What do you need to lead high-performing remote teams?
Proven success criteria for high-performing remote teams includes seven criteria as shown in the model below. The model has green, blue, and red color-coding. Green represents the people and relationship factors. Blue represents team systems and processes, and red represents team objectives and results. Take a look:
The model has a green, blue, and red color-coding. Green represents the people and relationship factors. Blue represents team systems and processes, and red represents team objectives and results.
Living in a business world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), requires an understanding of the environment that produces your results. Close examination of the relevant criteria in order to strategize for, rather than resist, change will bring you closer to understanding how to affect outcomes. Agility is needed to adjust to nonlinear interactions with unpredictable outcomes in the face of complexity so your operations can move forward even with unpredictable outcomes. The above model will help you understand how to move toward your goals in a VUCA environment.
As is the case with any team, remote teams function best when they operate with high trust—the bottom bar of the model “People and Trust” shows that these criteria are the foundation for success. Strong relationship building cannot be valued highly enough and diversity in the team should not only be embraced but used for the betterment of the team and its performance. Team leads must consider how they measure the trust level in their team, on a scale from low to moderate to high. It’s important to identify where improvement is required, and how the team can best evolve into a high trust team culture.
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The second level, “Objectives and deliverables” reiterates the usefulness of the OKR (objectives and key results https://bit.ly/3ooPeTM) methodology to define objectives and to itemize and timebox deliverables, thus the red color. We know it is essential to remote team performance to have clarity, visibility, and engagement around goals visibility. A team app or software to make goals, tasks, and deadlines visible ensures that people can stay on track, measure their progress, and deliver their results within the agreed timelines.
The importance of Communication and Feedback, which is the third bar from the bottom of the model cannot be forgotten and mostly relies on the people in the team, so we see a lot of green. People are responsible for ensuring good feedback and good communication. But of course, having an efficient process and supportive tools are also important to efficient communication and feedback rituals. Communication needs to always be proactive, open, motivational, and empathic. In order for the team to stay in touch the team needs free-flowing communication built on trust, of course.
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Moving up the model to Cross-business collaboration, which is again green and dependent on people but with a bit of blue because of the importance of because the right practices and systems give a framework for the collaborative processes. This criterion is also highly dependent on communication that is required to avoid silo formation in autonomous teams. Collaboration must be emphasized as an imperative to achieving end-to end customer satisfaction and all business units or other teams have collaborative mindsets, an environment in which silos can’t take root.
“Agile working practices,” which is the third level from the top of the model is heavily dependent on strong methodology and processes used to work together as a team. We see mostly blue on this level, but the bit of green represents the necessity of people being open with a collaborative mindset as well as adaptable, and responsive. A lot of teams and organizations are moving from waterfall project management to agile project management, which customer-centricity, adaption to change, and delivering results quickly at the core. Agile working practices can easily be applied by remote teams and there are multiple tools available to support effective agile working processes.
In the end, everything comes down to communication and in order to have efficient and effective communication, it is helpful for teams to discuss communication rituals upfront. Communication norms can be established on two levels—tools and behaviors: which tools are we going to use and how can we best engage with one another? Don’t shy away from setting communication rules, it will let team members know what’s expected of them and support productive exchanges. As a leader you can encourage use of social media tools by using them yourself to keep everyone up to date. You can push information via email or make it available to everyone on software such as SharePoint. Use both to make sure that people are held accountable for accessing and sharing relevant information.
“Key drivers for employee engagement are energy, motivation, and the ability to push boundaries and get things done.”
— – Jørgen Vig Knudsdorp
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Like “Agile working practices” the next level up, “Autonomy and alignment” are mostly in the blue team systems and processes category, but cannot be relevant without the green people and relationship factors (in green) that reflect ownership and accountability that individuals bring to the equation. It’s important for teams to self-govern and to hold virtual spring planning meetings to align on objectives, results and processes.
At the top of the pyramid we have “Results focus.” Results, with business impact, should be the north star for all teams to measure their success. While this is true for all teams, it is especially important for remote teams to effectively measure the productivity of the team and to choose the right metrics to measure the team’s and individual’s performance. It’s recommended to have a realistic limit on the metrics to measure the remote team performance. It is also advisable to measure progress frequently and in shorter sprints or time frames.
When it comes to working remotely, there’s typically one central concern: will teams still get as much done? All studies show that remote team workers actually get far more done than their in-office counterparts—so you’re on the right track!