Some good #books about #managing remote workers and #virtualteams (part 6 of “culture” series)

Below are a couple of good reads I’ve found on the subject of managing remote teams.  I got these a decade+ ago, and there wasn’t alot published yet on the subject.  But these are pretty good.  All of them have something to add to this subject.

You may notice that only two of the books above are specifically about remote workers or virtual teams.  If you’ve seen the rest of this series, you’ll know that’s exactly my point.

In a future post, I’ll comment on technologies that can help.  Many companies seem to still struggle with how to use the different enabling technologies well.  So, more to come on that.



Motivation and Working Remotely (part 4 in “#culture” series)

There’s some useful thinking on approaching remote working arrangements strategically.  Start at slide 15.

UntitledA few of the points that resonated strongly with my experience:

  • Heavily leverage instant messaging/chat, file sharing tools, web conferencing etc.  (My $0.02:  People, please pick some good tools.  The vast majority of text-based chat these days is cr*p.  I’ll repost some of my old IM Roadmap articles, but here are two tips:  Make sure it supports persistent groups, and on-screen white-space is evil.  The default mode should be small fonts, high-information density, etc.  Otherwise, what’s the point?)
  • The “workplace” should now be viewed as a 24/7 thing.  Everyone should be encouraged to work when and where they want. (My $0.02: In trade for that flexibility the employees need to anticipate and accommodate odd-hour work.  I don’t buy into the growing narrative that it’s bad to have people responding to email at 9pm or 5am.  Ignore those lazy people.  Why discourage passionate and productive colleagues?)
  • Virtual teams expand your available talent pool.
  • Use video conferencing every day.
  • Meet as a team face-to-face when possible.   (My $0.02:  Don’t forget about Tuckman’s stages of group development.  After “norming”, you’ll actually need in-person interaction WAY less than you think you do.)

via How to Keep People Motivated When Working Remotely.

@StanfordCPD webinar : Making Distance Teams Work

Coming up 22 April, 12pm Pacific, free.  Register after the jump.

Making Distance Teams Work: Opportunities for Success

Virtual and remote teams are becoming increasingly more common. Many do not succeed because they fail to recognize the practices that fuel collaboration, build relationships, and create an effective long-distance team.

In this webinar, you will learn how language differences, culture and power all come into play when working at a distance from supervisors, employees, co-workers and customers.

via XAPM002 Advanced Project Management (Free Webinar Series) | Stanford Center for Professional Development.


How to Manage Remote Direct Reports & #virtualteams (relevant for #culture too)

This is probably the best distillation of how to manage remote teams I’ve yet found.  It resonates strongly with my personal experience, and captures a lot of the best practices we used when I was with UBS. 


  • Get to know your remote reports on a personal level by reserving a few minutes during meetings and calls for casual workplace conversations
  • Establish a schedule of communication both between you and your remote employee and between the remote employee and the rest of the team
  • Use video technology to spark spontaneous interactions among your team members


  • Evaluate the job performance of remote workers differently from the way you assess co-located colleagues — apply the same metrics across your team
  • Worry too much about setting up constant in-person meetings with your remote workers — predictable visits are more important than frequent ones
  • Forget to acknowledge the work of remote workers so their efforts don’t go unnoticed

via How to Manage Remote Direct Reports – HBR.

via How to Manage Remote Direct Reports – HBR.

Instant Messaging Increased in the U.S. Northeast During the Blizzard

People use chat and IM more when working from home.  I’d call that a blinding glimpse of the obvious.  HBR is, of course, right.  They’re also very late to the party.  I blogged about these effects and benefits almost 10 years ago.  Check out old postings in “IM Roadmap” (See “Other Blogs” above.)


via Instant Messaging Increased in the U.S. Northeast During the Blizzard – HBR.

5 fast, cheap Ways To Make Your Office Space More Productive #workplace #culture

Great article.  One tie-in with recent themes here at ATW:

Some people do their best work with loud music and the television on. Others need to not have another person within sight. Since there’s no way one office can accommodate everyone’s quirks, the best bet is a liberal work-from-home policy. If people spend two to three days per week brainstorming with each other at work and another two to three days in their home offices executing on these brainstorms, you can get the best of both worlds.

via 5 Fast–And Cheap!–Ways To Make Your Office Space More Productive | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

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.