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How to Manage Your Remote Engineering Team like a Guru

By September 22, 2020 October 13th, 2020 No Comments

One of the biggest temptations these days is playing with mastery in managing your remote engineering team.

It takes good time and earnest efforts to be in-charge of a happy, high-performing remote engineering team. It involves getting to know a team as individuals, and especially the understanding to be able to anticipate and snuff out problems before they develop.

How does the remote engineering team work?

Remote engineering teams are no different than normal office-office teams.

In fact, they have to work with an even higher degree of precision and cooperation. It takes a scrupulous business strategy to successfully work remotely and lead virtual teams.

Though there are many companies with entirely remote teams, there is a distinction between offering support to the team and micromanaging it which we often fail to realize as a manager. A distributed team needs the right people, tools, and management strategy for constant growth and directional change in their company.

Successful remote work is all about finding a lifestyle that suits and works for you and your team. That’s what makes it the best and most productive work environment. You not only get to offer the flexibility of work and an entire support system of your virtual team but also there is a list of 3 key areas on which productivity and success of the company depend. Let’s jump into these key areas.

Focus on three key areas

Communication

Conducting a strong communication with your remote team encourages them to engage in informal discussions with other members to know each other’s traits and personality better. Video calls, daily stand-ups, one-on-one check-ins, and (if possible) a once a year “retreat” where everyone can get some face time.

  • Avoid relying on “hallway conversations” for formal discussions related to projects, goals, and status. You may create a separate Slack channel for the specific purpose of sharing fun activities, memes, or running random polls among members to vote for their favorite stuff.
  • Visibility among remote workers: Visibility is crucial. When part of the team is in the office and others are working remotely, there must be consistent communication. Making use of video calls could be easier to tell when someone is away from their desk. Otherwise, there are high chances that you miss important decisions and discussions without even putting inputs from the entire team.

Tooling

  • Build what you need: Mob Programming has been incredibly powerful for engineering teams. Woody Zuill describes Mob Programming as creating the “same thing, at the same time, in the same space, and on the same computer”.

With Remote Mob Programming, we collaborate closely in the same virtual space. The approach encourages distracted individuals to step away before they can distract the group. This helps the active members of the mob maintain a high level of energy, concentration, and focus. So why not to build something which brings ease to the company and engineers, both?

  • Look for cost-effective tools: From collaborative tools to communication channels, collaboration is the primary motive to using tools. You probably can manage without these tools but you cannot streamline, scale, and automate without these though.

Look for cost-effective remote tools such as Hangouts, Zoom, Slack which won’t make you feel forlorn as a remote employee. You can make use of such tools to stay connected with your co-workers.

Culture

Creating a set of values is essentially the foundation of a positive culture and gives direction to the work culture. Never stop monitoring, measuring the values for a more positive culture on your remote team.

  • Be sensitive to technical glitches: It is normal to experience connectivity issues occasionally when you’re on a call with your client or your teammates. Take a moment to pause and then assign some resources to get it fixed.
  • Trust your teammates: When you communicate, you get along with the vibes. Trust those vibes. The more we feel convinced with them, the more distributed team can work. Encourage your remote employees to engage in informal discussions with other members to know each other’s traits and personality better.

How to manage your remote engineering team?

Managing a remote team might not sound as frenetic as it actually is. There are a plethora of misconceptions about remote working, especially in engineering organizations. And you never know when you come across these fallacies and fail to maintain team cohesion and a sustainable work-life balance.

What are the ideal ways to manage a remote engineering team without disturbing the work-life harmony and feeling disconnected from co-workers?

Limit your meetings

Try conducting meetings only when there is a real agenda prepared and a subject to talk about. Keep the meeting to the point, discuss the needful stuff, and show purpose into scheduled meetings. Do not conduct meetings for every little detail which could also be discussed over texts, phone calls. For more authentic work construction, conduct regular scrum calls, discuss tasks of the day as this serves a real purpose.

Over-communicate effectively

Believe it or not, “proactive communication” is the mantra to run your remote work efficiently.

Wouldn’t your designs, development, and testing as engineers be at risk if not communicated well with other team members? Without consistent dialogues, there’s always a snag in exchanging ideas, objectives, and proposals. Think of all those lunchtime discussions that aren’t happening and all those casual exchanges across the room and join the ongoing conversation. Though these day-to-day moments are not only informative, they often lead to bonding between colleagues and contribute to company culture.

Remote work requires the same energy and fervor to stay connected with co-workers. Make use of remote tools and try bringing your colleagues for luncheons, coffee breaks, and discuss the issues, formal and informal as per comfort level.

Promote human connections

How well you encourage human connections are often manifested in a company’s culture. Getting on a virtual call with all other employees to introduce the new recruit makes him feel better and inclusive. Arranging informal meetings with other members in the team makes the new employee aware of his team members on a personal level and puts across your values in a far better way than an email attachment.

Conduct hands-on sessions once a month to bridge the virtual gap and bring your team together. Meaningful interactions are necessary to strengthen relationships and support personal well being.

Do not track on multiple accounts

As an engineer, you might be in the habit of using a lot of different software to operate but isn’t every tool made for specific reasons? Yes, it is. Then why hold on multiple accounts like Github and Trello together to track the performances and work status of your employees?

To help cut through the clutter and keep everything organized, make sure you give time and space equally to your employees instead of spying on them. This will boost their productivity and self-confidence. Go for feedback on their task, later.

Aim to document everything

Even if remote work is synchronous, back-and-forth cycles are undesirable, inefficient, and disruptive. We normally fail to organize our work strategy when it is not documented oriented. Noting down points during conversations hones the clarity and minimizes the lost work, a skill that every engineer should develop.

Apart from this, after making any particular plans it is always important to document it. Even if there are some specifications to be added or changes to be made, documentation is a safe place.

Set up automated guidelines

Make sure your guidelines, boundaries, and rules cover all of the ways you work together and interact. You never know, with your new knowledge, you might be able to identify new opportunities for your organization or identify more efficient ways of working.

If you find any tool which is compatible and you’re comfortable with, then go ahead and use them. Stay updated with the new technologies and keep learning. For individuals, learning helps to broaden horizons and encourage self-development. You can even inspire and teach others what you’ve learned and contrariwise.

Conclusion

To summarize, managing a remote team starts with engineers and developers having the right traits. With the proper communications, the right tools, a supportive corporate culture, and distributed workforces, you can create more-effective software teams and bring significant benefits to the company.

Encourage the formation of your company by prioritizing certain things. And most importantly, as a manager, you should step aside from the technical side and trust your developers to solve their problems on their own. As an engineer, there is so much to learn to evolve in this tech world and become more accustomed to working remotely. It’s not always simple but as a team, you can surely make a win-win!

Shubhanshu Srivastava

About Shubhanshu Srivastava

A passionate techie whose vast technical knowledge and subject expertise clashes with his enthusiasm to learn more about it. Shubhanshu Srivastava is the CTO of the GoScale Group. He is an active tech blogger, an MMA learner and sports enthusiast.

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