I strongly believe that a remote team can give you that edge to your business, if done right.
An effective remote team is not only cost-effective. It can also help you scale your business, even during these trying times.
Leading virtual teams and scaling with global freelancers is possible today and solves a huge problem of every organization: finding the right talent when you need it and leading these experts to deliver reliable results. Leveraging the power of virtual teams of global freelancers will empower you to scale your Ocean Friendly Ecommerce Brand beyond your imagination.
In this post, we going to show you how to get access to selected global freelancers, the best collaborative tools and proven effective workflows. The goal is to put together a digital leadership system that supports you with leading a distributed workforce and with a growing culture of high performance.
Key elements of Succesful Ecommerce virtual teams
Leading virtual teams for your Ocean advocate brand requires structure and a systematic approach that is different from how local teams work and communicate. Scaling an ocean e-commerce business means making implicit knowledge explicitly available to your team members and create a system that supports people in doing the right things right.
Applying proven systems will enable you to lead virtual teams with transparency and control over results and progress. The essential building blocks to lead high-performance virtual teams successfully are summarized as follows: Having the right people assigned to the right roles creates the solid architecture of your team. These people working according to standards provided by structured workflows and supported by the right tools is the basis to build a reliable high-performance team. Collaborative success is all about people, tools and workflows that create your standard of working in distributed and dynamic teams of both local employees and global freelancers.
To become a champion in your market, the team must have absolute clarity about the goal, the exact rules of the game and good collaborative skills.
Building a solid digital leadership will allow you to collaborate with experts from all over the world that work 100% remotely but with the control, transparency and reliability that you require to build and grow your Ocean Brand.
The key concept is to lead people by results, explicit agreements and facts instead of by availability, implicit expectations and subjective opinions. Building a culture of absolute clarity and accountability in your Ocean startup will avoid the typical pitfalls of endless video calls, frequent meetings, constant communication and interruptions that create underperformance and frictional losses.
Implementing systems will provide you with a rich culture of trust, transparency, results and accountability and systematically lead to much higher performance in your team.
The difference between outsourcing and a remote team
Outsourcing and a remote team may be similar in nature, but there’s a significant difference between these two concepts.
Outsourcing is when you delegate aspects of your business to a contractor or outside entity and trust them to execute all the goals that have been mutually agreed upon.
On the other hand, a remote team (which is what we do at Pixc) is when you grow and cultivate a distributed workforce. Instead of merely handing off tasks to a random office or someone else’s team somewhere in the world, it’s about finding a group of people that share the same values as you, and are as dedicated to your company vision and mission as you are.
With a remote team, you get to define your company culture. You get to build it from scratch. Employees can establish rapport amongst each other, learn from each other, and encourage one another to grow.
It’s the opposite of outsourcing when the extent of interaction between colleagues is limited to transferring tasks.
If your goal is to work with people that will value your company with the same gravity as you do, remote hiring is the way to go.
Finding the right experts for Ocean Friendly Brand
In order to fill the defined roles of your virtual team correctly, you need the right experts with the right skills and the necessary experience working in the right roles.
The setup defines the architecture of your team. Having a blueprint of your perfect team setup is the key to a reliable and scalable virtual team that delivers performance consistently.
Your exact role definition helps you to hire not only by sympathy but by soft skills, hard skills and experience. Having the right experts working in the right roles in your team accounts for at least 50% of your team’s probability of success. The remaining 50% are determined equally by the right workflows and the right tools that support your team and give you transparency and control over results and progress.
The key is improving the role description with every pitfall you encounter so that your learnings are systematically embedded in your work and don’t only depend on anyone’s personal experience or gut feeling. Hiring the right people and improving your teams’ performance continuously across your organization is crucial for successful organizations and it all starts with the right requirements in your role description and the proper architecture of your team.
Defining roles properly for your brand
With the right setup and alignment of roles, you systematically design the architecture and basic structure for a high-performance team that is flexible and reliable at the same time.
As with every system that needs to deliver performance reliably, details matter and each component in the system must exactly understand its purpose, its accountability, its responsibility, the standards, procedures and the tools for collaboration. Other expectations such as availability or response time bring clarity and reduce complexity, friction and unmet expectations.
The separation between accountability and responsibility is a very important key concept of high-performance teams. A person that is accountable owns the result and must know the current progress at any time. This person needs to decide on staff and strategy changes. The accountable person can delegate single tasks or responsibilities but still owns the overall result. This means that if the person you delegated to fails, the delegated subject comes back to you and you as the accountable person have to deal with it. The accountable person should provide a KPI system to track results and quality standards for the responsible person so that the responsible person can get feedback about her progress at any time and has full transparency about her performance.
The responsible person has to produce the required results, deliver the required KPIs and has to take the required tactical actions to deliver the result. The responsible person must inform about the status and progress in the agreed interval and ask for help and support if needed.
You want to optimize for delegation chains that are as short as possible. And of course, you want to keep everyone in the team accountable for their own work results and make sure that everyone gets the clarity, transparency and control over their own work to be able to understand their current performance and progress.
Transparency and clarity bring focus into your organization and allows leaders to coach people personally to deliver the required and committed results. The architecture of a high-performance team counts on leaders instead of managers. Leaders that help people to deliver performance based on objective indicators instead of managers that manage people like resources.
Other than a local team, a virtual team can be distributed across different time zones and usually works asynchronously. This means that although there are and must be fixed meeting times to find a common rhythm for the team, not everyone in the team is available at all times.
To avoid disappointment from unfulfilled implicit expectations, it is essential that these expectations are clearly communicated for all team members as well as transparent and persistent anchored in your leadership system. This is done in the role description.
Make sure to create many smaller roles rather than one big role. This allows you to fill each role with real experts instead of average allrounders that might be able to do everything, say no to nothing but deliver only average results.
Roles that contain too many demands on skills and experiences can only be filled by all-rounders who usually only have average quality in their individual skills and won’t meet the expectations and performance in the long run. Now you might be lucky and find such a person.
If you rely only on great all-rounders, this will create a huge dependency on this individual within your organization and decreases your flexibility as these people are typically very hard to find. A role description should at least clarify the following areas as clearly as possible.
You can use your role description as internal documentation, for coachings and to provide crystal clear expectations which will result in a much higher performance compared to little clarity and implicit expectations.
The following parts should be included in a proper role description that allows you to assess and lead properly.
- The purpose of the role.
- To create a proper purpose description for a specific role, you can answer the following questions:
- Why do you need this role, why does this role exist?
- What problem are you trying to solve with this role and which results do you want to achieve?
- What is the background of having this role? For example, what happened in the past that shouldn’t happen again when this role is filled with an expert?
- To create a proper purpose description for a specific role, you can answer the following questions:
- The key performance indicators (KPIs) per role to measure performance are important to define and track performance continuously
- KPIs are results that you want to measure consistently with numbers to provide objective insights on how well things worked in the past as a result of the activities of the person. Measuring key driver activities, which are actions and activities of the person in the role that lead to the results that you want to measure, will give you insights if things are happening in a way so that you achieve the results that you want. With KPIs you set the focus of people to what really matters. Make sure that systems in your organization provide transparency about these numbers for example via KPI dashboards.
There is a framework called RACI Framework. The RACI Framework helps you define accountabilities, responsibilities, people to inform and people you can request for consultation when working in a specific role on a specific subject. Clarity about these subjects brings focus to your organization and reduces noise that comes through constant communication and interruptions which are often caused by missing clarity. The following topics of the RACI matrix should be covered in a proper role description
- Accountability of the role
- Each accountability can only be assigned to one person at a time.
- Accountable people don’t have to be responsible to do work directly, but they are held accountable for the result and need to ensure that whoever is responsible executes and delivers the agreed results and provides transparency about progress.
- Responsibilities of the role
- Several people can be “responsible” for the same thing.
- People who are responsible have to work directly on delivering the expected results, monitor their own performance and report in the agreed system.
- Having both accountable and responsible people in the team adds checks and balances and a separation of control and interest which provides a setup that leads to higher performance and better quality of results.
- Reports the person must create
- Define clearly which reports you want, in which interval you want them, which data they contain or better said, which questions the data should answer you and which tool should be used to provide the reports.
- Don’t waste time in meetings asking the same questions and waiting for people to start thinking about the right answers. Work asynchronously and focused instead and have people that are prepared for meetings and give status updates consistently based on well prepared facts. A written check-in with a status update before the meeting starts raises the necessity for preparation.
- We provide you with a Slack bot that automatically asks team members for their updates and creates the reports you require per team member or role so that you’re always up to date about the progress and results of each team member. You can define the questions that will give you the answers needed and our bot meets everyone in the team to get you the answers.
- The required availability and in which time zone a person should work
- This can be for example from 2pm to 6pm CEST “Central European Summer Time” on each working day for example
- If you don’t require 24/7 availability of the team, you usually want a 2h overlap to all team members of the team for synchronous meetings and the rest of the work is getting done asynchronously.
- If a person commits to working in a requested time zone, it is not relevant in which time zone they are based. The only thing that matters is that they are OK eventually working at night to ensure availability in your requested and agreed time zone. Remember: A strong agreement needs to be committed by all parties, not just the person that requests for the agreement. If you don’t have the commitment of all parties, your agreement is at risk to be not reliable.
- Required hard skills of person in this role
- Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify and to recognize by a third person. Typically, you’ll learn hard skills at school, in certification classes, through books or other training materials, or on the job with ongoing experience.
- Hard skills are for example programming with a specific programming language, reading, writing and understanding a specific language, designing user interfaces, working according to specific standards are examples of hard skills.
- Required soft skills of the person in this role
- Soft Skills are subjective skills that are much harder to quantify and most likely have to deal with subjective, personal interaction, so they are also known as “people skills” or “interpersonal skills”. Soft skills describe the way you relate to and interact with other people. Unlike hard skills, it’s hard to point to specific evidence that you possess a soft skill. Soft skills are for example:
- Problem-solving abilities
- Time management
- Work ethic
- Having specific soft skills in addition to the core values of a person will become an important part of your culture. However, not every person working in your company must bring all soft skills that you as a person like. It is more important that the person brings the soft skills that are required to fill the assigned role successfully so that the person can contribute value to the team.
- Required certifications for the role
- This can be for example a certificate for an AWS solution architect, for standards such as ITIL, Scrum Master, Product Owner, a ISO certification etc. There are many organizations that provide such certificates and you should be aware of the difference in order to ask for the standard that best supports your needs.
- Make sure to only demand for those certificates that are really required. Remember how important it is to fill your roles with experts in one specific subject instead of depending on all-rounders that are hard to find and create high dependencies.
- To which standards must a person comply within this role. This must be a standard that people explicitly can read, learn and follow.
Remember: A standard that is not enforced is just a suggestion. A standard thatis not written and readable for a 3rd person anywhere is not a standard as it can’tbe followed and tested clearly by any person based on objective criteria.
- Required legal documents for the role
- If people of a certain role have access to personally identifiable information, freelancers with this role should sign an additional data processing agreement. Depending on the country where the person works, the data processing agreement to cover GDPR regulations can vary.
- Required languages and language level
- We recommend using English as the main language of any team. Just because a copy text writer or business analyst must speak a local language different than English, that doesn’t mean all other roles must speak this local language as well. If you require a local language for every role it’s a lot harder to find the right talent meaning you will get fewer candidates, it takes longer to find the right person and you don’t benefit from possible lower hourly rates due to a lower cost of living in some regions of our world.
And then there are some other topics that should be included in the role description or at least in internal procedures and policies that a person working in a specific role should follow. We will cover the following topics in separate videos in more detail.
- What tools or frameworks should people working in this role use?
- To make sure that the person is onboarded and off-boarded from the tools she should work with, this is described in a onboarding checklist.
- Onboarding steps for a person in this role
- Offboarding steps for a person in this role
Make sure to update the role description with every important learning so that this learning is persistent and improves your next hire’s experience and performance right from the start. Continuous improvements are important to create a team that delivers performance consistently and makes your organization better and better over time.
For testing freelancers with real work tasks, you can ask freelancers to do test tasks during the hiring and assessment process. However, good freelancers will only perform paid test tasks.
Why? It’s because for good freelancers it’s easy to find well-paid jobs so they don’t have to do work for free. If they had to, the price per hour for regular work will be a disadvantage for you and simply more expensive.
See this flexibility as your advantage and start working with some freelancers that seem to match your expectations and then test them in real work scenarios. This real work experience will give you valuable insights for a proper experience-based decision instead of an early opinion.
If you just rely on the result of assessments, you will find people that are good at assessments. Nothing can replace real work experience and we provide you with the flexibility and the service to find and test good freelancers so that you can choose the best ones based on true experience instead of just opinions.
Keeping your team focused
Focussing your team on subjects that really matter is one of the most important things to consider when creating an environment of high performance for your team.
To keep performance in your team-high, you have to keep people accountable and their roles as clean as possible. This will allow every team member to work in the scope of their core expertise with a maximum focus on what they can do best. As they say “Where focus goes, energy flows”.
This is true for every individual in your team and should be a core rule and a cultural habit. Most freelancers are subject matter experts that require a work environment where they can focus on their strongest skills in order to be successful and happy at work.
Demanding for too many expert skills in one single role is a typical sign for the root cause of average quality and low performance. The roles in teams such as marketing teams, sales teams, accounting teams, design teams or social media teams must be structured to promote clear accountability and clarity.
If you want to maintain the performance of your team we highly recommend avoiding role pollution. You can decide to give a person more tasks and responsibilities if you want to accept the risk that this extra assignment might lead to lower quality of the main work the person was initially hired for.
The 3 core roles of every team
The architecture of a team and the accountabilities and responsibilities of every team member and how they collaborate is the basis for reliable results and success with your virtual team. . With these roles you ensure by the design of your team that all-important accountabilities and responsibilities are covered and your expectations are clearly delegated.
Multiple roles can be assigned to one person. This should only happen if the person understands the role clearly and also understands the time impact on other roles he/ she has. The assignment of additional roles should only happen with clear intent and commitment of both sides and in no case just accidentally or because there is no other person yet available that can do the work.
Team owner: Owns the value of the results of the team like the value of the software that is developed for their users or the value of the ads and marketing assets for the target audience. The team owner defines the team architecture and setup, can hire and release the team or individuals of the team. The team owner owns the scope, and the return on investment, she conveys her vision to the team and responds to questions during execution. For this as well as for any other responsibility, the team owner can hire additional experts and delegate accountability, responsibilities, or single tasks to them. Typically this happens by hiring a product owner in case of a scrum-based team and a project manager to delegate management of resources such as time, budget, scope quality etc. She ensures that the team is doing the right thing, basically the things that create the most value, by creating understandable requirements, clearly communicating measurable goals that the team can understand and track, monitoring results and giving objective feedback frequently to the team.
The team owner as well as every other person in the team and any stakeholder has to respect that teams self-organize and don’t demand additional work in the middle of an active sprint. Otherwise, the team gets distracted and focus gets lost which will result in a direct performance decrease.
Team lead: The team lead owns the quality of the results like durability, reliability, maintainability etc. for software or the right marketing mix or the return on ad spend for example for performance marketing. He is available for the team to answer subject-related questions in the first place and can forward questions to the team owner if no answer is found in the team. She, as an expert in her field, monitors that the team is doing things right. The team-Lead must be the person with the broadest knowledge related to the subject of the team and must have the longest experience. She / He is the one to review team results and decide about activities to improve them.
Process Owner: The person in this role owns the process and the workflow of the team. This can be a Scrum Master if the team works according to Scrum. The person owns communication and leads the team through the process. This person reports on the team’s performance in terms of budget, time spent, results delivered and other agreed KPIs to track and she escalates issues to the team owner to make fact based decisions.
The person owns the collaboration and the communication of the team and escalates issues to the team owner. He/ She helps the team to properly plan sprints using the budget provided by the team owner and helping the team schedule what’s done per sprint.
The process owner has to shield the team from distractions and ensures the Scrum methodology or any other collaboration structure and workflow is followed. This can be for example having regular meetings, working in sprints, continuous communication within the team, delivering status updates etc..
You can also use Kanban, ITIL or other process standards in your teams, but there must always be a master role for this process who is responsible for implementing, optimizing and controlling the process in the team so that collaboration works smoothly and communication in the team is effective. Having a process that the team sticks to for collaboration makes sure that communication is structured and results of each individual contribute to the overall results of the team.
Selecting the right tools for your Virtual team
Tools can have a huge impact on the efficiency of your team, on accessibility of information and on the joy of work of every team member if they are selected and used properly. Let me show you how you can select on the right tooling for your virtual team.
Tools have the important task to support the team in digital workflows and digital communication in the best possible way and to bring clarity, transparency and structure into the collaboration of teams. They also help to persist knowledge and information that is generated during the process so that single dependencies on individuals are kept low and knowledge can be used to onboard new team members and transfer work-related knowledge to them.
Tools also aim to provide transparency on performance and progress and to enable asynchronous collaboration between distributed team members in different parts of the world. You’ll learn more about asynchronous communication in the video named “Effective communication”. The right tools digitize your team’s workflows and provide the basis for the automation of repeatable tasks and reports.
Most virtual teams we work with the following tools for the specific categories:
- Project management: Jira, Clickup, Asana or Trello
- Time tracking: Jira, Tempo, Toggl, Hubstaff
- Chat communication: Slack or Microsoft teams
- Video chat: Zoom, Slack or Microsoft Teams
- Process automation: Zapier, Microsoft Flow
- File storage: Google Drive, Microsoft Sharepoint
- Accounting: Xero or Quickbooks
- Documentation: Confluence, Google docs, Office 365
- CRM: Pipedrive, Hubspot, Salesforce
- Code versioning: Github, Gitlab, Bitbucket
- Password management: Lastpass, Dashlane
These are the most important tools for your team that foster digital collaboration and provide transparency over progress and results. When your virtual organization progresses, there will be other tools that support your workflows and make your team’s work more efficient but we recommend to start with those tools that matter most to keep complexity and technical debt low.
In virtual teams we recommend relying exclusively on cloud tools, taking into account the necessary measures for compliance with the regulations such as GDPR and general data and service security, as these contribute to a high degree of automation via integration and can be operated with very low maintenance. A precondition for working with virtual teams is that everyone in the team, no matter where they are, has secure access to your infrastructure, applications and tools needed to complete the tasks and get the work done according to the
workflows and standards that you deployed. This digital and accessible work environment ensures that everyone in the team has transparency about the current status and gets supported by a digital leadership system that helps the team to collaborate effectively.
Tools that support digital collaboration will help you implement workflows based on asynchronous communication that doesn’t require physical presence and synchronous meetings.
Be aware that tools are never the real problem nor the real solution. In most cases you will find a solution for a specific problem and end up with yet another tool that does not integrate well in your overall landscape and processes, duplicates features of other tools and so increases complexity and technical debt that will increase costs for support, cleanup and maintenance of these tools and confuse people that use them. Tools should support you in doing effective things that you want to do with more efficiency. Choose tools wisely in order to not unnecessarily increase the complexity and technical depth of your organization.
Scrum in virtual teams
Scrum is made to provide flexibility and structure at the same time and to cope with changing environments at increasing speed while making progress transparent and measurable. Scrum is an agile framework that provides structure for collaboration in a team that has to deliver product increments and provide flexibility to adopt in a complex and changing environment. Scrum is not a framework without clear rules, workflows and policies.
Accountability of every role, performance monitoring and clarity of goals, progress and of requirements is key to build a high performance scrum team that delivers results. Policies and procedures that have been established in the past should be considered as standards for the team. Policies and procedures help to manifest learnings of past failures in the organization and to avoid making the same mistakes again and again. Without them, there is no support for the team that prevents them from failing over and over again with the same mistakes. Policies and procedures should be reviewed at least every year to avoid ineffective restrictions that block the team but have no real value anymore as the environment of the team changed. The so-called scrum ceremonies keep the communication flow structured and the team’s activities aligned towards the sprint goal.
A typical scrum team consists of 3 core roles which are the product owner, the scrum master and the delivery team. Additionally we recommend that every delivery team has a team lead that owns the quality of the results of the team. If you didn’t watch the video “The 3 core roles of every team” I want to encourage you to watch this video and learn about the base setup of every team.
The product owner is accountable for the overall product and responsible to create proper requirements that the team can understand and implement. The product owner as well as any other role can delegate responsibilities to other members of her team or to additional assistants but the accountability will stay. Typically a product owner can delegate the detailed writing of user requirements to a business analyst that is an expert in gathering and understanding requirements. The product owner accepts the implementation of the delivery team.
The scrum master is accountable for the structured collaboration of the team according to agile values and agreed standards. He is accountable and responsible to establish a meeting rhythm that supports all participants in collaboration and in making progress towards the common sprint goal. She is responsible to provide structure and an agenda in each meeting so that every meeting has a clear purpose, a clear outcome and is not perceived as a waste of time by the team. The scrum master is NOT a project manager and not an assistant for the team, which is often confused. The scrum master can be better compared to a coach for the team, a leader that helps and supports instead of manages.
If your project requires a project manager, which most projects do, this can be a separate role that is hired by the team owner. The team owner delegates management of project constraints to the project manager. In a scrum team, the project manager helps the team to track the allocation and utilization of resources and to implement reports and tracking so that the team owner has transparency about the progress of the team and helps to provide the data for the team owner to make decisions about the team setup. These restrictions and resource can be time, money, other resources, quality, scope, velocity, incorporation of change etc. The team owner also hires the product owner as part of the team to delegate ownership of the product.
The delivery team is responsible to deliver the implementation of the commonly agreed sprint scope defined by the product owner and agreed on by the team.
The successful implementation of a requirement must match the acceptance criteria of each backlog item and the definition of done of each backlog item. Depending on the subject that the delivery team needs to work on, the delivery team consists of different roles. A software development team typically consists of a software architect, a system architect, a quality assurance engineer, a frontend developer and a backend developer. The more important failure safety is for you and your team, the more important it is that you delegate responsibilities to peers of 2 or more people. Having only one person in one specific role will result in a single point of failure in case the person becomes unavailable. This is relevant for every team setup and every role.
The team lead as part of the delivery team is accountable for the quality of the result in his area of expertise like software development or digital marketing.
Work in scrum is framed in sprints. A sprint usually takes 1-4 weeks and has the goal to deliver all requirements the team committed to. Requirements of the whole product are organized and prioritized by the product owner as backlog items in the product backlog. Backlog items are refined and estimated by the team during backlog grooming sessions and re-prioritized by the product owner. Backlog grooming sessions take place during the sprint for example every week for 30 minutes. During the backlog grooming session, those backlog items in the product backlog that were changed or added by the product owner are refined. Sprint backlog items during a sprint never change unless the whole team agrees so that the team can focus on delivering what they committed to. The team processes the product backlog items for refinement according to their priority. Most important items are processed first while the priority is given by the order of the backlog items. Estimations can be given by time or by complexity assigned to a
backlog item. A precondition for moving a backlog item from the product backlog to the sprint backlog is that the backlog item matches the definition of ready. The definition of ready is a checklist that contains all preconditions that need to be fulfilled so that the item is ready to beimplemented by the delivery team. Remember that It is the accountability of the product owner to define and prioritize requirements properly. The team organizes itself during the sprint and gets supported by the scrum master. To establish a transparent and structured communication, the team agrees on specific meetings with a clear purpose and a clear agenda per meeting.
Typical meetings in scrum are set up and defined as follows. The sprint planning meeting has the goal to define the scope of work for the next sprint. The whole team is responsible for filling the sprint backlog with items that have been prioritized by the product owner. Only those items that match the definition of ready can be moved from the product backlog to the sprint backlog. The typical definition of ready requires an item to be estimated by time or complexity. Estimations for backlog items are created as an estimation that was discussed and agreed on by the delivery team. Typically this estimation session can take place in a format called planning poker which can be integrated into the backlog grooming session. Every team has a capacity according to the weekly availability of each team member.
The team can move as many backlog items to the sprint backlog as long as the sum of all backlog item estimates doesn’t exceed the team capacity. It is important that all team members attend the sprint planning meeting and collaborate on the scope of the next sprint. The sprint planning meeting ends with a commitment of the team to the scope which is defined by all backlog items in the sprint backlog.
Just to remember: A sprint has the goal to deliver all items of the sprint backlog and prove the definition of ready for each item. The result of a sprint is called a “product increment” which must be usable for its purpose after the sprint review. During the sprint, communication and alignment of the team is established by processing the sprint ceremonies. Sprint ceremonies are regular meetings that are defined as follows:
The daily meeting has the purpose to make progress transparent and identify blockers of individual team members. Identified blockers can be solved after the meeting with only those participants that need to be involved. The daily meeting is typically initiated and moderated by
the scrum master and has a maximum duration of 15 minutes. It is sometimes called “standup meeting” or “Daily scrum meeting”.
The sprint review meeting has the purpose to review the results of the sprint and get theacceptance from the product owner. The results are verified while the delivery team presentseach implemented backlog item to the product owner and proves the completion by processing the items of the definition of done checklist. The product owner approves and confirms the
implementation of each backlog item and accepts or declines the results. Backlog items that don’t match the definition of done or that are declined by the product owner for any other valid reason will be moved to the product backlog and will be re-prioritized by the product owner for upcoming sprints.
The sprint retrospective has the purpose of identifying potential action items for improvements during the upcoming sprints to increase the performance and quality of delivery of the whole team. Feedback is given by each team member in a way that other team members can understand what went well and what could be even better. Feedback must be objective based on recordable facts so that everyone in the team can understand what practically needs to change. For deeper information on this subject watch the video “Giving effective feedback”. The result of the retrospective meeting is a list of practical action items that should result in improvements for the next sprints. It is important that these action items are documented systematically in meeting notes or extend the definition of ready and the definition of done in the
backlog item template or result in a new item in a checklist that supports the team to remember this improvement in its specific context. Each improvement item needs an owner that is accountable for these improvements while the whole team is responsible for their implementation.
The standard performance metric in scrum is the team’s velocity. The team velocity is a measure of the amount of work a team can get done during a single sprint and is the key performance indicator in Scrum. Velocity is calculated at the end of the sprint by the sum of all estimated story points or time estimations for all fully completed user stories of the product backlog. Measuring the velocity and making this KPI transparent to theteam is a very important feedback mechanism. Based on this KPI the team can determine
whether process changes are required or productivity needs to be improved. Measuring the team’s velocity is the basis for release planning in scrum.
Scrum with virtual teams does not differ in process, meetings, artefacts and roles from Scrum ina local team. Since “ad hoc communication” often interferes and distracts people from having focus on what really matters to make progress towards the defined goal, adherence to a strict
Scrum process is absolutely necessary and brings the required clarity to the team. If the Scrum team gets supported by a digital work environment, you can digitally record know-how during the process, for example by recording the sprint reviews, presenting each individual requirement, and if necessary also the sprint planning, and storing it in a media library such as Microsoft Stream, Vimeo or YouTube. This way, knowledge remains persistent and can also improve and speed up onboarding for future new team members systematically. If knowledge is persistent in your digital work environment, the team stays independent of specific project related knowledge of individuals that might leave if a team member leaves.
Of course, this requires training of every team member and continuous feedback during the process which is mainly given in the sprint retrospective..
A structured implementation of scrum is a reliable way to ensure that communication takes place regularly and with a focus on delivering the common sprint goal. Tools for task tracking, collaboration and communication are essential to support the team and provide transparency over goals and progress.
Proper Onboarding and Offboarding
Without a proper onboarding, the integration of each expert into your team will be less efficient. The onboarding is the basis for an expert that really fits into your team and becomes a valuable team member that contributes to the overall team performance.
Proper onboarding of new team members ensures that the person gets access to all tools and standards and gets the initial training to understand expectations, accountabilities, responsibilities and how the team collaborates.
The first step in every onboarding should be that the onboarded person reads and understands the role description she is working in and to get a clear commitment to cover all items in the role description. The more clear the role description is, the easier it is to stick to it, keep people accountable and coach them. A good way to double-check the proper understanding of a person’s role is to let this person give a presentation of her role to the team. Everyone in the team will get a clear picture of the new persons’ understanding and can help to clarify missing pieces.
The onboarded person must have a mentor assigned that is the contact person to go to for any role-related questions. A person that processes the onboarding will always have questions. Having a mentor that can reply in a predefined time frame is crucial to get progress in onboarding and to keep the onboarded person engaged and motivated.
A checklist for the onboarding of a person should contain all tools the person needs access to. Processing this onboarding checklist reversely will be the guide to offboard a person. During the first weeks of the onboarding, the onboarded person must have regular check-ins with her mentor to track progress and identify obstacles on a way to a successful and productive onboarding. We recommend at least one structured and well prepared meeting per week. For more details about efficient meetings see the videos “Effective communication” and “Giving effective feedback”.
If a person working in a specific role requires additional training, this training is provided by the mentor or any other available expert that has enough experience in the required skills. This training becomes part of the onboarding.
Onboarding should not happen by accident. Having a structured onboarding process ensures that no important step gets forgotten and all important parts of the onboarding are processed correctly.
The offboarding starts when a person leaves the team. Offboarding of a person can be processed for a specific team or for the overall organization. If you have a structured onboarding process, the offboarding process basically follows the onboarding steps reversely. During the offboarding process, you should ensure that access to all tools is removed to comply with your data privacy and security policy. Having a password manager will help to process this with ease.
Offboarding can give you valuable insights into your organization. Make sure to have a final offboarding interview with the person leaving and ask for honest feedback and her experience in working with other team members, your tools and your workflows. There’s always room for improvement and these insights are often valuable for you and your team.
Transparency is also important during offboarding of a team member. Make sure to communicate the leave of a team member to the rest of the team and explain what led to this decision. If you don’t communicate clearly, everyone in the team will find her own explanation and might be afraid to be fired for a reason that nobody knows.
If you have no structured onboarding process yet, we at Flash Hub can provide you with a checklist template that you can adjust to fit your individual needs.
At Outerpreneur, we highly recommend taking onboarding seriously as it is the most common pitfall that prevents teams from delivering high performance as fast as possible. Your team will only perform as well as every team member 100% understands her role and has access to all other resources to contribute with high performance to your overall team.
Delegating properly in e-commerce
Implicit expectations as well as missing transparency are absolute performance killers. Clarity is king! Implicit expectations usually lead to disappointment on both sides and to one person feeling blamed which impacts the performance and the motivation of the whole team.
This disappointment can be avoided by explicit agreements instead of implicit expectations in the delegation. Basically, there are different levels of delegation and clear rules that must be observed. When you delegate a task, it is still your responsibility to ensure that the task is performed correctly.
If you delegate the responsibility of a task, you are still accountable for it. In other words: If the person who has been delegated the task fails, the task is brought back to you as the accountable person. You can also delegate accountability if you’ve ensured that the person taking this accountability is really capable.
Clearly define what the person to whom you delegate a task should do and exactly what the result should be (output and quality of output).
● What: What to deliver should define the exact goals and results as well as you know them already.
● Timeline: By when should it be completed or delivered as a clear deadline including date and time and the specific time zone.
● What not: Mention also what must not happen and let the person know why this is important to avoid.
● How: For example quality criteria, explicit standards or guidelines that should be followed
● Tools: What should be used for execution – for example Tools and Frameworks
● Status updates: Which status reports do you want and when. This is important for
example if it is a larger task or a responsibility taken over a long period of time.
Also define, when and in which tool should the status be documented and by whom
● Meetings: Where do status control meetings take place.
● Delivery: How should the result be delivered (file, presentation, code etc)?
If you watched the video about proper role definitions, you learned about the RACI framework which helps you to organize all these tasks and responsibilities in a structured and clear way that avoids interpretation and brings clarity to all stakeholders.
When you delegate a task to a person, make sure the person has the skills needed to do the task for you. Otherwise, if the person fails, you will have to delegate the task again or complete it yourself. Depending on the skills and experience of the person in the area of the delegated task, you may need to delegate small tasks with frequent checkups if the person is inexperienced or larger tasks with only a result presentation if the person is more experienced. It is your responsibility to find the right way of delegation for a person. Better be more detailed and monitor results closer in the beginning then being disappointed at the end. If you won trust in the person’s skills and capabilities, you can adopt your delegation style accordingly over time.
If you want to delegate accountability and ownership, make sure the person took this accountability already in the past and has experience. Motivation and excitement is not a success factor. It is required to start and stay with the job but only applying experience and skills to take the right actions will lead to the results that you require.
When you delegate a task to a person for the first time, make sure you frequently set checkpoints to check that the person is on the right track. You can reduce the frequency of controlling once you gain confidence in the person’s competence as she delivers results in time, budget and quality as per your request. Always write down the task that you want to delegate and make the progress traceable and transparent by using a task tracking tool or other relevant KPIs.
When there is no objectively good result delivered, give people the chance to understand what exactly you want. For any creative tasks, always provide 5 to 10 examples of what you like vs. what you don’t like.
The more clear you are in what you are asking for and in the feedback you want to give, the more you increase the odds that the person understood the same and delivered the result that you need. Make sure to watch the video named “Giving effective feedback” if you want you feedback to improve the performance of a person in your team.
There is a simple test how well your delegation is prepared: Give one task with the description of the result that you want to 3 to 5 people and ask them what exactly they will deliver and how this result will look like. In most cases you might get 3 to 5 different versions and now the question is: Which one result is the one that you expect and if you don’t test for clarity, how will you know that the person you choose to delegate the task to, will do it right?
The more precise your request is, the higher the probability that you get the result that you need. We all experience that there is not enough time to dive deep into all details. That is the nature of business. It is just important that you understand that there is a risk. Risk is nothing bad, it just needs to be managed properly and you can only manage what you are aware of.