Managing distributed teams

As you know managing distributed teams used to be really hard work.  

The differences in time, language and culture create many obstacles to effective management of projects. 

In my view, the biggest barrier to the acceptance of distributed teams is overcoming the cultural differences.

Different cultures have different customers when working together, how they communicate and accept hierarchies.

Other issues we did mention about namely language and time could be easily solved by technology.

So why the cultural differences great such havoc when people work together?

Humans by nature mistrust people who are different from them and feel uncomfortable to collaborate with them.

To manage this mistrust the management could do lots of things which we will be covering in this post.

12 rules for distributed teams

Open communication: Proper communication is essential for the success of any team, but for distributed teams it is critical.

Figure out how to make it possible for the team to have real-time communication anytime it is needed.

Also, tools like a message board could help communication when not all the team members are online at the same time.  

Select the right project management method

This might sound strange, but it is really important. You need to use a method that is compatible with remote work and distributed teams.

There are three main project management methods that are in wide use today.

The first and most popular project management method is Agile.

Due to its nature of rapid development and minimal supervision, it fits the distributed model but it is not a perfect fit.

The main reason for lack of the perfect fit is the fact that in Agile project management documentation and specification is lax.

A remote user needs to make sure that all decision and agreements about the project are known across the team. 

The second project management method in wide use is Waterfall or WBS. The waterfall method is the least compatible with remote work, due to its rigid decision-making structure.

The third project management and the newest method is Hybrid project management

The beauty of Hybrid project management is that it combines both Agile and WBS methods.

This created an environment in which rapid development and distributed decision making coexist and there is enough documentation to help the distributed teams.

Setting Rules and guidelines

Local teams need rules and structure, distributed teams need it even more.

The scope of the project needs to be absolutely clear and know to everybody on the team.

The project mission, the deadlines, how things get done, who to go when there are issues and when to ask for help, all needs to be spelled out!      



David Robins


David Robins is the founder and CEO of Binfire. David studied at both Cornell and MIT, and was the Director of Software Engineering at Polaroid for 11 years.

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