Monday, June 21, 2004

Managing virtual teams

This article throws in some brilliant tips on long-distance management. William Pape, highlights back in 1999 some of the techniques that make his distributed teams work as if they were in the same location.

Have regular virtual meetings or videoconferences, including managers, to strenghten relationships among distributed fellow workers.
At least some of the time, have managers operate in cyberspace , rather than out of the main office. "Sitting in a central office without plugging into the virtual culture is almost a guarantee of failure," Pape says. "You don't know what's going on, and you signal your employees that operating virtually isn't really important." And, like Carline Davis, who brings her managers together regularly for strategic planning, Pape believes it's important for employees to get together frequently.

Make sure home-based employees have appropriate work space. Have a separate room (with door included)to act as an office. Don't work from the kitchen table or your room, as you'll find extremely difficult to separate work time-frames from your private life.

Promote face2face meetings for monthly/bi-monthly strategic meetings.
Strengthen relationships between remote workers and employees at the main office . "People who work out of their homes or at customer sites also need to spend some time in an office with their colleagues," Pape argues. "Any face-to-face meeting -- a regular status meeting or an annual, sales, or planning meeting -- is an opportunity for cross-fertilization."

Help employees feel connected to the organisation.
Make sure, Pape advises, that remote employees receive frequent -- perhaps even daily -- updates about company progress. Include them in planning initiatives, and make your corporate mission and vision clear to every employee. "When you become a virtual organization, your staff suddenly loses all those interactions in the hallway, in the elevator, and by the water cooler that help move projects forward and smooth out conflicts," Pape says. To compensate, he suggests making regular use of videoconferencing and telephone conversations. Relying on e-mail too much, he finds, can allow conflicts to escalate. "When workers do most of their communicating by e-mail, small irritations easily grow into major conflicts," Pape says. "Learning how to disagree remotely is an important component of being able to operate virtually."

[via T+D Blog]


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