The importance of being present

I used to manage an engineering team about 500 miles distant. To stay in sync, we had regular meetings:

  • A team meeting every week
  • A stakeholder meeting every week
  • 1:1 meetings with each team member every other week

When something urgent arose, we’d call ad hoc meetings with the appropriate people.

Once or twice a month, I’d jump on a plane and fly to the team. I’d get demos of development progress. I’d reschedule 1:1s. Yet that didn’t end up being the primary value of those trips.

Invariably, as I sat at the work table, a team member would walk up and say, “I’ve been meaning to tell you…” Then I’d learn something vital, something we absolutely needed to discuss, something worth the time and expense of traveling.

That’s magical!

How do we get that magic without being in the same room? Are there other ways to be present? Without travel? And for distributed teams?

These are the questions my team is working on right now.

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