Keeping your new and full-remote team close: key dynamics to foster the greatest team environment

As a product manager, you know that a good environment among squad members is just as important as your daily tasks, or even more!

I lead ( I really don’t like the word “lead,”because I honestly believe that everything is a team effort) a squad of 5 people. We haven’t always been 5 squad members; the team has grown from 2 to 5 people in less than two months.Furthermore, we’re a fully remote team so this can also make day-to-day interactions a bit more difficult.

So, that’s why I think it’s important to share what we do to maintain excellent communication and a healthy environment in the squad.

These are the things we have introduced to our routine:

  • Daily catch-up and coffee time. If you are used to working in an agile team, I’m sure a daily or stand-up meeting is nothing new. But we decided to add 15min to the meeting in order to get to know each other better (Thanks to Mario!!). How do we do that? So simple! When the stand-up has finished, someone from the team asks any random question. We’ve asked things like “which is the ugliest costume you’ve worn?”, or “what superpower would you love to have?”.
  • A new retrospective is a new story. We have just started this ritual, but it’s so funny and the team loves it. At the end of the sprint and before starting a new one, we have a retrospective meeting using a trello for structure. I might talk about the entire process of the retrospective another day. The most recent thing we’ve added to this meeting is that each retrospective has to be led by a different person on the team and that it has to tell a story. This format allows for a more informal and laid-back setting, making participants willing to talk and share their perspective. Last retro, our colleague Laura ran the meeting parallel to the famous Charles Dickens story, The Christmas Carol where the ghosts of the past, the present, and the future were equated to what had gone well, what required action, and what might have gone better.
  • Dynamics from definition. The product manager, product designer and tech lead work together in every path of the process, so we decided it’d be better for everyone on the team if we started carrying out some dynamics during the definition stage of a feature, so that each stakeholder can share their point of view, and not only the 3 of us. At first we had planned this step as a simple meeting in which the dev team would communicate to us what they are capable of doing or not, but it has evolved into a really cool dynamic that gets the entire team thinking and defining the next milestone. Eduard, our senior product designer, has recently led a card sorting dynamic in order to define the architecture of the new company user portal , and I can assure you that those dynamics not only help you with the objective of the meeting, but with the communication and teamwork among squad members as well.
  • Shorter and focused meetings. I know dev people don’t tend to be big fans of meetings, but I really believe that this is because sometimes product managers are so overwhelmed that we do not prepare the meetings as well as we should. We have settled our own process and (for now) it goes so well. Most people lose focus in long meetings, so we try to have more frequent, but shorter ones. The most important thing here is to have an agenda and to prepare all documentation the team might need, and send it previously to the meeting. If something not specifically related to the meeting comes up, we set another meeting to talk about it.
  • The Engineering team is just as important as any of the stakeholders, so you must be completely transparent with company information. Normally, I keep the engineering team in the loop regarding any discussions taking place in different departments so they can be aware of any possible changes to the roadmap. The off-topic section at the closing of the daily meeting, for example, is a great time to do this.

Product & Design lover! | Product Manager @Smart Protection