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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
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12/26/2014
09:06 AM
Dan Schoenbaum
Dan Schoenbaum
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6 Tips For Managing Worldwide Offices

Set clear goals, communicate in real-time, and other advice for keeping far-flung teams on the same page.

Maintaining a healthy, productive, and fast-moving team that's located all over the globe can be a real challenge. In my company, much of our work spans multiple offices, with nine different time zones on three continents.

I've learned first-hand that to successfully manage a distributed workforce, it's less about managing offices and much more about managing people, their priorities, and the work they do. Taking the time to have a personal bond helps foster a better working relationship both in good times and bad.

[Why it's a mistake to snub alternative communications tools and keep falling back on email. Read You're Sending Too Much Email]

Studies have shown that inefficiency and outdated workflow are costing companies money. Lots of money. In fact, McKinsey Global Institute estimates consumer goods and professional services companies alone stand to gain as much as $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value if they just figure out how to better collaborate. Even if a small fraction of that is truly accurate or achievable -- that's a lot of cheddar!

Here are tips that I've found to be helpful when managing a global team.

Set common goals for the team
It sounds like a no-brainer, but when you have a remote team it becomes that much more important to make sure everyone on the team has a clear vision of the goals and alignment. If everyone is working toward the same set of strategic goals, it makes it much easier to manage progress and recognize when things are headed off track.

Define and track work in one place
One of the biggest deficiencies I see is the lack of a "system of record." Too many people track work in their email (which contributes to inbox overload), in a notebook, or worst, in their heads.

Creating a simple workspace for a team where tasks are visualized and trackable is key, so that employees can easily stay on track with due dates and deliverables. At Redbooth, we simply could not manage the quality of work and steadily deliver at the high velocity we do without a simple workspace where we can track, manage, and share our efforts among team members.

Hold face-to-face meetings
Having a distributed team makes it more difficult to meet in person or as a team on a regular basis. My solution is to hold a regular video conference. Being able to see everyone on video is key because phone calls make it too easy for participants to disengage with any number of distractions on email, IM, and push notifications on tablets and smartphones. It's also important to read the room to see how team members react and engage with one another.

Track and report on progress
The work that your team does should be tracked and reviewed periodically. When this information is publicly available, the added visibility is an incredibly effective motivator to get things done on time. Nobody wants to let the team down or underperform in front of their peers. I've found this to be a great way to keep remote teams focused on key objectives and goals without a lot of additional business travel and intensive management.

Communicate in real-time
Let's face it: Email stinks and we all know it. You'll need a system for quick check-ins, responses, and team communications. Relying on email is too slow, and messages are often lost in the shuffle or swallowed by your inbox entirely. A simple, lightweight means of chatting with one another -- SMS, chat, or other tools -- will enable you to stay connected with remote teams on the fly (as the work is happening) and manage them anytime, anywhere.

Centralize work and communication
With the recent consumerization of IT movement, there has been an overabundance of cloud and SaaS applications as a way to solve singular problems.

Each office or department seems to select their own products to use, from Sharepoint, Dropbox, and GoToMeeting to wikis and personal to-do lists. This has created a sprawl, where information becomes harder to find and actually causes a drop in productivity. I have found that the creation of a single team workspace, project room, or "destination" eliminates confusion, helping us connect with team members more quickly, and ensures that everyone is working off the same system and with the same information.

Remote teams can be a challenge and even a business risk, but they don't have to be. In fact, it could become your business advantage. With these tips and suggestions, I hope you can create a productive and successful environment where your global team works as efficiently at 5,000 miles apart as they would within five feet.

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Dan joined Redbooth as CEO in September 2011. He has 19 years of leadership with high-growth software companies. Prior to Redbooth, he was the COO and Chief Business Development Officer for Tripwire, a leader in the enterprise security market, where he helped triple revenues ... View Full Bio
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batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:49:30 AM
Re: Keep It Simple
@DanS734, interesting point/idea as technology changing we are becoming more globaly connected... one way or other...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:36:36 AM
Re: Keep It Simple
@DanS734 thanks for sharing, interesting to know, thank you 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2015 | 11:36:32 AM
Re: Keep It Simple
@DanS734 thanks for sharing, interesting to know, thank you 
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:29:27 PM
Re: Communication
@SunitaT0 thank you for sharing - interesting to know... the way Co. trying to get it right...

How I see it it constant process...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:27:55 PM
Re: Keep It Simple
@tzubair interesting observation, I think it becoming defacto replacement or new way of doing things... how I see it...
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:44:05 AM
Re: Keep It Simple
"maybe they can hold video conferences so that they can stay motivated while staying in touch with the main organisation? Maintaining global offices are difficult, but not so much if you are properly educated to tackle such situations. "

Sunita, phone calls and video calls are good options for motivating the employees but due to change in time zones, it won't be feasible always. On such cases email communications are the best and feasible way to get in touch each other.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2015 | 2:40:59 AM
Globalization
"Maintaining a healthy, productive, and fast-moving team that's located all over the globe can be a real challenge. In my company, much of our work spans multiple offices, with nine different time zones on three continents."

Dan, in globalization era there is no other options for better visibility and to move for customer centric business. But someway all the companies are able to manage their global presence with dedicated global mangers; who used to work on different shifts to coordinate with other offices.
DanS734
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DanS734,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/31/2014 | 1:10:52 PM
Re: Keep It Simple
Great point Tzubair, I completely agree. Half of our team is in Redwood City, California, and half is in Barcelona, Spain.

We believe in "dog fooding" heavily and Redbooth, the product we make, integrates tasks, video and chat, so we have a lot of experience with best practices and what works best for team collaboration and productivity. 

I find that we need to get together, in person both for business meetings and spend time socially. If we don't do that, we get out of synch as a team, have a harder time agreeing and lose a lot of productivity. Videoconferencing is great, but it will never be a substitute for in-person meetings. Rather, its useful for the times we need to connect between in-person team meetings. We also use chat for quick 1:1 and team interactions and have avoided email completely.  
DanS734
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DanS734,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/31/2014 | 1:10:13 PM
Re: Keep It Simple
Great point Tzubair, I completely agree. Half of our team is in Redwood City, California, and half is in Barcelona, Spain.

We believe in "dog fooding" heavily and Redbooth, the product we make, integrates tasks, video and chat, so we have a lot of experience with best practices and what works best for team collaboration and productivity. 

I find that we need to get together, in person both for business meetings and spend time socially. If we don't do that, we get out of synch as a team, have a harder time agreeing and lose a lot of productivity. Videoconferencing is great, but it will never be a substitute for in-person meetings. Rather, its useful for the times we need to connect between in-person team meetings. We also use chat for quick 1:1 and team interactions and have avoided email completely.  
DanS734
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DanS734,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/31/2014 | 12:58:28 PM
Re: Keep It Simple
Thrilled to see so many great responses and discussion stemming from my article! You make an excellent point regarding accountability. Without accountability, any approach will fail miserably. I am a strong believer in in holding my team (and myself) accountable, but failed to mention it in my article. 

We use our own product, Redbooth to create due dates for personal and team tasks. We have reports and alerts flagging late tasks so managers (and the entire team) can easily see when someone is not "pulling their weight".

I also hold a weekly team meeting where each team member provides an update. The meetings are usually short since everything is tracked online already. 

At the end of each month, we hold a longer "postmortem" meeting where we look back at tasks and discuss what went well and what needs to improve for the coming month. We end that meeting by defining clear goals for the coming months. 

Hope this approach is helpful to you. Have a great new year and a productive 2015! 
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