5 Quick Tips for Managing Teams Remotely

Awhile back, I spoke with Billy Griffin, the Product Manager for GitHub Desktop, who builds products for distributed teams and who, himself, works on an incredibly distributed and remote team.

We discussed his thoughts on making distributed teams work, ensuring mission alignment in a distributed team, organizing the work, and keeping track of progress.

This is Billy’s advice for keeping a team running well while operating remotely:

  1. Over-communicate on mission and goals: Sync on the team’s mission and goals several times a week over video conferencing. Vary who is leading the meeting, based on what the team needs (e.g. focus on product, focus on engineering, etc). Have dedicated chat channels for teams working together to stay on top of things.
  2. Stay focused and deliver: Team members should focus as much as possible on one project at a time, to deliver successfully on that project while navigating all the remote work and communication overhead. Sometimes a team member may have a 10–20% project, but probably only because that person is the only person at the company with the expertise to do it.
  3. Enable asynchronous work: Leverage project management tools that allow your team to submit a lot of bugs and feature requests, so your team can quickly and asynchronously contribute to making your code, product, or processes better.
  4. Keep remote work organized: Organize all of the team contributions by finding overlaps in issues, synthesizing requests, and following up with specific team members for clarification. Consolidate issues into larger targeted issues and rally people towards designing solutions.
  5. Create channels for contribution: Have a central team that is focused on the core work and mission, but allow for other team members to contribute ideas and or solutions. Have a separate chat for other interested colleagues that want to contribute to the mission. For this non-central team, provide context for where the project is going, and also provide avenues of contribution with smaller self-contained problems.