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Decentralized teams are essential to the future of work. But what are they, what’s their value, and how do you build one?

In this article I’m going to do a deep dive into decentralized teams.

What is a decentralized team?

A decentralized team is a group of individuals who work together towards a common goal but are not necessarily located in the same physical space (or even the same company).

In a decentralized team, team members can be located anywhere in the world, and they communicate and collaborate virtually, relying on technology like Waymaker to stay connected on goals, outcomes, tasks, and business innovation & improvement.

Waymaker.io lead decentralized teams
Waymaker.io is leadership software for decentralized teams.

Although they’ve been around for decades, decentralized teams have become increasingly common in recent years, as more and more companies realize the benefits of having a distributed workforce.

With the rise of remote work and the availability of technology tools, it has become easier and even more desirable to both the team member and the leader to create a decentralized team.

The benefits and value of a decentralized team

The benefits and value exist for both the business owner or manager and the team member.

One of the main benefits of a decentralized team is that it allows companies to tap into a global talent pool. This is of benefit to the talent and the hirer. Good talent can work anywhere, and good companies can hire the best talent. Neither is restricted by geography.

This not only increases the quality of the team but also allows companies to save on costs associated with traditional office-based teams.

A decentralized allows for greater flexibility and agility. Decentralized teams can adjust quickly to changing market conditions or project requirements.

They can be structured to work around the clock to ensure that projects are completed on time, without being restricted by the typical 9-5 workday in a single location.

Here is a summary of the top benefits.

Increased flexibility and remote work options

Decentralized teams allow for greater flexibility in terms of where and when work is performed. This means that employees can often tailor their work schedule to fit their personal lives and commitments, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and better work-life balance.

Access to a wider pool of talent

Decentralized teams can draw from a global pool of talent, rather than being limited by location, which can lead to increased diversity and new perspectives.

Reduced overhead costs

With no need for a central office, decentralized teams can reduce overhead costs for companies, freeing up resources for other investments.

Improved collaboration and communication

Decentralized teams often use digital tools to collaborate and communicate, which can improve efficiency and reduce barriers to communication.

Increased resilience

With no single point of failure, decentralized teams are often more resilient to external disruptions and can continue to function even in the face of challenges such as natural disasters or pandemics.

Reduced commuting

When working in a decentralized team, employees do not have to commute to a physical office, which can save them time and money, reduce stress, and decrease their carbon footprint.

Increased autonomy

Decentralized teams often operate with less direct supervision and more autonomy than traditional office-based teams. This can lead to employees feeling more trusted and valued, and can foster a sense of ownership over their work.

Diverse perspectives

Decentralized teams often consist of individuals from different cultural backgrounds and with different skills and experiences. This diversity can lead to richer and more innovative ideas, as team members bring different perspectives to the table.

The value of decentralized teams lies in their flexibility, access to a wider pool of talent, reduced overhead costs, improved collaboration and communication, and working in a decentralized team can offer employees more flexibility, autonomy, and diversity, which can lead to greater job satisfaction and a better work-life balance.

The challenges of a decentralized team

Decentralized teams can offer many benefits, including access to a global talent pool, increased flexibility and agility, and cost savings. However, they also present unique challenges, such as effective communication and collaboration and establishing trust between team members.

Other challenges include a lack of face-to-face interaction, difficulty in building and maintaining team alignment, doing higher order business improvement & innovation work in contrast to task oriented work, and technology-related issues such as connectivity, communication, and security.

With the right tools and approach, a decentralized team can be highly effective and efficient, delivering high-quality results for companies.

Waymaker.io is leadership software that provides tools to help decentralized teams operate with effectiveness, clarity, and alignment.

Here are some of its features that can help achieve this.

Clear goal setting

Waymaker.io allows teams to set clear and measurable goals that are visible to all members of the team. This helps ensure that everyone is aligned with the team’s objectives and working towards the same outcomes.

Collaborative planning

The platform provides tools for collaborative planning, allowing team members to work together on tasks, assign roles and responsibilities, and set timelines for completion. This helps ensure that everyone is aware of what needs to be done and by when.

Real-time progress tracking

Waymaker.io allows teams to track progress in real-time, with updates visible to all members of the team. This helps ensure that everyone is aware of the status of tasks and can adjust their work accordingly.

Communication tools

The platform provides communication tools, such as group chat, that allow team members to communicate effectively despite being in different locations. This helps ensure that everyone is aware of what’s going on and can collaborate effectively.

Dashboards and scorecards

Waymaker.io provides dashboards and scorecards that allow teams to measure and analyze performance metrics. This helps teams identify areas of improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimize their performance.

Waymaker Scorecards in Meetings for decentralized teams

Business improvement and innovation

Waymaker’s diagnostic helps teams identify business improvements, prioritize them, and build goals to deliver them all from within the security of the cloud and the comfort of the home office.

No longer is work from home to be the kind of work that would be ‘off-shored’ or the lower order work that was centered on punching out a task list of to-dos.

Innovation, ideation, and intelligent business improvement is not only possible in the cloud, but sometimes better.

There is no denying face to face collaboration is always beneficial. It builds relationship, it adds context, and brings a sense of community. However, there is no reason why an organization can’t still do this in quarterly or half yearly meet-ups or when it is absolutely needed. However, there is no reason why you must always have every team member in an office.

Clarity is more important than proximity.

Yes, it is nice when everyone is in the same room. It certainly makes it easier to have a coffee conversation. But spending time developing and communicating clarity to team members so they can do great work, is far more important than always having to have people in proximity. In some instances, proximity breeds lazy leadership.

The benefits of decentralization often outweigh the challenges and deploying software like Waymaker.io makes the opportunity of decentralization open to all kinds of organizations who want to remain competitive in today’s fast-paced and rapidly changing business environment.

Waymaker.io’s features can help decentralized teams operate with effectiveness, clarity, and alignment by providing tools for goal setting, collaborative planning, real-time progress tracking, communication, and data analytics.

These features help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same objectives, which can lead to greater productivity, efficiency, and success for the team.

Free modern home office image

How to build a strong culture in your decentralized team

Building a strong and positive culture in a decentralized team can be a challenge, but it’s essential for success.

Here are some best practices to help build culture in a decentralized team.

Clearly define expectations and values

Establish clear expectations for communication, collaboration, and work processes to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards a shared goal.

Invest in communication tools

Choose technology-based tools that allow for effective and efficient communication, such as video conferencing, instant messaging, and project management software.

Foster regular face-to-face interactions

Encourage regular virtual or in-person team building activities to help build relationships and improve communication.

Celebrate successes together

Celebrate team successes, milestones, and anniversaries to help build a sense of unity and belonging.

Encourage personal and professional development

Offer opportunities for employees to develop their skills and knowledge, such as training and development programs, to help build a positive and supportive work environment.

Lead by example: Leaders play a key role in shaping team culture. Encourage positive behavior by modeling the desired culture and behavior.

Foster open and transparent communication

Encourage open, honest, and transparent communication, both between team members and with leadership, to build trust and accountability.

Focus on building the right behaviors and attitudes for successful decentralized teams

Successful decentralized teams require a different set of behaviors and attitudes compared to traditional teams that work in a centralized office environment.

Here are some important behaviors and attitudes that are necessary for successful decentralized teams.

Communication

Effective communication is critical for the success of decentralized teams. Team members need to be able to communicate effectively, using a range of communication channels, such as email, video conferencing, messaging apps, and project management tools.

Trust

Trust is a vital aspect of decentralized teams, where team members may not see each other in person regularly. Each team member needs to trust that their colleagues are working towards the same goal and are contributing to the team’s success.

Flexibility  

Decentralized teams often work across different time zones, so it’s essential to be flexible with work hours and deadlines. Team members should be able to adjust their schedules to accommodate their colleagues’ availability.

Accountability

Each team member should be accountable for their work and responsible for meeting deadlines. Decentralized teams rely heavily on each member doing their part to ensure the team’s success.

Self-motivation  

In decentralized teams, team members often work independently, so it’s crucial to be self-motivated and have a strong work ethic. Each member should be committed to achieving the team’s goals and willing to put in the necessary effort.

Collaboration

Decentralized teams need to collaborate effectively, even if team members are not working in the same location. Collaborating on tasks, sharing ideas, and providing feedback are crucial to ensure the team’s success.

Respect

Team members must respect each other’s work and ideas, even if they don’t always agree. Respectful communication is essential to building strong relationships among team members. The creation of clear interpersonal values is important for teams who cross borders, cultures, and even languages.

By developing these behaviors and attitudes, decentralized teams can work effectively, despite being geographically dispersed.

Summary

If you lead a decentralized team, book a call with us to see how we can help you lead with greater clarity, alignment, and better results.

If you want to build a decentralized team, follow these best practices, and start planning how you can grow you team and talent in the best way possible.

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