Practical examples

3 quick tips and more for managing a remote DEV team

March 31, 2020

Amid the Coronavirus reality we’ve been living since February, many remote work guides and best practices have emerged. In this article I hope to help the niche of software development teams and industries, sharing the experience I gathered over past years. The intention here is to start from scratch if you are not used to working remotely at all, but feel free to head straight to the point you may find yourself more interested in.

Tip 1: Training

Never underestimate the effectiveness of a training session before starting with a new methodology. It might look very simple for you to work remotely, but your team might see it differently than you. Not training is not an alternative just like stopping everybody for one week, putting them in a room with 8h/day of training, is not. If you are in a rush, grab the first morning you have and do some training. (This isn’t the focus of this article, but you will find some useful tips here, and here, and also some training tips here). Train on the go is the key to this quick turn. Since developing software is an activity that can easily be done anywhere, you probably won’t find many barriers with your team embracing it. But you do have to take care of productivity…

Tip 2: Pick the ceremonies

The quickest takeaway from this article: make daily meetings. I suggest even twice a day if the 100% remote work is new for you. You should use the daily meetings like they were described: 15 minutes of people saying what they did, what they will do, and what is blocking them. Pay extra attention to the blocks listed. If no one comes, ask some questions to stimulate them to come out. There are always blocks. The retrospectives might be challenging at first, but I know they can happen remotely. So give it more than a shot. The ceremonies, specifically the dailies will give you inputs about the team performance, which leads us to the next item…

Tip 3: Act

Be proactive. You must be an example of the posture you want to see on your team. Bad performance is easy to perceive in the daily checkpoints. Once you feel somebody is not producing as they could (that will happen) you must act and do it quickly (by producing I mean both performance and will to do the job). If you don’t, that will sound like a message for the whole team to slow down, because nobody cares.

This kind of action is not an inquisition. Have your mind clear of judgments about people and base your questions just on the facts you already know. (This article, from step 3 on will help you with these conversations). Always point out what happened and ask for an opinion. In 99% of cases people know they’re doing something different from what is expected. If the person doesn’t see anything wrong on what they did, you will have to show the consequences and then get to a common understanding. I do recommend you reach out to the article mentioned for further clarification about a feedback session.

Mindset: be always open and transparent

Having the same no-judgment mindset of the item above, be open to questions at this moment. Your team may be afraid of the changes not only on the work methodology, but also with the whole economic environment. If they have questions, prepare to spend more than just 5 minutes talking to them. They might want to talk about personal stuff before going to the real point. So keep your ears open and don’t moments of sharing thoughts about even your personal feelings about the moment. Keeping the routines of feedback you already have (or should have) is key to this moment. They are waiting for the right moment to ask you though questions, so be prepared to answer.

We all are under uncertainty and a new situation never faced before. If you are calm, your team will be calm. Always communicate to them in a simple way about every new step your company is taking to respond to the pandemic. Sharing information, even if they can’t vote on tough decisions, will make them feel part of the moment. You will also be reminded as someone who takes care of your people.

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