Why Every Company Should Work as If They Were a Remote Company

When you work in an office with a small team, it’s easy to cultivate a culture of co-dependence. After all, the email, the document, or the customer name that you need is just a shoulder tap away.

But relying on other people for information causes unnecessary friction in your workflow and directly hinders everyone’s productivity. Every time you tap someone on the shoulder you assume that what you need is more important than what they’re doing. It creates an entire culture around disruptiveness, where no one hesitates to interrupt their peers for their own needs.

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to ask anyone for information? If it were just readily available, right at your fingertips? For remote companies, it has to be this way.

Because remote companies tend to have employees scattered across the world, they are forced to put truly strong systems in place. As a result, everyone in a remote company is as productive as possible, because no one has to rely on other people to get the information they need.

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The Ultimate Guide to Remote Standups

Remote work is growing fast in the United States.

Since 2005, the number of people working from home at least half the time has more than doubled according to Global Workplace Analytics. Even more interesting, as many as 90% of workers in the US would prefer to work from home a few days each week.

Work as we know it is changing.

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And while most would agree that the trend is positive, there are plenty of growing pains associated with remote work, namely meetings. As offices change, communication is changing too.

For better or worse, meetings are a staple of nine to five life. But the traditional model doesn’t translate well in remote settings, where people are spread across time zones, coffee shops and coworking spaces. Asynchronous communication is key to making a distributed team work. It’s time to rethink the way me meet.

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How to Sell New Tools To Your Team

In 2013, public schools in Greensboro North Carolina received a shipment of over 15,000 iPads as part of an initiative to bring technology into the classroom. Now, those very same iPads are collecting dust because teachers either refused or didn’t know how to incorporate them in their workday.

New tools, however shiny, don’t automatically make a difference to your team. It’s up to managers to get the ball rolling.

As a manager, you might be really certain that a new tool will make a huge difference. That new CRM is going to make finding information so much easier. That communication tool is going to make everyone so much more productive. And that new email provider is going to make your data so much more secure.

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But new tools don’t make any difference at all if your team doesn’t get on board. It’s a really common phenomenon: you bring in new tools, but everyone is so stuck in their ways that they’re not willing to budge when it comes to changing how they do things. Even though you’re convinced it could help them.

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The Science Behind Why Jeff Bezos’s Two-Pizza Team Rule Works

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Once at an Amazon offsite, managers had the reasonable-sounding suggestion that employees should be increasing communication with each other. To their surprise, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos stood up and announced, “No, communication is terrible!”

This stance explains his famous two-pizza team rule, that teams shouldn’t be larger than what two pizzas can feed. More communication isn’t necessarily the solution to communication problems — it’s how it is carried out. Compare the interactions at a small dinner — or pizza — party with a larger gathering like a wedding. As group size grows, you simply can’t have as meaningful of a conversation with every person, which is why people start clumping off into smaller clusters to chat.

For Bezos, small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively rather than more, to stay decentralized and moving fast, and encourage high autonomy and innovation. Here’s the science behind why the two-pizza team rule works.

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How To Make Small Teams Actually Work With Terrible Communication

8981473860_427a454be6_kAmazon is a mess. In the words of one former Amazon.com engineer: “their hiring bar is incredibly inconsistent across teams,” “their operations are a mess,” “their facilities are dirt-smeared cube farms without a dime spent on decor or common meeting areas,” “their pay and benefits suck,” and “their code base is a disaster, with no engineering standards whatsoever except what individual teams choose to put in place.”

It’s madness! No, it’s Amazon.com. They do a lot of things totally wrong. But they make up for it (and then some) by doing one thing really, really right.

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Cells, Pods, and Squads: The Future of Organizations is Small

Think small and you will achieve big things. That’s the Yoda-esque, counterintuitive philosophy that nets Finnish game company Supercell revenues of millions of dollars a day.

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So really, how do you build a billion-dollar business by thinking small?

One key is the company’s supercell organizational model. Autonomous small teams, or “cells,” of four to six people position the company to be nimble and innovative. Similar modules — call them squads, pods, cells, startups within startups — are the basic components in many other nimble, growing companies, including Spotify and Automattic. The future, as Dave Gray argues in The Connected Company, is podular.

Still, small groups of people do not necessarily make a thriving business, as the fate of many a fledgling startup warns. What is it about the cells and pods model that presents not just a viable alternative but the future of designing how we work together?

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3 Simple Systems Tweaks for Growing Your Business

In Part 1 of this series, guest poster Mandi Ellefson showed how focusing on systems within your business brings out the best. In Part 2, she explains how to choose what to target for the most momentum.

If you want to grow your business more sustainably, be proud of every project you deliver to clients, and get the best out of your team — build systems. Focusing on your business processes empowers you and your team to do great work and see more creative, reliable results.

But if you’re impatient like me, you want to see that improvement quickly. The good news is you can begin right away with this simple method: Start small, and change one thing at a time.

Why? You’ll get immediate feedback. By focusing on one change at a time, you can isolate the results of every change you make. Putting more than one change into the mixing pot makes it tricky to analyze. Even small changes can have larger consequences. Your business is an ecosystem, so tweaking one thing can cause multiple effects.

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A Winning Formula for Building Successful Teams

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You need great teams in order to build great products. The way engineering director Rich Paret creates such teams at the Twitter-acquired Crashlytics — which provides mobile crash reporting — is to “hire for the culture you have, and the culture you want to have.”

The company culture at Crashlytics isn’t a collection of perks or a bunch of abstract values. It’s how people get stuff done together. When we visited Rich at Twitter Boston this past May, he emphasized how it’s the quality of a team’s communication that determines its outcomes.

How does a project become late?” he asked. As our minds ran through various scenarios and the complexities of managing a team, he broke our pondering pause with his simple answer — “Day by day.” Just as you can build meaningful progress day by day, you can also increasingly get off track to the point of failure. Communication losses accumulate, a slow but steady snowball, as the days roll by, when you’re not careful.

Consider the distribution and flow of information within a company. Too often knowledge is guarded amongst the people at the top, or cooped up in people’s heads, or trapped in silos. What happens then? As Rich puts it, islands of information” emerge. When different people know different pieces of information, it becomes progressively harder to reach across the waters just to know where the puzzle pieces are, let alone put the puzzle together.

One approach to avoiding islands and fostering a bridging, communicative culture is to hire smart and work smart. When you align people and process, you ultimately create strong values, culture, and behaviors.  Here’s a look at Rich’s formula for building awesome teams and in doing so, awesome company culture:

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The Benefits of a Power Nap: The Best of the Internet

Make it CountFriday link love! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week:

Why Does Your Work Matter?

The Science Behind Why Small Teams Work More Productively.

Why You Shouldn’t Scale Your Startup

Technology: “For everything we gain, we lose something in return.”

Microaggression & Mismanagement

Naps are amazing. ‘nuff said.

imageDundee’s Tip of the Week: We’re working on the start of an iDoneThis newsletter. Interested in being that super special person who will give us helpful feedback and suggestions? Sign up for some test runs until we learn how to officially fly here.