7 Tips for Working with a Distributed Team

Product Management

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The Wizeline Product team is headquartered in San Francisco, but our Engineering and UX teams are based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Collaborating across 2,000 miles and two time zones has its challenges, but our teams make it work by sticking to the following tips.

1. Over communicate 

Our Product and Eng teams sync multiple times per day. Standups each morning drive daily to-do’s. Additional meetings occur only when necessary, but we err on the side of shorter, more frequent check-ins as opposed to longer sit-down affairs. Finally, we gather as a company every Friday afternoon to provide updates and demos for the whole company. Of course, each and every one of these syncs is done over live video (a major key we will get to in a few…).

2. Set goals as a team, and check in on them regularly

In addition to covering the day’s to-do’s, morning and afternoon standups serve as check-ins for project AND personal progress. We identify where we can provide support for one another to encourage individual successes.

3. Understand and respect different work styles and personalities

Video conferencing is crucial, but we’ve found that individuals with more introverted personalities sometimes find it hard to contribute in virtual meetings. Make an effort to know one another’s personalities and work styles so you can encourage members of your team to speak up. Pro tip: we loved doing a Myers & Briggs session as a group to learn the best ways to work together. The result? Better and faster work, and a culture of reliability and trust.

4. Make an agenda and stick to it

Every sync held by Product and Engineering has a corresponding calendar invite stating two things: agenda and objectives. Having an agenda — even if it’s just 3-4 bullet points — is super helpful for keeping meetings focused and quick and ensures there are no surprises. Syncs should wrap up with reiterating individual action items to avoid duplication of effort.

5. Use collaboration tools to stay in touch and keep updated

We use Slack (of course) to chat in real time, and pin our daily tasks and blockers to project-based channels. Github is great for providing feedback between engineers. We also use Wizeline to ensure everyone is tuned in to company strategy at a high level. Lastly, we’re big fans of the ad hoc video chat, so having each conference room equipped with Chromeboxes and speakers is essential for clear communication.

6. Make time to meet in person

This isn’t easily (or frequently) accomplished if you’re based in California and your team is in, say, Tel Aviv or Bangalore. But in our case, our Mexico office is closer to HQ than New York — so shuttling between is a snap. We try to get the Product and Engineering teams face to face on a regular basis. The obvious benefit is that it’s easier to work together in person, and you also get to learn from each other’s office culture and bring it back to your home base. We love to show the Guadalajara crew our favorite eats, sights, and activities in San Francisco, and vice versa. Visits also enable us to send each other home with goodies like Ghiradelli chocolate and mezcal, which doesn’t hurt…

7. Have fun together!

Distance definitely should not stop remote teams from celebrating wins with one another. We often have cross-office launch celebrations, holiday parties, and end-of-week recap hangouts. And yes, they are all held over our live link between offices.

Wendy Posted by Wendy on Monday, February 29, 2016.

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Dec 12, 2017

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