All teams need to collaborate efficiently to achieve their goals. Collaboration is built on communication, which can be particularly challenging for remote teams, especially in a startup environment where priorities frequently shift. Establishing clear communication and collaboration rules is a fundamental pillar of any successful remote team. In this article, we will introduce two ways to help achieve this: the "Way of Working Document" and the "How to Work With Me Manual”.
Ways of Working - The Team Agreement
The “way of working” document is an ever-evolving document that is owned by the whole team. Its main goal is to outline how the team has agreed to collaborate together - in order to ensure that everyone is working with the same expectations so that costly miscommunication can be avoided. It should contain a set of values and behaviors that shape communication and it’s best if this document is created by the team for the team to ensure that there’s buy in from everyone. The document can be adapted on a regular basis (eg every 3 months) and new team members should read through the document as part of the onboarding.
In general, this document should be as concise as possible - if it becomes too long, no one will remember the rules or read it. Our recommendation is to just outline the most important rules in bullet points (ideally keep it to below 1 A4 page) Some suggestions on things that may be important for an all-remote startup team:
- Start and end meetings on time.
- Post daily standup messages promptly.
- Respond to Slack messages within 24 hours during working days.
- Indicate your "working" and "not-working" times in your calendar.
- Accept or decline meetings you have been invited to.
- Support decisions that have been made.
- Come prepared to meetings - there will be no review of documents provided up-front.
How to Work With Me Manual
The 'How to Work With Me Manual' is another helpful tool for overcoming communication hurdles and miscommunications. These short documents are created by each member of the organization to provide insights into their work style and behavior. They are particularly useful in smaller organizations where collaboration happens on a peer-to-peer basis, and there is no strong team culture.
A 'How to Work With Me Manual' could include:
- My Usual Working Hours: Indicating which days and times the individual typically works, as well as providing a shared calendar or Calendly link for scheduling meetings.
- Communication Channel Preferences: Outlining the individual's preferred method of communication, response time expectations, and advance notice required for meeting invitations.
- Decision-Making Style: Detailing how the individual likes to receive information and make decisions.
- Feedback Preferences: Describing how the individual likes to receive feedback and any specific feedback requests.
- Expectations for Team Members: Outlining expectations for team member's discipline and work delivery.
Other suggestions for content could include a personality profile, job perspective, preferred tasks, ideal workday, and north star principles. However, it's essential to keep the document concise.
To ensure the manuals are useful, provide a template for everyone to use, and make sure the documents are accessible in a central repository like Notion. It's also important to establish an expectation that team members should read each other's manuals before collaborating.
In the fast-paced world of remote startups, effective collaboration is essential to achieving goals. Clear communication and collaboration rules are the foundation for success, especially as priorities shift frequently. Creating a "way of working" document or a set of "working with me manuals" can help overcome communication hurdles and miscommunication. While these documents alone won't guarantee perfect collaboration, they provide a solid starting point for effective communication. So, whether you opt for a way of working document, a working with me manual, or both, take the first step towards achieving efficient collaboration in your remote startup.
For more ways to help align your fully remote startup, check out our Notion templates or deep dive into some of the resources below.
Notion Template: Aligning Remote Startups
Covers Weekly Update, Daily Standups, OKRs and Metrics – designed to help you keep everyone informed and on the same page
- Remote Team Agreements and Protocols: https://www.holloway.com/g/remote-work/sections/remote-team-agreements-and-protocols
- Working Agreements: https://www.uvm.edu/sites/default/files/working-agreements-defined.pdf
- Why you should write a “how to work with me” user manual: https://medium.com/swlh/user-manual-to-me-92c8ce68f960
- A User Guide To Working With You (including example): https://lg.substack.com/p/the-looking-glass-a-user-guide-to