Lessons in Remote

Over the past few days, I've sat in on four different Zoom webinars on the shift to working from home, which includes listening to people from: Truss, Nava, 18F, USDS, Trello, Zapier, Wildbit, Hubspot, MeetEdgar, Gitlab and 37 Signals.

Working remote is a new experience for me, and it's a privilege to be able to freely access the expertise of those who've done it for so long.

Here have been my main overall takeaways from the calls:

  1. It would be a mistake to assume this the transition your team is going through is merely a shift from IRL to virtual.  In reality, your team is weathering a crisis.  As a leader, you should be responding to that.  This isn't a "normal" work from home experience: Wildbit's CEO made this point; Wikimedia's CEO set the expectation of 50% work time, 37 Signals also set expectations on personal priorities taking precedence.
  2. Remote is about building trust, and trust is best built in small steps.  Don't assign large open-ended projects with long cycles. Break things down into smaller pieces–smaller deliverables, shorter docs, etc... (via Wildbit)
  3. Don't try to simulate your existing rituals. Redesign the process for the medium.  For example, if you're used to brainstorming through in-person meetings, don't simply move that to a Zoom, where it's challenging for more than one person to talk at a time.  Redesign the process entirely.  How can you cut out meetings altogether?
  4. Being distributed isn't an accommodation, it's a strategy, especially if your goal is to build an inclusive team. "we prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion and THEREFORE we must be distributed" (via Truss)
  5. Unless you're setup to compete on compensation, compete on the ability to provide autonomy and flexibility.  Design for this from day one. (via Gitlab)
  6. What you're really after is the ability to make progress asynchronously.
  7. Culture, hierarchy of values, and process needs to be documented and so optimize for people who are proficient and comfortable with writing.
  8. Find people who have experience being a manager of one. How and when have they managed themselves through a major project? (via Gitlab)
  9. Companies are much more thoughtful and intentional around creating social experiences for the team, and while there are some commonalities that come up (using Donut), this remains a tough problem with mostly ad-hoc solutions.