Creating a Culture of Collaboration: Q&A with Jason Fried

By Dawn Reiss, April 4, 2014

Your whole philosophy is that working remotely is easy, but in some cases, it hasn’t been. Why not?

A lot of people will try working remotely, and it works. But for others, it doesn’t. I’ll ask them what didn’t work and they’ll say, “We couldn’t tell if someone was working if we couldn’t see them.” That’s not the fault of the remote worker; that’s the fault of the manager. If the manager can only manage by walking around and seeing people, then they don’t trust their folks enough. That’s when things start to break down—when people don’t trust each other to do the work, to do it on time and to do it properly. If both sides don’t trust each other, the working relationship is doomed, regardless of what tools you have. You need to first establish trust and believe that it’s going to work, and that if you try it, people are really going to step up to the challenge.

How do you build that trust?

You have to go on faith. You think: I’m a professional; I’m here to do my job well; they should trust me, so I need to trust them that they are going to be professional. You have to go into it suspending your disbelief that it’s not going to work. It sounds ridiculous, but that’s what you have to do.

What are some rules for building successful collaboration?

For an event or a business, it’s the same thing. You can’t have the local culture and everyone else, because then you have two different companies. And that’s kind of a mess. The key is, however you communicate—through Basecamp, Skype or Google Hangouts—you need to communicate that way with everybody, not just people who are working remotely. If you are a thousand miles away or across the table from me, it’s all the same. You must have a central repository, a location or a tool that everybody uses for communication and discussions. If you start spreading discussions out over different tools and different places, people can’t follow along and see what’s happening. You can’t have two cultures.

What are your suggestions to planners who are managing an event team?

There’s no silver bullet. Whoever is coordinating the event has to be the person that leads by example. If that person doesn’t trust anybody, it’s not going to work. You have to have someone up there rallying the troops. There are going to be dark days where things aren’t going to get done, but you don’t want to fall back on blaming it on the fact that you can’t see the person. Even in businesses where you can see everyone, things go wrong all the time, every day. So it’s not about ‘I couldn’t see them.’ It’s that someone didn’t do their job and that happens. Try not to point fingers at the method. Try to understand what actually happened.

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