otsukare Thoughts after a day of work

Working AS a distributed team. No more remote workers

When you say remoter workers, you already failed your intents of having an effective team. Companies setting up "friendly remote work environment" are most of the time failing at understanding the nature of the issues. The best way you can set up a distributed team is by forgetting about the workers and focusing on the work itself.

I'm working at Mozilla in the Web Compatibility Activity. I'm part of a now 4 persons team (Mozilla staff) and a couple of active contributors. For the Mozilla staff part:

  • Mike Taylor in Texas, USA
  • Hallvord Steen in Norway
  • Adam Stevenson in Ontario, Canada
  • Karl Dubost (myself) in Kanagawa, Japan
  • We have contributors in India, Japan, France, Romania, Brazil, Mexico, etc.

We are working together.

The most important part of creating a successful distributed team is when you stop thinking that there are remote workers in your team. You need to consider that the work can be done from anywhere by anyone competent for the job. This will give a good base for organizing the work in terms of process, protocols and tools to be productive and effective. That's the key, the only one.

Some tips:

  1. Choose open first: Opening a private discussion is a lot harder, than making a private comment on a discussion.
  2. Record Action Items: Have action items which are identifiable by all the team members you are working with (and broader when possible. See 1.). These items need an owner, an unambiguous actionable task, a target or context and a deadline.
  3. Record any meetings: When there is a meeting, write down detailed minutes on the spot. Give these minutes a unique and stable URI. The context might be useful for another team or a new employee later on.
  4. Share your work assets with others: Anything you produce, code, documents, etc. Give access to it. Share it as early as possible with again stable and public URIs.
  5. Share your worklog: This helps others to decide if they can request more things from you. This will help them to decide if they can make progress on their own job.
  6. Web Archived Mailing-Lists: Set your mailing-list archives in a way that makes it accessible to everyone (to the world if possible, to the entire company, and in some very rare contexts to only your team)

There are many others small tips to make this more effective, but these will go a long way in achieving your goals.

The amazing benefits of working that way is that it doesn't allow only for a distributed team, it makes the whole organization more robust by having a solid information flow management.

PS: I have been working in a distributed way at W3C, Opera and now Mozilla for the last 15 years. In my work history, I still consider the W3C (2000-2008) the best place for distributed work among staff. I don't know about W3C today.

Otsukare!