Telework & Virtual Teams Strategy (pt. 1 of 2)

This week’s blog post begins the video blog series of interviews with noted authorities, in this case, virtual work, distributed teams and succeeding in the endeavor.  Joining me to discuss Telework and Virtual Teams Strategy is Phil Montero of Montero Consulting (www.youcanworkfromanywhere.com) who has made a career for the past decade plus of enabling companies and individuals to move into the new work environment of working virtually.

Video Interview

Check out the video interview below with Phil.  In part 2 of this interview and next blog post, you’ll learn another mission critical element that, in many cases, doesn’t occur in geographically proximate work environments (like under the same roof).  If it’s missing in virtual environments, you can kiss success goodbye!


The Way of the World

There is a global phenomena that is changing the way we work.  That of course is working virtually separate from brick and mortar corporate offices.  This may be difficult for many 9 to 5-ers to grasp, but over a billion (with a B) people already work remotely worldwide and major corporations, particularly in the hi-tech sector, are capitalizing on the tremendous cost savings and talent pool available when using the new, increasingly less costly technology–talent that may not be available within driving distance of your company.  Small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) are getting into the act as well, even though they may not be as far up the learning curve as the heavily resourced giants.  This post is for you.

Succeeding with Virtual Work is simple in concept, but not so easy to implement.  There are more failures than successes due to leadership that doesn’t recognize the distinction of how the nature of work changes when dealing with distributed work teams, for the company and for the individuals involved.  Unfortunately, the price of failure in lost productivity, missed deadlines, and HR casualties will nearly always far exceed the investment needed to get it right the first time.  If you’ve been unsuccessful with virtual work teams in the past, take heart and don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Set up the Protocol

OK. So you found the coolest gadgets available to have meetings with, collaborate with, and otherwise communicate (or so you think) with the company’s new distributed employee network.  Are you done?  Of course not.  There are so many things that happen as a matter of course when working with colleagues and employees in the same office that are absent in the virtual work environment.  Things like a sense of connection with each other, total understanding of the direction and how I as an employee on an island connected only by the tether of the Internet fit into the plan.

According to Phil, it starts and ends with communication, and not just setting up the wireless network, but really connecting.  If you’ve read my blog post (OK, article) on The Expectations Game, you know that dealing with customer expectations and controlling them up front is critical to project success in the world of consulting.  The same applies to virtual co-workers and employees, in spades!  The first communication element necessary is to set up the protocol, the groundrules for how communication will occur.  What happens on a web meeting?  When is teleconferencing or Skype videoconferencing required?  What about email and text usage?  And lest we forget, at what point is face-to-face meeting and hand shaking essential?  Leaders of distributed workforces need to establish that protocol with their teams early and reinforce it often.

This only scratches the surface of setting up a distributed or virtual work environment for your company and overcoming barriers to success.  It should, however, emphasize the need to take a structured approach to making it happen at your company.

Learn more at YouCanWorkFromAnywhere – The Anywhere Office.

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22 Comments

  1. Brie January 28, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    You nailed it! Communication is the most important aspect of creating a successful virtual work environment. Over the past two years, I’ve worked for two companies as a telecommuter, and my first experience was drastically different than my current one. I’ll stick with the positive :) which is that, at the company I work for now, communication is fantastic. My manager also happens to be the CEO and I know she’s reachable whenever I need to run something by her, via email/IM/message boards/phone. We also have regular meetings scheduled and we both have a solid understanding of my current projects.

    For any managers considering allowing telecommuting, or turning their office entirely virtual, it’s vitally important that you establish communication procedures. Schedule regular phone meetings or face-to-face meetings if you can. Use different methods of communication so that no team members are left out. And be precise and clear about flexible vs. set work hours and workloads. Virtual employees who know what is expected of them and who are regularly asked to show proof of their work will stay on task, and managers won’t have to worry about not being able to trust that their employees are working.

    When deployed properly, telecommuting is a fantastic work arrangement for employers and employees!

    • Karl January 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

      Brie:
      Thanks for adding more real world experience to the discussion. I couldn’t agree more with your comments, and you highlight some specific trust related issues regarding whether remote employees are actually doing the work. More posts coming so stay tuned, in fact, the part 2 of this interview blog is posting tomorrow, so check back and post again.

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