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  • Writer's pictureLucie Poisson

Managing remote teams: Gitlab course review

Updated: May 30, 2021

How to learn the best about managing remote teams? With a Tech company of 1.300 employees working remotely in 64 countries for several years, GitLab.

When someone in my network expressed her satisfaction with the "Managing remote teams" online course prepared by GitLab, I spontaneously decided to take the class too. In the end, managing teams in a remote environment became more common with the pandemic. For having to manage a team at distance myself too, I also wanted to go further than the "learning by doing" and get some insights on how managing remote teams better in the case the situation will come again. And for sure, it will happen.

So I started the "Managing remote teams" course on the wonderful e-learning platform, Coursera, for 40 dollars. I share with you below a review of the class and my learnings and notes, as well as a selection of resources about remote teams and organizations.

"Managing remote teams": objectives and course plan

Remote managing: Course goals

With the course, "Managing remote teams", you will learn the following:

- Lead in a remote environment by building a remote organizational culture, and practices

- Build your remote work policy

- Assess the remote maturity of employees, managers as well at the organization for working remotely, and identify which remote model fits your company the best

- Create a foundational strategy for executing a remote transformation

Course plan

The course lasts 5 weeks, with an estimation of 2 hours of work weekly. But you can study all the content faster if you wish as all the courses are available from day 1.

Here is an overview of the course plan of the "Managing remote team" online course:

  • Week 1: Remote Work Best Practices

  • Why Remote Work?

  • What Is Remote Work?

  • Organizational Remote-Readiness

  • Hiring Globally and for a Remote Role

  • Remote-Specific Roles

  • Building a Team

  • Rethinking The Workspace

  • Onboarding Remotely

  • Week 2: Managing Remote Teams

  • Communication is Crucial

  • Embracing Asynchronous Communication

  • Meetings and Collaboration

  • Adopting a Results-Oriented Mindset

  • Project and Task Management

  • Understanding Job Satisfaction and Performance

  • Career Development

  • Remote Leadership and Responsibility

  • Week 3: Remote Adaptation Processes for Organizations

  • “Going Remote” is a Process For Every Organization

  • Overview of the Types of Remote Teams

  • No-Remote to All-Remote: Five Common Team Structures

  • Overview of Remote Adaptation

  • Phases of Remote Adaptation

  • Maturity Assessment

  • Planning Your Remote Transition

  • Close The Office

  • Week 4: Culture and Values for Distributed Teams

  • Defining Culture

  • How Is Culture Different at a Remote Organization?

  • Culture and Values

  • Why Develop a Set of Values?

  • Values at Other Remote Organizations

  • How to Create and Roll Out Your Values

  • Getting It Right

  • How and When to Consider Iterating on Your Values

  • Developing and Upholding Values

  • Final Assignment: Outline your Remote Transition Plan toward managing remote teams

How to managing remote teams

My 12 learnings about remote managing

  1. Transitioning toward a more remote organization is a real project and has to be considered as such: with a start and an end, tools, communication and training plans, etc.

  2. Importance of the intentionality behind working remotely.

  3. Have a remote leadership team send a signal to the employees. Starts from the top.

  4. Focus on your company values instead of a culture fit. If the person has your values, she will adapt more easily.

  5. Avoid micromanagers or people needing micromanagement + look for good communicators (especially in written forms) in your recruitment.

  6. Pay the renting of coworking office and office furniture or any other meaningful product or service if needed.

  7. Inclusion and fairness should be at the heart of remote work.

  8. Prevent burn-out. Burn-out is common in a remote environment. Detecting burnout is a responsibility of the management.

  9. Onboarding buddy.

  10. Don't mimic office habits. Skeuomorph: copy of the in-office model... but remotely: same sort of meetings or habits, same performance monitoring, etc. > Inefficiency, friction, unfairness...

  11. Single source of truth for documentation as a key for success for asynchronous work.

  12. Company culture supports business strategy + creating a system of values.

Remote managing: my unfiltered notes

  • GitLab has a "Head of remote".

  • Key: processes + being intentional regarding remote work.

  • GitLab. have a manual of 5.000 pages about the company works 😳

  • A flexible schedule is a top advantage.

  • Have a remote leadership team send a signal to the employees. Starts from the top.

  • Manual co-written by employees. Versioning. It is easier to keep it up-to-date. Empowerment culture.

  • Importance of the regulations for security, legal, data privacy. Includes payment method of the salaries.

  • Importance of inclusion too, as well as transparency (for salary, company culture...).

  • Focus on your company values instead of a culture fit. If the person has your values, she will adapt more easily.

  • Autonomous people and with self-motivation are more inclined in being successful with remote work.

  • Avoid micromanagers or people needing micromanagement.

  • Look for good communicators in your recruitments.

  • See suggestions for employees questions in recruitment:

  • Why do you want to work from home or a third space (e.g. coworking space, external office, Codi, etc.)?

  • To ensure you're communicating effectively in a remote environment, what methods or practices could you use?

  • How do you switch off from work?

  • Tell me about a time you recognized an opportunity for process improvement and how you brought that up to leadership.

  • Have you ever worked independently without direct supervision daily?

  • What are some of the things that you have struggled with or you think you will struggle with working remotely, and how do you intend to combat them?

  • What would you do if you have a piece of work that requires someone's help who lives in a different time zone, and they are not available?

  • Pay the renting of coworking office if needed. Focus on the candidate, not his environment.

  • Get training about indirect prejudices for the recruiter.

  • Workspace at home with good light, closed-door, etc. to focus.

  • Pay expenses for co-working for those who need it. Or chair. Or travel for those who want to meet.

  • Highly prepare remote onboarding.

  • Plan AMA sessions and a welcome call (with the team).

  • Let people find their way.

  • Donut system in Slack to make people meet in an aleatory way.

  • Onboarding buddy.

  • Communication challenges: asynchronous communication, cultural differences, feeling of exclusion.

  • GitLab approach: transparency, documentation, positive intent mindset, informal communication.

  • How being sure that the topic is worth the time and investment? Meeting agenda and notes, lively document for asynchronous communication, inclusive for those who prefer writing.

  • Speeding meetings of 25 or 50 minutes, so time to stretch in between.

  • Notes during the meeting are OK. Not rude.

  • OK to do something else in the meeting if you are not involved that is currently discussed.

  • OK not to attend the meeting and to cancel recurring meetings.

  • Avoid hybrid calls. If you have to do them, each one uses his laptop and his camera. More inclusive.

  • Mira and Figma tools.

  • Valuing results above everything. Not activity, not emails sent, not attendance. OKRs. Written goals, periodic reviews.

  • Don't mimic office habits. Used to synchronous communication > burn out. Encourage transparent communication (no short messages, no hidden agenda...).

  • An always-on mentality leads to burn-out.

  • Encourage learning, transparent career path.

  • Tools: 360 degrees feedback, handbook.

  • Leaders have to show the path, not only speak of it.

  • Detecting burnout is a responsibility of the management. Ask questions.

  • Focus on asynchronous work. Break up the project into independent pieces.

  • People work harder. Don't monitor their productivity. Take care of burnout.

  • Network with other remote companies to learn more.

  • Multimodal communication. Repeat and repeat in different forms.

  • Customize your approach. Several types of remote teams: %? Depends on geography or competencies? Monitoring of performance and morale? No remote, remote allowed, hybrid remote, all remove (timezone bias), all remote (asynchronous).

  • Reasons for why not being remote. Security risks, special tasks, etc. Challenges and benefits.

  • Hybrid type as the most challenging model to execute well. Problem of fairness and inclusion.

  • Salary depending on geography. A lot of administrative complexity in the background (taxes, different data privacy laws, etc.).

  • Skeuomorph: copy of the in-office model... but remotely: same sort of meetings or habits, same performance monitoring, etc. > Inefficiency, friction, unfairness...

  • Single source of truth for documentation as a key for success for asynchronous work.

  • Automattic, Gitlab, and Zapier as examples of all remote organizations.

  • Phases of remote adaption.

  • Intentionality is key for scalability.

  • Remote maturity to be checked:

  • How mature is management, and are they willing to be transparent with their team on how they are iterating on the fly as they move between phases?

  • Are managers naturally willing to adopt a mindset of trust and empowerment as opposed to command and control?

  • Is management open to transparent communication and documentation practices, or do they prefer closed doors and limited access?

  • Does a company have strong documentation for core company processes?

  • Questions to assess your technical maturity for working remotely:

  • Do team members have a strong understanding of digital communication tools?

  • Do team members have secure methods of accessing sensitive information (e.g. established VPN protocols)?

  • Does a company's business operations or IT department have strong protocols for enabling remote team members?

  • Transitioning to a remote organization as a multi-step process.

  • Remote work starts at the top.

  • Establish your remote infrastructure, document the culture... close the office.

  • Equip and educate your team members.

  • Process lasting several months to several years.

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast", Peter Drucker.
  • How is culture different in a remote organization?

  • Culture supports business strategy + creating a system of values.

The best resources to manage teams remotely

The following resources about managing remote teams are from GitLab and are part of the course documentation. They are accessible online for everyone. Here is my selection of the most relevant topics and content:

"Managing remote teams": Course review

What I liked

  • The course is short: I did it in 2,5 weeks, spending around 9 hours in total. I appreciate this duration, not because I am lazy, but because having a very packed agenda makes it sometimes hard to find time for topics like this one, that is very relevant but remain still far away from our daily business. Providing a short format like the course of Gitlab, allowing more people to be introduced in a structured and quite thorough way to the topic of remote work.

  • The precise and very well structured content, with practical examples, gives an excellent big introduction regarding managing remote teams.

  • The course is opened for all the learning weeks: it means that if you are very fast, you can do the whole course in some days. I liked this flexibility.

  • The assessment is clear, practical, and uncomplicated. Besides, it goes through all the main aspects of transitioning toward a remote organization.

  • I appreciate that there were several instructors: this is more lively.

  • I liked to read the peer assessments and their own experience with remote work.

What I liked less

  • I would have wished for more practical content regarding teamwork in a remote environment, especially when you are a team manager. For example: how to build a team culture, how to organize brainstormings or workshops remotely, how to detect issues with your employees, etc.

  • The course is often more about managing remote organizations than about managing teams in a remote environment. I would have liked to see more focus on best practices for team managers having a remote team.

My note: 8/10

Overall an excellent course that concretely helps to manage remote teams and organizations in a very structured way.

Average user rating: 4,8/5 (date: April 2021)

Managing remote teams: infographics as a summary

Managing remote teams: best practices
Managing remote teams: best practices

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