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Remote-Ready or At Risk?

By Future of Work, HR, Productivity, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture No Comments

When done right, remote working boosts overall effectiveness and provides businesses with tangible cost-saving advantages. If teams fail to adapt, companies run the risk of losing productivity and revenue, and the collapse of company culture and employee engagement. It is ever more important to understand where your team is in their remote working journey and to take the necessary steps to support a remote workforce.

If It Can Be Measured, It Can Be Managed

Change can be overwhelming, but adapting your company policies to reflect the demands of the modern workforce is necessary to keep up with the future world of work. Through our experience in Culture and the Future of Work, we have learned that it’s not as simple as being remote-ready or not; and there’s a chance your team is not as effective remotely as it needs to be. 

Experience has shown us that companies go through various stages on route to remote working effectiveness. If you are able to identify and measure what stage your team is at, you can take the necessary course-corrective actions to shift your team toward remote working maturity.

Remote Working Maturity Stages

Remote Working Maturity Stages



Read more about the assessment

Remote Team Maturity Assessment

Working remotely can hold greater value and business benefits than a typical office environment. We’re driven to be a change agent in the workplace and an ally in amplifying remote team strengths. 

That’s why we created the Remote Team Maturity assessment. Built on years of experience and research in the future world of work, it evaluates your team around 6 areas of work and against traits and actions found among the most effective remote teams. The assessment takes no longer than 10 minutes and is a simple, yet powerful way to benchmark your team’s remote maturity and effectiveness. Discover how your team measures up and gain the insight you need to take immediate action to help your remote team thrive.

We have also developed “The Culture Canvas”—an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours—as well as our latest ebook “ – Remote Team Management”, which is available for free download. 

Guillaume de Smedt

Mastering Remote Work: Startup Grind Interview with Guillaume de Smedt

By Digital Transformation, Future of Work, HR, Recent Posts, Remote Working, Talent, Team Culture No Comments

While many businesses have opened up to the world of remote working, the burning question is: are they doing so effectively? We have noticed a growing desire for expert advice from business leaders who’ve been mastering remote work. We spoke to Guillaume de Smedt, VP of Community for Silicon Valley-based Startup Grind, for his insights on successfully managing a remote workforce. 

Startup Grind is the world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. They bring like-minded and diverse individuals together to connect, learn, teach, help, build, and belong. They do this daily through local events, flagship conferences, startup programs, online events, partnerships, and online media and content ‒ collectively reaching over 2.5 million individuals worldwide.

Guillaume oversees the global community for Startup Grind across more than 600 cities around the world, ensuring those cities are hosting events and doing what they do best. Currently managing a team of 6 full-time staff and 600 volunteers based in global corners from Beijing to the USA. Guillaume has years of experience in leading, and working with, virtual teams around the world. 

Q: You’ve been working remotely for quite some time, what’s your secret?

A: It isn’t really a secret but I would say it’s that I am constantly learning. At Startup Grind, we also use technology to automate a lot of our processes, and we use processes to ensure the work gets done on time. But really I think success will come from these three things: 

  1. Hire the right people: I usually hire people from within the global Startup Grind community; but if you don’t have access to a talent pool like I do, I would say it’s important to look for certain attributes in the people you hire for remote work: Are they willing to learn? Are they willing to work together in a team, and across different time-zones? Are they self-motivated or self-disciplined and can manage time effectively? Do they have a positive disposition? Are they able to handle working remotely and the solitude that can come with that? Because remote working is not for everyone. 
  2. Onboard them correctly: Give new starters clear tasks, clear training on systems, and have a repository (like Google Sites or Suite) where people can find information quickly. When new people come on board or join our team, we assign them a digital buddy ‒ someone in the same time zone ‒ to help get the new person set up. 
  3. Use a project management system that works for your specific team:  Take advice from all sources, but then distil the information and use what is suitable for your own team – don’t feel pressured into doing what others do, but do what is best for your circumstances. Whatever you choose to use, it’s preferable that the entire company is using the same system (from a budget, transparency and simplicity standpoint). 

Q: Do you have an agreement in place ‒ for your team or company ‒ around working together remotely?

A: Yes, we have a company document that is sent as part of our onboarding process which has things like when you’re expected to work or to be online for international team calls, how to get set up for remote work in your home office, how to access data and set up a Google Site, and so on. It could be more detailed but the document actually took us years to put together through our experience and trial and error. That’s one cool thing about DYDX’s remote work ebook is that it has templates and formulas which are a really great start for a team or company just starting out.

Q: What’s your top tip for remote team managers?

A: It’s not about the time behind the keyboard, but rather the output of the job. If a team member wants to watch a movie on Netflix or go for a surf half-way through the day, we don’t discourage them. It doesn’t matter how a team member manages their time, as long as the work is delivered on time and we’re happy with the quality. The second bit of important advice would be: delegate your tasks properly and make sure the correct people are doing the right tasks. 

Q: How do you make sure the correct people are doing the right tasks?

A: Many teams use productivity tools like, or, and there are so many suitable tools out there. But as amazing as these tools are, you have to spend time updating the data on them. Unless the whole team is consistently doing this, the tool just won’t work for you. That’s why we predominantly only update our tools (and tasks) in meetings. 

Every Monday we have a team call and we spend the first 15 minutes going through the points the team has raised. Each team member puts on the project list what they want to talk about before the weekly stand-up. We then look at the tasks for that week and delegate and update them right there and then on our project management tool (we use Airtable (due to api’s), however is another good one to look at). Then we look at last week’s tasks: if anything from last week is incomplete, we move it to this week’s task list. 

This way we can see last week and what was achieved, as well as this week’s upcoming tasks. 

And not only do I know what my team is working on, but everyone else in the company knows, too. 

Q: How do you effectively manage your time?

A: I also use WorkFlowy, it’s my favourite tool for keeping my personal to-dos up to date. Regarding emails, I will only mark it as read if I can action it.. This also shapes how other people in my team send me emails ‒ they put the action point right upfront.

Q: Is there anything that your team regularly does together online to make you all feel part of the same team?

A. I think human interaction is so important ‒ especially in remote teams. Because our team is so spread out all over the world with different time-zones, we don’t do a lot together socially in person, but we do make sure we regularly check in with each other in either stand-ups or one-on-one calls so everyone feels connected. We do little exercises like “about me” sessions so that people can learn about their team members in a personal capacity. We meet in person at our annual team retreat and at our major annual conferences.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve received about leading and managing a remote workforce? 

A: As a leader of a remote team, try to understand the subtext, nuances or undertones of what people on your team are saying. Each individual handles stress differently. What is the root of it? A team member could be asking for a raise but what they’re really trying to tell you is they’re unhappy about a completely different issue. Being on the pulse of your team is so important ‒ if you’re not, your team members may not come to you with small stuff and this can cause issues down the line. The team lead must work really hard to extract this read from their teammates and make time to truly understand what’s going on inside their team. 


As a digital transformation practice dY/dX, helps businesses adapt and grow in rapidly changing environments. Through our experience in Culture and the Future of Work, we have worked with remote, distributed teams across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. We fervently believe that we can make the future of work, better than today. 

We have created a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to quickly measure remote working capabilities and quantify remote team effectiveness. Also available are our free guides to building team culture, The Culture Canvas and Me.We.Us – Remote Team Management, where we provide overviews on how to promote better behaviours within teams as well as toolkits to support doing so.

Honest Chocolate


By #COVID19, Future of Work, HR, Remote Working No Comments

The first crack of breaking chocolate. The scent of a roasted cocoa bean. And then pinning the flavours you taste on a flavour wheel with 18 other people… is not what most people are expecting when they join an online event.

The global shutdown has most businesses and event organisers scrambling to make their events ‘virtual’. Every meeting is a Zoom call and conferences all converted to a plethora of free webinars. But simply recreating what we used to do in the physical world is a recipe for boredom.

We couldn’t meet our favourite clients face-to-face over dinner and we couldn’t stroll down to Honest Chocolate for an after-lunch hot chocolate. So, we brought the two together. Partnering with Honest Chocolate, a Cape Town-based artisanal Bean-to-Bar chocolate factory, we invented the Honest Chocolate Virtual Tasting!

Boxes of chocolates were hand-delivered to everyone’s front door with strict instructions to keep their hands off them until the event which 70% of them managed to do.

After introductions and agreeing the etiquette for the session, we kicked off with an icebreaker exercise. Everyone logged into a shared online doc and dragged their flags onto a world map to show where they thought the most cacao beans are produced.

interactive map

West Africa: (Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire) is correct by the way.

This is the same mechanic we use for online brainstorming and interactive learning workshops. We learn by doing, not by sitting back and listening and being remote, sitting back includes answering email, helping kids with homework and shouting at the dog.

With a Zoom Poll, everyone answered a few questions about personal flavour preference proving that we experience tastes differently. Through the rest of the experience the co-founder of Honest Chocolate, Anthony, took us through a journey of different experiences – a live video tour through their factory, a bit of history about cocoa, the Bean-to-Bar chocolate-making process, and tasting nine of their chocolates in between.

Tastings were also mic-on, camera-on, interactive moments when we chatted and pinned what we tasted on the flavour wheels. In many cases, this showed again how we could all interpret the same flavour in different ways.

Honest Chocolate Coconut Blossom

This was a fun experience that involved a lot of chocolate so not a lot could go wrong; but 5 years of working for clients all over Africa, Europe and India with a distributed and diverse team prepared us well for the remote working. Forced by lockdown to cancel client workshops and group training sessions, we converted easily into shared online whiteboards and immersive, interactive ideation sessions.

Part of a ten-week Design Thinking course with Red&Yellow we adapted a full day workshop into two three-hour online sessions. By switching modality between talks, slides and interactive boards—with sticky notes and voting mechanisms—and applying tight time constraints, the workshops feel quick, energetic and highly productive.

One of the biggest learnings from this is that all of the tools you need are readily available, taking advantage of what simple tech can do and changing what’s perceived as acceptable and normal is where teams and companies need help.

And don’t be afraid to experiment!

Remote Working resources:

To support newly remote teams, we published a free ebook and a Remote Team Maturity Assessment:

Me.We.Us ebook: Download the ebook

  • ME. Mastering Self: organising your workspace and headspace for optimum remote performance.
  • WE. Mastering Remote Social Interaction: learning to communicate effectively within a remote team.
  • US. Mastering Teamwork & Managing Distributed Teams: using the “Remote Team Agreement” and “Meeting Formulas” to unlock your team’s remote working potential.
  • We provide you with a toolkit of practical templates that you can use to improve your team’s remote working capabilities.

Remote Working Maturity Assessment: Take the test

  • A snapshot of your team’s remote capabilities
  • A benchmark for your team’s remote working capability
  • Highlighted areas at risk


Listen: Are Entrepreneurs Ready for Work From Home?

By Remote Working

The extended lockdown has forced South African entrepreneurs to rethink how they manage their teams. With their teams working remotely they need to rethink how they build a team or company culture and how they manage productivity. For most, this requires a change in leadership style, a new way of thinking and new skills.

Templar spoke to Bonolo Nkosi from Radio Pulpit, listen to the interview here.


Nevo Hadas

Lockdown Lessons: How DYDX is Navigating Covid19’s Lockdown Restrictions

By #COVID19, Design Thinking, Remote Working No Comments

by Nevo Hadas, partner at DYDX

We have been working remotely with international clients for the last 5 years. Lockdown for me (personally) has meant less travel, more time to exercise (zoom HIIT classes) and hang out with my kids. Unlike many other businesses that have suddenly had their world transformed and are struggling to adapt to a “no office” environment, our business hasn’t really been impacted too much.

The biggest business issue has been one delayed project, but we have grown during this period with new projects kicking off. The team at the moment is around 32 people, spread out between Cape Town, Johannesburg, UK and Netherlands. We have added 3 new “interns” (one is a reforming lawyer, one is a re-emerging educationalist, and one is a surf instructor/musician/organization psychology major) during this period.

Our systems are built for a digital-first organisation. We have very little email (which is a sign of digital maturity) and most of our communication is focused on projects in slack channels. There are almost no “meetings”. We don’t use video calls. Our work is done in collaborative workshops, and they are either really short (dealing with blockers in projects i.e. less than 30 min) or long workshops – where we collaborate as a team and complete key tasks. We have specific formulas for meetings and tools that we use which make our organization very efficient and ensure that nobody is dead-weight in the meeting.

This doesn’t mean that the period has not had its challenges and hasn’t created new opportunities. For example: In our design thinking and service design projects we normally facilitate physical workshops; day-long events requiring teams to work together in one room. That clearly could not happen.

As part of a 10-week certification course we co-developed with Red & Yellow, we had to deliver a full-day workshop for a group of 22 from Dimension Data. There were four teams, each working on different projects – challenging enough in a face-to-face workshop and even harder virtually.

We had to rethink and redesign the workshop process, delivering two fast-paced, highly collaborative workshops. Each was three hours long but because of the time pressure and interactivity, they felt energetic and engaging.

Similarly for Mediamark, in a Future Ways of Working workshop, usually delivered as a half-day physical event for leadership teams, we had to move it all online. We reimagined processes using Zoom, Miro boards and Google Docs, changed the agenda and had a successful outcome.

What has been interesting as a commonality for us, is even though organisations have all the tools (office365/ Gsuiite/ slack/ teams/ zoom, etc.), they haven’t explored how to use them. The organisations are hampered by a belief system anchored in the technology of eight years ago that influences how they see teams working together.

Four years ago we worked on a project with the Dutch government to develop and promote distributed remote teams. I expected a new-fangled intranet incorporating Slack and Asana, what we got was something very different. The realisation was that technology does not create successful teams, behaviour does.

This project, The Culture Canvas, was released as an ebook, downloaded thousands of times and led to us building our Culture and Future of Work Practice. In this lockdown, we decided to release another free eBook “” to help team managers improve how they manage remote teams. We have seen it spread quite quickly already with some organisations downloading the ebook hundreds of times. We have also developed a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to quickly measure remote working capabilities and quantify team effectiveness.

This has led us to develop a new training program that we expect to release at the end of May (it’s currently in beta with test organisations in SA and UK). So that is an opportunity that emerged from the lockdown.

My message to the industry and agencies is that this is a golden opportunity. You are thrust into change but it is beneficial pain. We have undertaken successful digital transformation projects with corporate marketing teams (such as Vodacom) and have spent a considerable amount of time in change management processes.

Agencies are sometimes arrogant and assume they know everything from a blog they read. The default approach is to get a new tool, come up with a new process and all will be well. This is not how it works! Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is easy. It just doesn’t work that way. Many are “too busy” to invest the time in transforming. Many great companies were too busy… until they weren’t busy at all.


The Future of Work Does Not Look Like an Endless Stream of Zoom Calls

By #COVID19, Remote Working No Comments

By Nevo Hadas, Partner at DYDX

MIT has released research (conducted between 1 April and 5 April) showing that nearly half of the US workforce is now working from home,  and this number is set to increase. This is a massive jump from the usual 14%-16% range that report working from home or partially working from home. Whether to work remotely or not is no longer a debate, while how to manage and benefit from remote work have become key conversations.

With a global recession looming and cost-cutting a prerequisite, many CEOs are using the learnings from the global lockdown to ask why they need so much office space, and more importantly, parking space. Even if companies don’t reduce their headcount, having a remote and distributed workforce provides many cost savings not limited to physical space and facilities. Even on a social impact and environmental level, there is any number of civil society organisations who are closely monitoring the impact on infrastructure of a reduced commuting workforce, looking at carbon emissions, improved accessibility. 

Cost savings aside, remote working allows companies to recruit talent globally removing the geographic talent pool limits of “head office”. If location is not an issue then it is as feasible to hire a knowledge worker in Parys as it is in Paris.

However, companies need to be willing to adopt this change, which, until forced into it via the lockdown, they have been slow (or loathe) to do. This is generally due to nothing more than fear of change, inertia and the concern of unproductive staff working in their pyjamas.

The tools have existed for over a decade that enable remote working and are getting better at an increasing rate. While there are IT and other complexities involved, which can be overcome, for many businesses their “culture” is the key item that keeps them office-bound. There is a fear that their teams won’t be productive if they are out of the office (i.e. out of sight), or that there won’t be enough communication or they will lose the spirit that binds them together.

Speaking to many executives over the last two weeks, the key feedback received is that they have never been busier or felt more productive. That their days are filled with zoom calls, that the company has miraculously adopted group messaging tools, like Microsoft Teams or Slack, but they are now inundated with messages and emails. They are so busy speaking to people that it is hard to fit in all of the work they need to get done. It appears the cultural benefits of communication are not limited to the office, in fact, when working remotely over communication appears to be the problem. The challenge, however, has undoubtedly been one of effectiveness due to busyness.

Fundamentally, culture is the primary issue that makes remote working succeed or fail. Managers have not been trained or equipped to lead or enable remote teams. The systems and processes that are followed in physical environments do not translate well into remote ones. Meetings, which are not everybody’s favourite pastime at the office, become a far too easy norm as a video call and as diaries fill up, decision making slows down. More meetings mean the days feel busier, but there is less time for work.

The big cultural shift that we see accelerating post lockdown is the move from a physical/information age context into a digital context. This isn’t meant in a technological way, but rather in how the management approach has changed. Where in the information age it was hard to keep track of productivity and activity in employees therefore you wanted them in the office, in the digital age, the tools and systems make this easy. Managers no longer need to worry about whether people are working, but rather whether their output is meeting expectations. 

Leading a remote team is much more challenging and requires more effort. Where the default in the office is to call a meeting, remote working offers more tools and ways to resolve problems/make decisions/share information than offices do. Moving out of the “call a meeting” paradigm unlocks new productivity and effectiveness levels not experienced before by most organisations. 

Upskilling managers to lead effectively can make the difference between an organization realising the benefits of remote working or sending everyone back to their desks reverting back to the way things were.

Managers, and their teams, need to master the new collaboration tools to really unlock the power they provide. This is more challenging than expected as people generally choose to stop learning a new tool when they can replicate what they did before. This is similar to buying a fancy new cement mixer, only to mix cement by hand in its bowl. While technology plays a key role in enabling remote working, it is a blank canvas. The company’s culture and behaviours are reflected in the rules created upon it. Too often “we trust our people” cultures are shown up by draconian IT rules and regulations that limit collaboration.

What the last weeks have taught the nation is that a segment of the workforce is at least a little malleable – and that even through a period of great disruption the business of business kept on going, although with great effort and at a significant cost for some. 

The challenge for South African managers of large and small enterprises will be to understand how to flourish in this new space. Some of the changes will be forced onto business through necessity, others, who still have the luxury of a strong balance sheet, can be more measured in their implementation. Whatever the approach, the dinosaur of the “office” has hit a significant existential threat and wearing pyjamas will never be the same again.

Nevo Hadas led the development of “The Culture Canvas”, an open-source framework that makes work culture actionable for businesses to shape their team’s behaviours. The latest ebook on managing remote teams, “” is available as a free download and a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment, designed to help companies measure the effectiveness of their remote teams.

Channel Africa Perspective

By Future of Work

The extended lockdown has forced South African entrepreneurs to rethink how they manage their teams. With their teams working remotely they need to rethink how they build a team or company culture and how they manage productivity. For most, this requires a change in leadership style, a new way of thinking and new skills.

Templar spoke to Zanele from SABC’s Channel Africa, listen to the interview here.



team effectiveness and Psychological Safety

Team Effectiveness and Psychological Safety

By Digital Transformation, Remote Working, Team Culture No Comments

As we rapidly move towards remote and distributed teams, too much information is based on tricks and hacks, with very little focusing on the fundamentals of what makes teams great – whether remote or in the office.

You aren’t as great as you think

The first hurdle in building better teams is getting over your own self-view. Most managers believe they are great at leading teams and very few invest the time and energy required to master it because it feels awkward or inauthentic.

Management Science has moved on

If you studied management science or organisational psychology in the last five years you will see a significant shift in the team theories as compared to the previous decade and century. New research and insights have changed how we understand teams and performance. These new insights have changed how we understand teams and teamwork, enabling businesses to become far more effective than ever before.

Summary of the New Studies

First published in 2010, Anita Williams Wooley and her team created a battery of tasks that together tested four different kinds of thinking in teams: generating new ideas; choosing a solution based on sound judgement; negotiating to reach compromise; and finally, general ability at task execution (such as coordinating movements and activities). The participants were also asked to perform some verbal or abstract reasoning tasks that might be included in a traditional IQ test – but they answered as a group, rather than individually. The findings that some teams perform better across all tests (with no correlation to the highest IQ in the team but actually more regarding gender and ethnic diversity) than others has been corroborated in many tests and contexts since then. 

In a different study called the Aristotle Project, Google observed 180 of their teams (across all their disciplines) in pursuit of a recipe for high-performing teams. One common theme came up among their highest performing teams: good Psychological Safety. 

What is Psychological Safety?

Simply put, it’s when each member of your team feels confident within the team to share ideas with no fear of judgement.

When employees have lowered confidence in their ability, they tend to contribute less and feel distanced from the team. Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership at Harvard Business School believes we live in a knowledge economy—where it is ideas that have true value in the marketplace. The more ideas contributed, the richer the pool of resources. One way to measure Psychological Safety is through the equality of distribution or input from each member during a team’s conversation.

Team IQ is higher than individual IQ

Teams that function with good psychological safety inevitably do better as they collaborate more.

When everyone is getting an equal opportunity to share, there is a larger pool of information to draw from—and a greater opportunity to learn something new. This not only fosters information but also allows the rest of the team to learn from each other and fosters support for one another. Collaborative efforts have also been known to bring out the best from team members as unseen ideas and connections are made known.

(Kinda) humble leadership

Malcolm Gladwell praised Steve Jobs’ innovations based on how he built upon others’ ideas (he may have been sarcastic). In this same way, within a team meeting, one idea brings about a conversation; giving way to potential new ideas, methods or results. This also allows the team to feel more essential to the decision-making process as they have now contributed to something larger and will start to take more initiative in sharing ideas.

The greater room created for risk-taking encourages innovation and increased communication, allowing for greater teamwork and dependability. 

Team Etiquette

While team performance can be boosted through psychological safety, it is important to also promote social sensitivity, Perceiving how others feel can better inform how to act around them. A team member may make a comment that they think is lighthearted to another but it is not received well based on their mood or cultural background. This can further distract and alienate team members, decreasing their effectiveness. These challenges increase dramatically in remote teams where there are fewer visual and perceptual cues to use.

In their research, Google found that a common vocabulary of expected behaviour, a group forum on dynamics (and leaders actively reinforcing and improving on these), could better enhance these efforts.

Aristotle said, “The whole is the sum of its parts”. A team is more effective when everyone is involved and they feel secure within a team. Being able to contribute to discussions without fear of judgement, understanding their tasks and their overall contribution, as well as other teammates being aware of their fellow team members, all contribute well to an effective team.

Our ebook “ – Remote Team Management” provides a practical guide to enabling teams to develop psychological safety. We have also developed a 10-minute “Remote Team Maturity” assessment designed to quickly measure remote working capabilities and quantify team effectiveness. If you want to supercharge your teams, or find out more about our Culture and Future Of Work practice, get in touch at