How Red Hat Uses Incentives and Impact Mapping To Help Remote Teams Thrive
How can impact mapping and other flexibility-based hybrid work models help increase workplace connection in a modern world?
Remote work remains a hot topic. Approaches to hybrid work differ as widely as the individuals who actually work in a hybrid model.
Alexis Monville, Chief of Staff to the CTO at Red Hat, was no stranger to distributed engineering teams when the pandemic hit. But the company soon realized just how much it had to learn when it went from 40% of the organization working remotely to 100% remote during COVID-19.
Now, Red Hat has taken steps to help its employees work in a flexible and customized hybrid model that works for individuals — and fosters connection.
On a recent episode of Gtmhub’s podcast, Dreams with Deadlines, Alexis sits down with Jenny Herald, VP of Product Evangelism at Gtmhub, to share about Red Hat’s hybrid model, and other ways to build better teams.
Keep reading to learn more about making workplace connections, incentives and using impact mapping to determine OKRs.
Building hybrid work that works
If you are staying connected to the global conversation about work models, you might have noticed that everyone defines hybrid work a little differently.
But no matter the words you use to describe hybrid work, the bottom line is that hybrid work should be designed for your team members. The remote aspects of work should be set up to empower team members to collaborate and produce their work effectively. Moreover, the in-person components should be set up for connection and customization.
At Red Hat, working models used to be cut-and-dry. Remote workers were remote. n-person workers were assigned to their seats in an office location.
Now, Red Hat’s hybrid model is built around offering flexibility to workers. For in-person work, individuals still have a designated office location, but they can choose when to go into the office and build a custom in-person experience based on their needs. Workers coming into the office can also opt to request features like a standing desk or a workspace with two computer monitors.
This kind of system acknowledges the motivation for coming into the office. “Some people wanted to come back, but not necessarily be at their desk,” says Alexis. “They usually wanted to come back to meet with other people.”
Welcoming workplace connections
One of the keys to remote and hybrid work success is intention.
An in-person environment might offer perks like free coffee or snacks in the kitchen. But Alexis points out that these aren’t the primary motivators for workers to come into the office. Most workers visit common spaces to bump into other people.
Alexis recalls how passersby used to comment on his whiteboard notes at his desk, which would lead to new and random connections. But what Alexis calls “the old way” of meeting coworkers in the office doesn’t happen randomly in a virtual environment.
The question then becomes, How do you build your network without these organic, in-person connections?
For an extrovert or natural people person, the intention to form virtual connections may come easily. But for others, networking with coworkers might not come so organically.
According to Alexis, this intention needs to be built into the company culture.
Enter: Culture on a Plate.
For Red Hat, this system serves as a coworker “matchmaking” service, pairing up individuals from different parts of the company for 30-minute meetings when both people are available. These meetings take place around lunchtime, with attendees encouraged to eat “together” on-camera — hence, the plate in its name.
Not every organization will be able to deliver virtual connections on a silver platter. But encouraging this kind of intention through organized events or structured networking can help distributed teams stay invested in company culture.
Incentivizing sales success through teams
Many, if not most, teams focus on offering individual performance incentives, such as financial bonuses for achieving sales goals or customer satisfaction metrics.
But Alexis feels strongly that the root cause of many collaboration problems is not attitude, personality, or lack of investment in company success. Rather, individual incentives tend to drive anti-collaboration behaviors.
Alexis shares an example about sales teams within a small start-up. Early hires have the chance to learn the product from the start and achieve initial sales goals. As the company grows and seeks to hire and onboard additional salespeople into a new field, the best trainers for these new hires are seasoned salespeople.
But even if leadership instructs these experienced salespeople to help the newcomers, these high achievers will still be motivated by individual incentives. Over time, a small percentage of the sales team will likely close the vast majority of sales, while the majority of salespeople close a much smaller proportion of company sales.
To combat what he saw as a common roadblock for sales teams, Alexis recommended an experiment for one organization. He suggested splitting sales into pods, or teams of three people. This would focus incentives outside the individuals, and would instead drive team-based motivation to achieve goals.
When salespeople were able to pick their own pods, they were more willing to agree to the arrangement. And the results were astounding. The pods were supporting and supplementing each other’s skillsets. Customers got to know multiple salespeople on their accounts and appreciated those relationships. Sales team members were even taking PTO at the close of the quarter without issue.
The team-based incentives were working, and this approach allowed the organization to onboard new salespeople, increase sales quotas and maximize impact.
Impact mapping to create OKRs
What is impact mapping, and why is it important?
One of the biggest hurdles to establishing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for teams is misaligned priorities, especially at the leadership level. When you ask multiple people what is currently most important, if everyone gives a different answer, collaboration will not be successful. In fact, the misalignment will almost certainly lead to friction within the team.
For teams that are having an especially difficult time establishing priorities to help determine OKRs, Alexis recommends a four-step approach called Impact Mapping. Impact Mapping allows you to start with the end goal. By determining the desired outcome or impact, you can prioritize more effectively.
Step 1: Find the ‘why’
The impact map is divided into four columns. In the first column, you should start by determining the why. Your why is the ultimate goal of the project. This will play heavily into the rest of the impact map, so be sure that your team is completely aligned on what is most important to achieve.
Alexis uses a why example of “to plan a fantastic picnic.” Moving forward, any decisions you make should align with the why, and support this initially established goal.
Step 2: Determine the ‘who’
The next step in impact mapping is establishing who the key players or actors are. This list includes those who can help you achieve your why, such as potential partners or leaders. It also includes those people who pose a challenge or obstacle to the why, and those who might prevent you from achieving it.
When deciding on your who, you should start to consider how these actors will affect the why. In the picnic example, the who includes both your companion who will share the picnic and, perhaps, mosquitoes. Mosquitoes could prevent your picnic from being pleasant.
Step 3: Establish the ‘how’
Next up, decide on the how. The how answers the question, What kind of behaviors do you want the actors to adopt so that you can have your why? In our impact map, this column helps us understand what it would look like for us to achieve the why.
Then, consider what actions you could take to lead the actors to behave in the way that would help you achieve your why.
For our picnic example, we establish that we want mosquitoes to be repelled and to not show up at the picnic. As a secondary behavior, you might also determine that, if they do show up, you want them not to bite you and your companion. Already, you might be thinking about how you might achieve these desired behaviors, like avoiding stagnant water, planting repellant foliage, or using a spray or lotion that repels insects.
Step 4: Identify the ‘what’
The final step of the impact mapping process is determining the specific actions you could take to encourage behaviors that support your why. This will be your what, or the first thing that you will be focusing on. A critical component of this step involves establishing priorities based on what is feasible and what you can do right away.
For instance, if your picnic is in less than a week, planting foliage is unrealistic. You might have already decided on a location that does have still water. So you can now prioritize and choose to act on using lotion or spray that is an insect repellant. This is doable and a feasible action step to prioritize.
The end game of Impact Mapping is establishing OKRs through identifying specific steps that will help you to achieve your goals. Set priorities based on what you can start doing now and what will be most effective to achieve the why, rather than getting bogged down in hundreds of possible action steps that may or may not be connected to your why.
By determining the ultimate desired impact first, you can be creative to find specific, established action steps that will help you achieve that impact.
This article is based on an episode of Dreams With Deadlines by Gtmhub — the strategy-meets-execution podcast where you'll hear of real trials and victories in business. The show is hosted by Jenny Herald, VP of Product Evangelism at Gtmhub. Subscribe via Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts to hear their discussions with thought leaders and learn how to shrink the gap between strategy and its day-to-day implementation.
[10:49] “When you book a space in the office, you book whatever you want. We added that flexibility because yes, some people wanted to come back, but not necessarily to work at their desk. They usually wanted to come back to meet with other people.”
[12:42] “People cannot collaborate if they don’t know that they are working in the same direction. Each time, it creates friction if they are not.”
[15:19] “Priority is not a word that was meant to be used in the plural form. There should be one priority. … To do that, you need to work on the impact [that the priority] will create. How do you define the impact? How do you identify the impact? That’s why impact mapping is so cool.”
[30:28] “The real problem behind the lack of collaboration wasn’t because they didn’t know how to do it. It was not because they weren’t nice people, because they didn’t want to, or because they didn’t want the success of the company. No, it was because of their individual incentives. Their system was driving their behavior, and their behavior was not to collaborate with others.”
[35:56] “I strongly believe that people have the ability to impact more than they think. …Sometimes, we need to look outside ourselves to grow our leadership skills, so we can really increase our impact. …That will increase not only your impact, but also your satisfaction.”