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April 25, 2023

Design and Define How Remote Teams Work

By IT Revolution

Well-defined interactions are key to effective teams. Team Topologies has laid the groundwork for intentionally designing high-performing teams. But the same intention is essential for effective remote, hybrid, or colocated teams.

Team-focused conventions within chat tools (like Slack or Teams) and wiki documentation can help increase discoverability and reduce team cognitive load. But there are many other tools and practices we can put in place to help create the best environment for team interactions, specifically for remote or hybrid teams.

Key Practices for Remote Teams

In their follow-up title, Remote Team Interactions Workbook, Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais provide accessible tools and practices that any team or organization can implement today.

Here’s a breakdown of those key practices.

Cognitive Load Assessment

Sometimes you need to ask your teams where their cognitive bottlenecks are. When teams are remote, we might not “see” the cognitive load on a daily basis. But you can use a simple survey to deliberately assess cognitive load on a regular basis to see what needs to be fixed. Use this assessment to get a snapshot of the cognitive load on your team today.

Team API

Creating a team API helps teams define how they prefer interacting with other teams. No more guessing who to contact and if you should contact them via Slack or email or use a ticketing system. This API lays out all the details so interactions run smoothly.


It’s clear that in remote or hybrid settings, communication is key. And overcommunication can help make sure nothing falls through the cracks. In a remote-work world, it is essential to communicate what you are working on, why you’re working on it, how your work is being completed, and when it should be completed by. Think of this exercise as externalizing your key decisions and reasoning so people can easily reconstruct the sequence of thoughts that led to your current work. This is vital for remote teams. Utilizing team management software can greatly facilitate this process, allowing teams to collaborate, document their work, and maintain transparent communication seamlessly.

Track Dependencies

Teams are part of a wider socio-technical system, so it is inevitable that they will depend on each other at points. Team Topologies and DevOps teach us to reduce dependencies wherever possible, but there will always be some. And in a remote world, these dependencies can become exacerbated. To help alleviate this, it is important to track dependencies and make them visible to all relevant teams.

Building Networks

The switch to remote work taught us many things, but one of the clearest was the importance of information networks that organically develop in an office environment. As we switch to remote and hybrid working, these informal networks must be deliberately maintained (or even created). Organizations can do this through virtual coffee breaks, lectures, internal conferences, and more. The key is to get creative and ensure the events are accessible to everyone, no matter where they’re located.

Trust Boundaries

With the natural isolation that can accompany remote work, maintaining high trust between teams can become difficult. To maintain high trust between remote and hybrid teams, it’s important to deliberately design and maintain these trust boundaries by comparing your team sizes against Dunbar’s number, creating efficient and effective online spaces, and creating team-focused conventions for the use of online tools.

Purposeful Interactions

Finally, as Team Topologies taught us, we must be purposeful in our interactions with other teams. Effective team collaboration isn’t as simple as more is better. To help make the interactions between your remote and hybrid teams effective, review the three interaction modes of Team Topologies and then listen to or assess the realities of your team’s interactions. The key is to let real needs drive team interactions, not formal processes or organizational chart decisions.

To learn more about simple tools and practices you can engage in to improve and optimize your remote or hybrid teams, check out the Remote Team Interactions Workbook from Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais.

- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

Trusted by technology leaders worldwide. Since publishing The Phoenix Project in 2013, and launching DevOps Enterprise Summit in 2014, we’ve been assembling guidance from industry experts and top practitioners.

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