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Executives who have been part of global efforts know that international associations often struggle to reach the level of efficiency and speed required to achieve success.  Consequently, when I present about the Global UTM Association, I am often asked for more details regarding how exactly it is managed. My answer is simple: we are a remote-first organization.

What this means is that we spend the bulk of our administrative resources on building and maintaining a professionally-managed remote collaboration infrastructure.  In fact, this was our only choice, as the association has spanned over fifteen countries and seven time zones since day one.

Here is an overview of five internal rules that are making our work easier, and how they are implemented.

Rules

  1. Think asynchronously
    With teams in Asia, Europe and North America, someone will be (or, at least, should be) sleeping while others are working. Work needs to be planned in such a way that time differences do not hinder the team’s progress.
  1. Avoid emails
    Emails should be reserved for important communications that might need to be further shared internally by some members. For instance, if we announce a new working group, the news will be communicated via email.
  1. Centralize information
    Members should always know where to find relevant information concerning the association, its members and its working groups.
  1. Do not overshare
    We are not the Library of Congress. We carefully curate the documents shared among our members and aim for quality over quantity.
  1. Double down on meeting preparations
    Our meetings are not used for brainstorming – they are meant to make progress on specific tasks within a clear timeframe.

Implementation

  1. Slack: Instant Messaging
    We use Slack for short questions or updates that do not require archiving. Slack is perfect for asking if someone will attend a given conference, or for requesting an update on the progress of a working group. Another excellent use of the tool is the “news channel.” We all want to know what is happening in our field, but we do not want to get an email every time someone reads a good article. The news channel allows everyone to view updates whenever they have time. Our public channels are not very active, and that’s the way it should be. No tools can save us from information overload – it is up to us to share sparingly.
  1. SharePoint: Information Hub
    Most of our work happens between important news (shared by email) and quick questions (shared via instant messaging). We manage the bulk of our activities using SharePoint: agendas, documents, meetings notes, and to-do lists are all gathered and archived there. Any member who has been swamped with work or on vacation for a couple of weeks should be able to come back to SharePoint and understand exactly what has happened during his or her absence, and also see what is coming up next. Very few discussions take place on the hub. It should be like a quiet office: well organized and conducive to productive work.
  1. GoToMeeting: Conferencing Software
    The last tool that we use is GoToMeeting, a video conferencing software. Members are asked to use a headset, to sit in a silent environment and to have reliable internet access (all of which are part of our code of conduct). We aim to be as explicit as possible regarding the content of each meeting, and to have clear deliverables between meetings, so that everyone can work asynchronously.

Collaboration suites are always evolving. However, the fundamentals of remote collaboration are now well established and used by many successful companies. The goal of the association is to stick to them. My focus, being in charge of the administration, is to optimize – promoting simplicity and speed while minimizing travel and the size of our administrative workforce.