/fire/severance)
  • Local recruiting norms
  • Local compensation – pay everyone as if at QA or by local market. But must be consistent
  • Local currency – do you pay in US dollars or local currency
  • Local regulation – laws, taxes
  • More travel. Problem to never see teammates
  • No commute == no exercise
  • Solitude/isolation
  • Time management. Easy to keep working
  • Best to be single site or remote first. That way don’t have onsite conversation and inform (Or forget) remotes later
  • Don’t have one site dole out work. That’s outsourcing
  • Managing time zones – respect time zones over others. Watch DMs off hours. Trade off inconvenience. Use overlapping hours well

Onboarding

  • Possible to do remotely, but better to bring in a bunch in person
  • Bond with cohort
  • Instill company/team culture
  • Mentor/buddy system – ideally two role/team and culture
  • Structured onboarding that can do at own page – ex: recorded training

Workspace

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Internet Connectivity – mifi hotspot good in rural areas
  • Comfortable desk/chair/etc or coffee shop or co-working space
  • Quiet/child proofed space

Timing

  • Maker’s schedule – want chunks of uninterrupted time. Try to have meetings close together to preserve time.
  • Manager’s schedule – mostly meetings
  • In a remote environment, blocks of time mater more
  • Block out calendar, office hours

Management

  • Good to have remote manager. Sets example, shows career advancement possible, empathy
  • Clarity on goals
  • 1:1 are sacrosanct, not a status meeting, praise in public (can be slack)/correct in private. Don’t have management by walking around so won’t see implicitly

Trust

  • The half life of rust is 6 weeks
  • An interaction reinforces it

Tools

  • Video
  • Chat
  • Collaborative docs

Communication

  • Be really explicit about “what is the problem you are trying to solve”
  • Clartify the “why”
  • Straighforward language
  • Repetition – a lot
  • Culture of “ask in public” – remember to model this
  • Also model “when in doubt ask”
  • Be open to feedback when write doc and be specific about the feedback want
  • Clarify the purpose of meeting
  • Pre-reads. Or read doc together if can’t do before. Feels weird first time, but gets everyone on same page
  • Template agenda for common meetings
  • Cancel meeting if no agenda
  • Have senior person moderate to stay on topic
  • Allow time for chatting/social bonding

Summits

  • Did quarterly
  • Primary goal was social bonds and connections
  • Do high bandwidth communication
  • Planned well in advance
  • Rotate locations
  • Spent a day learning together
  • Prioritizing fun and team building
  • Hackathon with theme
  • Internal Conference
  • Structured activity about coding

My impressions

This was great. I’ve heard much of it before, but hearing it again helps reflect. And there were some that were new to me

Note: Randy mentioned his collegue’s 2017 QCon presentation a few times. Here is a summary

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