Making Remote Teams Work

Ned Lowe
Feb 13, 2024

At MISSON+, we build flexible product squads with team members across many geographies. We choose the best people for the job - but that sometimes means dealing with multiple timezones and people who are more comfortable smashing out great code than speaking English.

In this essay, I would like to share some of the tips that we have discovered for getting the best out of your remote teams.

Team Structures That Work

The key to making any human relationship work is transparency of activity. In the absence of light, darkness prevails. This can sometimes be well understood within an organisation, but then as soon as it comes to an offshore partner, tall walls are erected. This rarely results in smooth, efficient operations.

The greater the silo, the less likely the team gels. Everything should be done - within the constraints of regulation and cybersecurity - to ensure that everyone feels like part of the same team. This is generally well understood within the boundaries of an organisation, but when partners are introduced, the tendency can switch to one of rigid interactions and suspicion. The team does not feel one and the same.

To combat this fallacy, one simply needs to acknowledge that your entire team - internal or partnered - is hoping for your success. No-one joins a team wanting anything else except interesting work with interesting people. Embrace this natural human instinct, and share your hopes and dreams with the combined product squad. Let everyone understand the vision, the challenges and the opportunities. Do not hide information, but rather share it freely and bask in the energy produced when everyone has a shared objective.

Similarly, humans want interaction, and the relative cost of bringing the team together versus the run rate is probably minor. Remote teams work best when they have had the chance to eat a meal together; the pseudo-religious rituals of breaking bread.

Most offshore teams have experienced senior leaders coming to their place of work. Much fewer have had the opportunity to travel to the client location and interact with customers and front-line staff. But those are the precious moments, building lifelong experiences and friendships. Plan for that Return on Investment wisely.

A wise person once told me that some partners feel the pain during difficult times, but are left out during wins - such as a successful product launch or a closed funding round. This has stuck with me. Don’t be the kind of person who dumps your problems on your partners (technological or personal), but forgets them when there is a win.

Finally, I believe that end of sprint product demos are one of the most important indicators of how integrated a team is. Use this opportunity wisely, with members of your remote team presenting the work they have done. This provides visibility, a chance for public speaking, and brings a sense of belonging and achievement. The team will repay through their efforts.

Feedback Loops

Core to the MISSION+ philosophy is that feedback loops are an essential part of building products, technology and teams.

Within a traditional team, a lot of the feedback machinery is based on management hierarchy. One’s manager provides performance reviews, and helps organise 360 reviews from other employees.

Unfortunately, talent partners are often not included in these processes - from both a receiving and a giving perspective. Partners sometimes request feedback, but it is often requested from senior stakeholders who are not close enough to the detail. To create a truly integrated team, ensure that tight feedback loops between all partners are effectively and regularly captured.

MISSION+ has created Mission Control for this purpose: an engagement management platform that ensures everyone working together has up to date information on progress, and has a place where they can provide feedback on how things are going and individuals are performing.

Communication That Works

How a team communicates is probably the biggest indicator of how well integrated they are, and therefore their productivity potential. Miscommunications or a lack of communication kill teamwork. So how do we make it work in a distributed context?

Firstly, ensure the integrated team has a shared and lively chat platform. By having open dialogue, all team members can participate in discussion and keep up to date. Information trapped in emails and peer-to-peer chats wants to be free!

Create a channel for off-topic discussion, such as interesting articles or personal news. You want your onshore and offshore teams to be as integrated as possible, and sharing a post about a new technique you learnt is a great way to build camaraderie.

During COVID, we collectively got comfortable with using online whiteboard tools. One additional outcome of that was levelling the playing field between those “in the room” and those “on the phone”. Instead of someone sitting on a polycom trying to work out what was being drawn on a board they couldn’t see, they could actively participate. I worry we have forgotten that lesson, and reverted to old ways of doing things.

Finally, I believe we don’t take enough advantage of recording tools like Loom. By recording product demos and onboarding information, we create a library of material that is useful for distributed teams, plus new joiners. This is a super scalable resource that is easy to create!

A Culture of Writing

Even in small, single-location teams, a Culture of Writing can be a quick way to unlock trapped potential. Typical meetings require everyone to be available at the same time (often disrupting a developer’s flow), have ill-defined agendas and can get sidetracked by the more outspoken individuals.

Furthermore, a Culture of Powerpoint can lead to superficial thinking - four bullets on a slide often don’t capture the complexity and nuance of an issue, and presenters can hide in the brevity. Without needing to go into details allows someone to look like they have the answers, without actually giving the answers.

A Culture of Writing helps alleviate this. It is hard to hide in detailed prose. Asynchronous commentary and reflection can be added to a document without needing everyone to simultaneously stop work.

On top of the above, there is an emergent property: this Culture of Writing allows teams in other timezones, and for whom verbal debate in English is more challenging, to participate in discussion and design. This is not to say that all meetings should stop - but they can be reduced, and more value extracted from the remote team members.

Setup for Success

Finally, remote team members need to be set up for success. I have seen many setups where the offshore team is subjected to restrictions that kill typical ways of working, and then onshore people complain about a lack of productivity. The worst example I have encountered was Desktop Virtualisation software that didn’t support copy and paste. Imagine trying to build software in 2023 without the use of a clipboard!

I believe that people responsible for determining Office IT policy and architecture should have to at least periodically experience what it is like to work within the restrictions that they have setup. This isn’t just true for offshore teams, but also other flows such as a new joiner onboarding process. People are often surprised how difficult things can be for others when they haven’t experienced it themselves.

Code of Conduct

Most teams have expectations of their members’ “ways of working”, but these are not always explicit. Co-located teams from a homogenous cultural background will normally “figure it out”, but that isn’t always the case with more complex setups.

The team should co-create a document - at MISSION+ we call this the “Code of Conduct” - that sets out expectations for meeting etiquette, video conferencing standards, code review expectations, how “simple” is better than “clever”, etc. This is on top of the usual standards around things like how data is handled - this is more about softer skills and builder best practices.


The world is changing. Fractional experts, elastic workforces and remote teams are becoming more commonplace. Much of the advice above has been true since time immemorial - it is just more applicable now than ever. 

If you’re interested in discussing more about how we’ve made remote teams work, reach out to for a friendly conversation. And as always, good luck with your products and projects!

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