Distribution is perhaps one of the hottest topics today.
Globalization and technology has led organizations to a situation where they must deal with distribution of their employees and teams. However there are many ways in which we can achieve that.
First of all, I must say, that in average, co-located teams are always going to outperform distributed teams. But, we all know of distributed teams that perform greatly and co-located teams that perform poorly. This has nothing to do with distribution but rather with other systemic variables.
We must look at distribution as a constraint or a characteristic of a team, and most items in this framework can be applied to distributed teams, but those in the area of Psychology will be much more difficult to achieve. For instance, think about this: What is best, a fully distributed team of similarly cultural individuals or a full co-located team of people from very different cultures and backgrounds?
Tools, Techniques & Ideas
- Distribution is more a mental thing than a physical thing. The point is not physical closeness but mental closeness. However, with physical closeness mental closeness (Psychology Area) is easier to achieve.
- Distribute full teams whenever possible, rather than distributing functions.
- If you cannot avoid distributing functions, make sure team members meet face to face several times a year. The cost of not doing it will exceed the cost of doing it. Teams can meet at the beginning of a project for Team Liftoff and Project Inception and at regular intervals throughout the year or project.
- When people is working, set up communication channels and events that help team achieve that cohesion and sense of belonging that is difficult to achieve remotely and that happens naturally in offices: coffee break, breakfast together, lunch time, corridor conversations, … For example there are teams which have a video conference open all day in every site so they can see what is going on. You can define 10 minutes a day to chat about weather, family, friends, hobbies, etc.
- As a coach or leader you must facilitate making cultural and mindset similarities and differences visible, and help team members talk about that.
- For distributed teams, Working Agreements is a must. Clear norms of conduct must be agreed by distributed teams.