Thursday, 15 August 2013

Remote team working

The use of technology has led the way for people to communicate and work remotely. It has led to a shift in management skills because there are differences in managing people on site and managing people at a distance. The difference has not always been recognised, however ... to a company's detriment.

To manage remote teams – also called virtual, global and distributed teams – you need to recognise the changes. Team members can suffer from a sense of isolation, they can lack trust, their productivity can suffer; and if any members are the type that benefit from being given frequent direction, they can feel lost. Add to this any cross-cultural issues such as misunderstanding of spoken and visual cues (direct and indirect), difference in approach to people and their status, difference in approach to processes employed, and wrongly aligned expectations, and you can see that many issues can have an impact on a project where remote teams are involved.

It's not all bad news, though. Many team members enjoy the freedom they get from working remotely. They are happy to use the latest technology to communicate. They are used to cross-cultural issues and are tuned in enough to recognise possible miscommunication and check the right message has been understood. Yes, there are more opportunities for the individual pieces of a project that each remote member produces to misfit. But, the key lies in someone's ability to diagnose what is wrong and why it is wrong; and this means identifying miscommunication and why it occurred in the team with the implementing of solutions to counter it happening again. Our way is not the only way of doing things, so, if the result is fine and robust even though it appears that the process of getting there was different from expected, do we question it or learn from it?

Hilary Barr, writing for Insights, Getting the most out of a virtual team (24.7.13) gives some useful hints and tips on what to do to make your management of remote teams more effective.

Kevan Hall, writing for bdaily, Team Spirit in a Virtual World, (19.7.13) addresses the need for team spirit even in remote teams and gives suggestions of how to achieve this.

And, how is cloud working figuring in all this? Well, apparently it suits team workers because it offers improved collaboration, according to Onestopclick, Content Sharing in the Cloud Liberates Team Workers (2.8.13). It seems that many businesses still have issues with the cloud and what it can offer them, but, collaborative working outside a company firewall offers the main incentive so far.

As you know, I love cross-cultural issues. There are a couple of interesting articles on just this and what it means to international business at Expatknowhow in Intercultural Skills part 1 and 2 (9.7.13 and 23.7.13). Here the question is posed on whether your company actively screens candidates for cross-cultural skills when a lot of businesses say they value them. Interesting articles with some surprising stats about this topic and business in the UK.

These articles owe a lot to the British Council Report, March 2013, Culture at Work: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. This is a report worth reading especially if your company works remotely and interactively through teams.

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