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How to Manage a Development Team During Lockdown

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With much of the planet currently under lockdown, the chances are good that if you manage a development team, you’re currently doing so remotely. If the team you manage usually sits in the same office as you, it can be difficult to make the adjustment to working remotely while keeping the same level of productivity and, just as importantly, wellbeing among your team.

It’s not just a case of getting Slack and Skype working and making sure that the kids don’t walk in during a video call. Scrums are going to run differently when they are done remotely. You can’t just pop over for a quick chat with someone when you have a question. People can’t just talk over the water cooler or in the kitchen over lunch. It is these types of interactions that help improve productivity, get ideas communicated and builds trust and support within teams and the wider organization.

So how can you replicate this across a dispersed team?

There are three ways to successfully manage a remote development team:

1. Get Connected
2. Feel Connected
3. Stay Connected

So what does all this mean? Let’s take a look.

Manage the logistics in place

We’ve all been there. The call that is booked in for 2 pm but by 2.20 pm you’re all still trying to get on the line. Videos are cutting out, nobody knows how to share the screen and the agenda is a bit of a mystery. What should have been a 15-minute catch-up has turned into an hour-long ordeal with little in the way of meaningful actions.

And it’s not just video calls. Does everyone have the right platforms for chatting to each other during the day? Are the right people being involved in the right conversations? Is information being too widely spread between Slack, email and any other document sharing sites that are being used?

Getting Connected is about putting the logistics in place and having the right platforms in place for the right purpose. More than that, it is about communicating this effectively to your team so everyone understands how it all works, making communication and clarity just as effective as if you were all in the same room.

Break the technology wall

Once you have all of the logistics in place and people know where to log on, where to leave feedback and how to use all of the tools you have in place, the next step is to make people feel connected to each other when they are sitting home alone.

This is building in the ability to replicate some of the more informal conversations around the office, but also ensuring that people are heard during calls and picking up on hints that things might be ok.

It could be simple things like asking people how their weekends were at the start of calls, phoning people one to one just to see how they are doing and not just listening to the loudest voice in the room when in group meetings.

Replicating the camaraderie between members of the team is crucial in a high pressure, highly stressful role where a lot is riding on meeting deadlines and getting things right. Putting the channels in place to encourage this is the first step. But encourage your team to use these just to blow off steam or talk about what they watched on TV last night to build some of the feelings of connectivity that can be lost when working remotely.

Avoid losing the connection

One of the hardest parts of remote working is retaining a sense of company culture among a team that has no physical touchpoints. No Friday beers, no lunchtime table tennis, and no company socials. Getting across the company values and making the team feel valued is hard when they are distributed, but that’s not to say that you shouldn’t bother.

Many teams are looking to online socials such as video movie nights, games nights and getting together on a video call to share a beer after work on a Friday. The important thing is to reach out and make that connection to make people feel part of something bigger.

We’ve written extensively about each of these points in our whitepaper: How to Successfully Manage a Remote Development Team. For more tips on how to steer your team through these tough times, click the link below to download your free copy now.

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