Remote PMing FAQ
For leaders, what's the baseline implementation you need to establish for sudden work-from-home?
- It all starts with communication. For your company, reach out and ask if anyone has worked remotely before, be open to feedback. Don't silo.
For team members, if you don't have a space for working, what are your first steps?
- Separate work and life. Set boundaries. Plan something to replace your commute - reading, exercising, going for a walk. Be proactive in calendaring this time.
- Create separation. A room with a closed door, headphones.
What are your essential tools?
- Slack, Hangouts/Zoom, Google Docs for agendas, realtime notes, documentation.
What mindset is needed for successful remote teams?
- Change the focus from hours to output. Increase communications. Increase transparency. Share context constantly.
What should I look for when hiring remotely?
- Doesn't matter if people have remote experience.
- Be able to manage yourself, your priorities, handoffs.
How do you handle mixed in-office / remote teams?
- Various steps: In person, hybrid (some remote), remote first, all remote, all remote + different time zones
- Start being remote first ASAP. Get leadership/execs on board.
- More async, especially when dealing with multiple time zones. More documents/tickets, less Slack/email.
- Practice separate decision information gathering + decision making.
- Level the playing field. No second class citizens. Hybrid is the most difficult for this.
- Annual get togethers. Fly everyone in together. No work. No presentations. Excursions together, opening/closing ceremonies, unconference - breakout groups on work-related topics if needed (burn out, motivation, etc).
Regarding writing everything down - how do you make it discoverable?
- Always link Google Doc agenda/notes to the calendar invite. Always!
- Put all information in your SSOT (single source of truth). It can be thousands of pages! Always iterating, restructuring. Communicate what you changed.
- Top priority is to start this SSOT. Can be a wiki, github repo, Almanac, etc
How do you manage employees asking to work remotely?
- Many people, especially senior, may not want to go back to the office, at least not full time. People hate commuting!
- Seriously consider it. Having remote as an option is increasingly going to be seen as a competitive advantage, and eventually as table stakes
How can a manager have visibility into their team's work without micro managing?
- Measure outcomes, not hours
- Set clear goals and clear performance metrics for individuals
- Make the company OKRs easily accessible, and always map the team's goals to the company's goals clearly
- Again, view this as an advantage. In an office people just use hours as a proxy for outcomes, but this is lazy. Be precise about defining and measuring the outcomes you want. Remote forces this, and will force you to be more honest about your team's effectiveness.
- Consider having a perpetual Hangouts - an always-on video link that anyone can join. Managers can sit in these video chats on mute so they're available to chat whenever they're free.
- Maintain weekly 1:1s, and consider more frequent check-ins in the short term if remote is new for you and your team.
- Consider putting the onus on your team to reach out to you when they have questions, but make it clear you're very available. This will kickstart a culture of overcommunication. As you get questions, document them and your answers in a public place.
- Rule of thumb: Everyone should overcommunicate. Overcommunicate until someone tells you it's too much (hint: it probably never will be)
Will Covid accelerate the transition to remote?
- Yes. Companies should start putting together remote experience working groups - HR, IT, Ops. Make sure each issue is triaged and has a DRI (directly responsible individual). Document these meetings and share out!
What's the biggest thing that remote teams miss?
- Informal interactions.
- How to solve? Intentionally plan opportunities for informal interactions.
- 1:1 coffee chats, no agenda.
- Team AMAs - just Q&A, see what a random team is working on, anyone can join
- Calendar it! People don't realize how much time they spend doing this in the office, but it's substantial. If you don't calendar it it won't happen, and this can lead to isolation and burnout.
How do you onboard remote team members?
- Need lots of asynchronous resources.
- Have a long to-do list for new team members
- Assign an onboarding buddy who can answer any questions, point them to resources
How do you do remote brainstorming?
- Google Docs/Slides. Everyone can type at the same time.
- Use bullet lists + indentations as a mind map
How can you maintain team/company culture remotely?
- Set your culture very intentionally.
- No unwritten values.
- Reinforce your values during hiring, onboarding, and reviews. Promotions and compensation should be based on values.
How do you help team members who aren't comfortable working transparently?
- Set the tone. Share drafts early. Make it ok to share incomplete thoughts
- Run blameless post mortems.
What do we do about regular meetings like standup, planning, backlog grooming?
- Figure out if you still need the meeting. Status meetings are useless. Use the tools you have
- Get good at screen sharing when helpful. Get comfortable quickly sharing your screen when needed, and then stop again so you can see people's faces
- Start on time and end on time!
How can I separate work/life and combat burnout?
- Force yourself out of your home routine when your workday ends
- If you just transition from working on your computer to Netflix on your computer, your brain won't change modes
- Get out of the house, go for a walk, go to the gym, something to significantly change your physical environment for a while
- Especially important for PMs who often function in an always-on-call mentality