The pandemic forced everyone to go remote. Here at NOVOS even as the pandemic winds down, our team remains hybrid. With employees on four different continents in 6 different countries, operating remotely is the only option. Operating a start up across different time zones and continuing to operate with speed is difficult, but here at NOVOS we have learned to not only handle the situation but use it to our advantage.
Staying in Synch
One of the key challenges to remote operation is maintaining alignment. I am the lone U.S. based team member. Most of the team resides in Israel, with our other employees stationed from the Netherlands to Singapore. If I wait too long to ask a question, the rest of the team will already be asleep and I will not be able to complete my work.
There’s a few main ways we keep alignment at NOVOS. The first of which is the weekly meeting. When I first joined the team, the weekly was at 4 a.m. my time. In other words I was never there, and as such I struggled to understand the focus of the company and what other departments were working on. I discussed the problem with the team, and immediately the time of the meeting was altered so everyone could be in attendance.
The flexibility of the team allowed me to become more aligned with the company, and since this change our content production has become more efficient, focused, and improved dramatically in quality.
Operating with Speed
In our line of work speed is not only beneficial, but required. Video games are updated constantly, and for every update our content must be changed accordingly. At the same time as a new product, we are also adding new features frequently. To keep a quick pace a few things have to be in order.
1. Quick communication between departments
When marketing wants to work with an influencer, they have to make sure the content team will be able to help create training with that influencer. The content team then needs to make sure the development team can add that influencer to our page, so users know who they are being trained by. What seems like a simple process requires the coordination of three departments, who all have separate projects to work on at the same time, but must still be available for collaboration.
This is accomplished with a simple policy of open slack communication. When working on projects, all communication is done on channels visible to everyone in the company. This way any team member can easily view the work-flow, and the answer to any question can be viewed by all necessary parties.
This simple trick allows for all departments to understand where other departments are, and what tasks they are working on. It creates quick decision making, and reduces repeat questions and answers.
2. Clear task assignment
When working on updating our content, implementing a new feature, or working with a new influencer, the whole team must be aligned. Every department needs to know what they are responsible for, and there must be a clear expectation for when those tasks must be completed.
I work in content. I produce training content as well as videos for advertisements and copywriting for the website. If we want to launch a new feature, I have to create the advertisement before marketing can make a push, and until both of those happen RND can’t release the new feature.
I am 7 hours behind Israel time, so if I don’t have my piece done on time, I hold up the rest of the company for an entire day. That is why having clear expectations for what must be accomplished and when is so crucial.
3. Optimizing offline workflow
When executed properly, time differences can actually be an advantage. When tasks must be handed off from person to person, and be completed linearly, having a time difference between team members allows for faster completion of the task.
A task that requires 24 hours of linear work, can be completed in just two work days when being worked on in both Israel and the United States, as opposed to three full work days when being completed in just one time zone.
Using a hybrid time zone model, a task can be worked on in one country from 8:00-5:00 by somebody in one country, and then again from 10:00-5:00 in another country. Making sure that offline tasks are organized, allows team members to execute projects more efficiently.
Without accountability the whole system falls apart. Remote workers have to remain accountable to the team and themselves. Projects must be completed on time, and team members have to remain diligent, and complete their work when nobody is around. If team members fail to take responsibility to work their hours and create meaningful output on time, the whole team suffers and falls apart.
The best way to maintain accountability is with a strong mission. I don’t just mean the statement. The entire company’s passion and goals should be aligned with the interests of the team members. Only then can the company have true alignment and remote team members remain vigilant.
NOVOS does a few things to make sure every team member is aligned with the company mission. The first of which is hiring gamers. Every team member from our CEO, to head of development to our professional coaches are gamers through and through. Every team member has a connection to our mission of training gamers before they are hired.
Next is the weekly. This meeting involves the whole company, and allows every team member to see how we’re progressing and what other departments are accomplishing. It builds alignment, and using our data we inspire the team to demonstrate the impact we are having on gamers.
Finally we make sure everyone is still having fun with videogames. Twice a week we have gametime, where the whole company comes together for an hour to play some games. It’s a fun experience that not only builds comradery, but reminds us of why we love gaming in the first place.
These simple steps help keep the team aligned with our mission of training gamers, and ensures that even when working remotely, we have our core goals in mind at all times.
Running a team remotely (especially across time zones) can be incredibly difficult. When starting out there are growing pains, but all of those issues can be smoothed out overtime. By learning to align team focus you can turn what seems like a difficult situation, into an incredible advantage.