Virtual teams, done right, increase productivity 40% (part 2 in culture series)

This is part 2 in an informal series on organizational culture (see part 1).  Key quote from the article linked below: “using virtual teams can improve employee productivity; some organizations have seen gains of up to 43%“.

This is an area in which I’ve spent a fair bit of my career.  Over the past almost 20 years, I’ve had long stretches where my reports, and/or my management, and/or my customers were hundreds or thousands of miles away.  Very often all of the above.  Usually also in the context of with a matrixed organizational structure.  And with team members representing many nationalities and backgrounds.

Regarding that 43% figure…. so,first a confession about what follows: I’m glossing over lots of fine print, most of which I’ll leave for the article below. Guilty as charged.  Managing remote teams and virtual/indirectly-reporting resources is difficult when you’re new to it.  It’s hard if the resources all report to you, but are geographically disperse.  It’s hard if the resources are all local, but they don’t directly report to you.  It’s REALLY hard if you combine those.  But, the thing that makes it “hard” may not be what you have to do.  It’s what you have to NOT do.

Here are the top things to NOT do when managing remote and virtual teams:

  • Do NOT freak out.  It’s not that scary.  Go in with the mindset that it’s actually not that hard to manage remote resources, and it won’t be.  Good folks will still get their work done, perhaps even better as the article below suggests.  And if they don’t get their work done?  Well, they probably weren’t that good for your team anyway regardless of location.
  • Do NOT succumb to pressure from above (or within) to bring your team geographically closer.  In my experience, such pressure is  without merit, and usually comes from an emotional urge for either greater control or more “energy” around the office.  Neither of which are guaranteed to translate into more or better output.
  • Do NOT let another manager’s bad experience with remote workers sour you.   They probably didn’t follow these rules.
  • Do NOT try to micro-manage the team.
  • On the other hand, do NOT forget about your remote resources.  Keep communications open, keep everyone informed, make sure the team members communicate with each other, etc.
  • Do NOT gush about what a great time the folks at the main office had at drinks after work the other day (or whatever), without them.  Be considerate.  You don’t need to hide things from them, they are grown ups after all.  But it is considerate to not remind them of the things that suck about being remote.

I may add to the list in future posts.  For now, I suggest reading the Harvard Business Review article, after the jump.

via Getting Virtual Teams Right.



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