Rule 0: Choose the right people

Patti Chan, from Intridea, released an interesting post today on managing remote teams. Having managed remote teams for a year now, I empathized with each and every point.

However, to that, I’ll add a Rule #0: choose the right people. While it may sound banal, I’m thoroughly convinced that only a subset of otherwise solid workers can adapt themselves to working remotely. It requires a certain attribute that, so far, I can only summarize as “entrepreneurship”.

That is, a good remote worker is someone who, under the right conditions, is likely capable of starting their own business and succeeding without you. They can communicate effectively, know when (and when not) to, can make and keep commitments, and they can do it without the short term accountability of pair-programming, other forms of micro-management (yes, Virginia, pair-programming is a social contract form of micro-management), and the implicit peer pressure of working co-lo (and don’t even pretend to tell me that there’s no implicit peer pressure when you see some stupid/crazy bastard arriving at 8am and working until 8pm).

Communication is truly key here. As Patti pointed out, presence in a chat room is important. However, it’s more important that individuals engage one another in that shared chat. It is too easy to lurk in a chat room.

To that extent, I’ve found that extroverts tend to be more successful remote workers. Extroverts are better at overcoming the additional friction in communicating with a remote team. Yes, typing an IM or into a chat room, double clicking a person’s name in Skype and hitting the “Call” button, or just picking up the phone is harder than turning to the guy next to you and asking, “Hey, Harvey, what do you think of this?”. In my experience, extroverts are more inclined to overcome that friction because the desire to share and to externalize is part of their nature.

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Posted by evan on Friday, December 10, 2010

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