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We are living in a world that is heavily influenced by technology giants. Techno empires such as Facebook and Google have a lot of control over our virtual and digital worlds, spaces that are not regulated appropriately. This means that entrepreneurs are now making plans for the future of humanity.

We should be asking, is this desirable for us as a society? And more importantly, are we active participants in the construction of these futures? And if we are not, who is the creator of this vision of the future and what is in it for them? 

How we imagine the future is very powerful, because it influences the way the future develops.

If we find ourselves living in undesirable circumstances, it is because there was not enough speculation of what the future could be. If we don’t speculate on the possibilities, then we end up making decisions that bring us to a place where we may not want to be. And not because it was what we wanted, but because it was the only vision that was created. 

Facilitating the Digital Product Launch program with news organisations across Asia Pacific this year was conducted exclusively with remote teams. This process has been a learning opportunity for us and the organisations we work with. We have compiled our most important takeaways and are excited to share these insights as actionable steps.

From planning session tools and time frames to increasing C-level involvement, the following are our seven best practices for facilitating remote teams:

1. Session Planning
With online sessions there are some basic planning rules that are specifically critical for remote teams. The following are our recommendations for planning a session that achieves all of your goals:

  • Align the tools you use with the goals of the session. Do proper research and planning to ensure that each tool or feature used in the session will drive the team toward their goals
  • Setting clear expectations for the session and for the allotted time frame. It is important to ensure that the times are long enough to achieve the goals, and short enough to alleviate Zoom or video call fatigue. There is a relatively short window of opportunity with focus and attention. Sometimes it is better to split up desired outcomes over a series of sessions, rather than trying to get it done in one.

2. Budget Extra Time For Learning Tools
When conducting online sessions the teams are learning the content as well as how to use new online platforms. Any digital collaboration tools such as Miro, Google Jam Board or Mural takes time for teams to learn. It is important to remember that it is ongoing learning as well. The way the tools are used change slightly during the project. Be sure to budget time to explain how to use the software initially as part of the first session. As things progress, include micro training moments on any new features used to maintain a level of speed and understanding.

3. Maintain Engagement, Set Clear Goals
It is important to help team members stay on track and engaged by showing them that their contributions matter. Set a clear goal for each session and then show the team how they are moving closer to it with smaller goal posts.  The more that they contribute, the more they can see they are adding value. Especially when the end goal is in sight, it is important to offer encouragement as they move together towards a collective end goal.

4. Collaborative Prototyping
A prototyping is a critical step in the design process. It is an early way to test a new product, concept or process. Remote work has created new opportunities in the prototyping stage by allowing for more collaborative working conditions. Creating computer-based prototypes that have realistic user interactions like clickable links is primarily done by coders and designers.

However, once that prototype comes back to the team, they are able to use collaborative online tools to give feedback and make changes as a group. This is a much simpler and refined way of working, as they are all able to interact with the prototype on their own screen. This level of engagement is superior to past in-person sessions where people would gather around one computer looking over the operator’s shoulder.

5. Increased C-Level Involvement
Previously with in-person sessions having the CEO or C level person in the room could create complex time management issues as things were moved around to suit their schedule. However with online sessions it can be as simple as blocking 15 minutes in their calendar and they join the meeting from anywhere. This way getting approval and buy-in is faster and more convenient for all involved.

It is important to understand that executives are time poor. It is important to be clear with them how you would like them to give feedback or support. This way they understand the role they are expected to perform. Use their time wisely. Engaging them throughout the process and understanding when to bring them in for feedback and participation is key building encouraging consistent engagement with the project.

6. Visual Records
Additional benefits of using a visual collaboration platform such as digital boards like Miro or Mural, is it becomes an organised space where all of the previous work has been stored. It is possible to track the journey of product development systematically by going through the content. When C level executives or senior stakeholders get involved for feedback it can be used as a clear visual hierarchy to take them through. This creates a concise way of keeping records that can be communicated quickly and saved for anyone to access in the future.

7. Facilitate In Pairs
Running online sessions involves wearing many hats. This can be anything from training participants in how to use online tools, tech support when issues arise and the management of running the sessions. For these reasons it is a good idea to facilitate in pairs to break up the duties and keep things running smoothly. Bringing an additional facilitator to the sessions accomplishes two things; it brings a different point of view to the room and it allows the other facilitator time to catch up on what other team members are doing. And most importantly having another facilitator to bounce off of helps to keep the energy high, as Zoom fatigue is an issue that also affects facilitators and needs to be managed. 

More Information

Working with remote teams can feel like a difficult undertaking in the current environment. Despite the challenges we have found that facilitating remote teams can be streamlined, collaborative and produce results with valuable outcomes. If you would like to learn more, please get in touch to learn more about our Facilitation Experience and our Digital Product Launch program.

By Paulo Armi, Visual Designer and Daniel Ieraci, Service Designer

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