This week my beloved Clausehound.com was accepted into the CTA New York accelerator. Our small team has been scattered around the countryside this month with team members in Ottawa, Toronto, Boston, London (Ontario) and now New York at the same time. Managing a distributed team is a puzzle that I’m eager to solve.
I’m surveying to find strategies for distributed management. As I reflect on what’s worked in past years here are a few tools and methodologies that have helped me in the past.
1. Automating requests for updates – After trying to send out a daily update request manually (which was a complete fail when my work schedule became busy) I found that tools like Boomerang or Yesware’s automated messages, requesting updates on a schedule (not necessarily daily), to be very very helpful.
2. Automating task capture – I really like the fast archiving and prioritizing of lists that Trello’s mobile interface allows for, as well as the emailing-in and capture of new task items.
3. Requesting updates on critical items DAILY – We ask our team to provide a daily customer experience update at the same time each day, so that the entire team is prepared to assist to resolve user problems that are outstanding.
4. Keeping meetings moving – Almost all tech startups I know use the “stand-up” scrums to keep the conversation fast and flowing, and the round-the-team discussion of the team’s day plan helps to identify misprioritization and “blockers”.
It makes me so happy to get in and out of a meeting quickly that I’ve started to request 15 minute meetings from our large organizational counterparties 🙂
5. Doing more with less – Keeping on top of task organization and management is a constant struggle. It’s well documented that ideal “span of control” is 6 team members, and as our team size has doubled, my span of control has been stretched. In reaction, I have tried reducing the number of projects for a single week – my thinking – by focusing the group on one major task per week.
By reducing the number of major tasks per week, I have simplified scoping, scrums, updates, testing, and reduced my STRESS (since, it really has been impossible to keep track of progress with our light management layer, and to get my own work done).
While I wait for my next flight, I worry to myself – is it realistic that the company will succeed with only one major accomplishment per week?
Ahh – the limited startup budget – it makes life exciting, anyways.