As a company, CricHQ has rapidly transitioned from a startup to a growth-based organisation, with new offices sprouting up around the world including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, and New Zealand. This transition has also meant a change in management methods, and has meant getting used to working in a more structured, formal way. The challenges faced have certainly allowed me to learn a few key lessons over the last year.
I found, as a manager over the past year, one of the biggest challenges was trying to apply all the same benefits of a startup to a rapidly growing company with a larger, more dispersed team; fast turn-arounds, quick meetings, and small focused task groups (working like it was your last day on earth!).
The lessons I’m sharing are mainly geared toward the technical developer or manager who deals with remote staff working across different time zones and hemispheres, but are also for those looking for ways to get the best out of their development teams in general. Below is a summary of my learnings gathered from the past few years, and hopefully reaffirms what you were already thinking!
- Use group messaging apps like Slack or Campfire to keep up inter-office communication
- Micromanagement doesn’t work
- Take a leaf out of Spotify’s engineering culture
- Make frequent visits to external teams
The DO NOT’s
I’ve only got one “do not” for you today, and it’s the easiest thing to do in management. Micromanaging a team at scale doesn’t work, pure and simple. You can’t be everywhere at once, and everyone ends up frustrated at the situation including yourself.
In general, people love having a certain level of autonomy, so if you can provide an environment where they don’t have you breathing “digitally” down their neck, the more productive they will be.
There are A MILLION ways to solve a problem, and the one in your head might not be the best.
Instead, try to create a culture within your team where everyone understands the company’s strategic goals, but allow your team to come up with their own means to get there.
There is a great blog from Spotify around their engineering culture which I highly recommend reading. It goes into plenty of detail around creating teams with high-alignment and high-autonomy. This allows teams of any size to work towards a common goal without being handheld through the process. Think of it as creating a scalable architecture of staff, similar to how you’d horizontally scale web services.
Seems like an obvious one, but it’s so easy to let this one slip. Particularly if you have staff out of earshot of each other, whether that’s in a different room or different country.
Group messaging apps are a great way to allow people to share knowledge and ideas in an
informal way. At CricHQ we use Slack heavily throughout the day, sharing everything from technical challenges to memes.
Another benefit to Slack is that team members in other timezones can come online and have a running commentary of what’s been happening that day, without having to have daily formal meetings which can quite easily become the bane of a manager’s existence.
Be onsite as much as possible
Even with communication tools like Slack, Google Hangouts and Skype, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Investing time and money into being face-to-face with your staff throughout the world gives staff an open opportunity to talk about what issues they’re facing. Often having a chat about problems over a drink can be easier than sending a formal email to your manager. Make sure that situation is available to your staff.
Have an open door policy
Try to involve your staff in your challenges and successes. By keeping information from your team members you might feel like you’re protecting people from certain stresses however what you’ll find if you open up the dialog is a more engaged person.
Painting an open and honest picture of the current company’s landscape, especially the niggly parts, helps unite and engage people to work towards proactively solving that problem. Once that challenge is resolved, staff will feel like they actively contributed towards the company’s success, which in turn creates that positive engagement you want out of your team.