Thoughtfully applying the right technology – an interview for Collaboration Superpowers: The Field Guide
One of my main mantra’s regarding the technology side of virtual teamwork and remote collaboration has always been “It’s not about technology – it’s the right technology thoughtfully applied”. I was delighted a few weeks back when Lisette Sutherland, the Director of Collaboration Superpowers, contacted me about doing a Google Hangout video interview to talk about my ideas and thoughts regarding remote collaboration for her upcoming book Collaboration Superpowers – The Field Guide. This book, which you can preorder now, is packed with stories and tips for those whose business models depend upon successfully bridging distance to accomplish knowledge work. She has interviewed a number of experts and early adopters and brings you their lessons learned.
It was great to get a chance to talk with Lisette. She has over 10 years experience with web-based collaboration tools and online community management and her goal is to get the best people working together regardless of location. A woman after my own heart!
With both our varied experience we had no shortage of things to talk about! We had a great discussion about a variety of topics including The Anywhere Office – what we like about remote working, what the major stumbling blocks are to successful virtual teamwork, tips for managing remote workings, work-life balance, and how to choose the best technology for remote collaboration.
The interview was done via video with Google Hangouts but unfortunately about half way through we had some audio issues. Lisette had the interview transcribed and posted it to her website today along with the YouTube video of the interview. You can check out the interview here.
I urge you to sign up for her mailing list and pre-order her book as it will be filled with lots of great tips and best practices for remote collaboration.
I was very excited last week when this short video from 37 Signals showed up in my inbox promoting their new book REMOTE – Office Not Required. Take a few minutes and watch it as they talk about all the things I’ve long championed as the advantages of embracing and working in The Anywhere Office® – especially with regards to lifestyle compatibility and productivity.
If you’ve read the articles I post on this blog it should come as no surprise to you that I loved the NY Times Bestseller REWORK written by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37 Signals (the company that created the popular online collaboration and project management software Basecamp). In REWORK they challenge the usual thoughts and paradigm about work, meetings and what you need to run a successful company. It really changes the way you think about running a business in today’s world of work.
Well it looks like Jason and David have done it again this week with the release of their new book called REMOTE – Office Not Required. This book speaks more directly to the concept of The Anywhere Office® that we discuss and celebrate here on this blog. This short blurb about their book says it all:
As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can. REMOTE, the new book by 37signals, shows both employers and employees how they can work together, remotely, from any desk, in any space, in any place, anytime, anywhere.
This article, How to Avoid Virtual Miscommunication, by Keith Ferrazzi in Harvard Business Review (April 12, 2013) is a spot-on, powerhouse short-list of how to avoid miscommunication with a virtual team or project group.
Ferrazzi displays insight on challenges to virtual communication:
Think about the information you can glean just from the seating arrangement in a physical conference room — who sits next to whom, who’s at the head of the table, who has put a little extra distance between herself and her neighbor, and so on. All those cues are missing in a typical teleconference.
As well as unpacking a list of SIX best practices to achieve shared understanding in virtual communication. Here’s a favorite:
Avoid sloppy e-mailing. A new status symbol in today’s generally more egalitarian business environment has arisen: sloppy e-mails. One provocative study found that many executives have write terse e-mails with half-sentences, bad grammar, and atrocious spelling. The underlying message is that those individuals are far too busy to be bothered with writing perfectly polished text. Unfortunately, sloppy e-mails at best require wasting time trying to decipher them, and at worse cause workplace misunderstandings and costly errors. For offenders who claim they simply don’t have time to write better emails, researcher Jaclyn Kostnerdoesn’t mince words: “I tell them you have to find the time; otherwise, you’re not fit for the job and somebody else should be doing it. Or maybe you need to offload some responsibilities because there’s no excuse for sending people cryptic emails.”
If anyone gave attention to these 6 principles they would unquestionably avoid a whole lot of confusion, frustration, and unnecessary interaction. Do yourself a favor and read the full article here: How to Avoid Virtual Miscommunication – Keith Ferrazzi – Harvard Business Review.
[image courtesy of marketwitharedpen.com]
An eye opening article from Sebastian Bailey highlighting how little progress in some ways virtual team management has made in the last 15 years…
In 2000, Wayne Cascio identified five disadvantages of virtual teams, none of which have been resolved by 12 years of technological advances. Overcoming these obstacles isn’t about high-definition video conferencing; it’s about effective leadership that accounts for the nuances of the virtual environment.
Read the article here: How To Beat The Five Killers Of Virtual Working – Forbes.
You may have heard in the news this past week about Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer and her no work-at-home policy. She helped usher Yahoo back into the stone age when they made it clear that any Yahoo employee that currently works from home has until June to report to an office to work or look for work elsewhere.
According to an internal memo Yahoo believes:
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”
While I agree it’s helpful to work side-by-side with coworkers, this decision reaks of the knee-jerk, backward, “can’t do” thinking I see so many companies suffer from. They’re struggling with virtual teamwork and remote collaboration so they think they should just scrap the whole thing.
As a consultant helping companies make the shift to The Anywhere Office®, I can tell you first hand that virtual teams can be MORE effective and productive than co-located teams when instituted properly, and that “speed and quality” can be unsurpassed. But it doesn’t happen by accident; it requires a strategy and training.
When I consult with companies I walk them through a process to take a step back and define team and communication guideline. We also take a look at what kind of tools they have in place already, to determine if they are the right tools, and if they are being thoughtfully applied. Even these simple exercises have helped teams transform into lean, mean collaborating machines.
The punchline of the Yahoo situation is that Ms. Mayer talks about wanting the company to be the “best place to work,” but in the same breathe she announces they are taking away the ability to have a flexible work agreement. Workplace flexibility is highly valued by today’s smart young professionals; closing the door on it at Yahoo will ensure the best and brightest will look for work elsewhere. And don’t even get me started on the litany of other benefits virtual work provides: increased productivity, cost savings, environmental benefits, disaster preparedness….
I should be thanking Yahoo’s new CEO
In an interesting article I read in Fast Company they explained why Marissa Mayer and Yahoo actually did us a big favor:
“Over the years, I’ve seen many leaders and organizations follow the same path even though employees value the ability to work remotely, and there’s a solid argument that telework actually benefits the business.The difference is that those leaders don’t have a high profile and aren’t under the same public scrutiny as Mayer; therefore, their decisions go unnoticed and unchallenged. Rather than singling out and criticizing Mayer, we should thank her for raising the veil. Yahoo’s decision gives us the opportunity to expose and challenge the misguided, faulty reasoning many leaders follow when they decide to revoke their support for flexible work.”
That’s a very valid point and I’m delighted that the decision has generated so much discussion about telework, remote collaboration, and virtual leadership. The thing that really strikes me is Mayer’s claim they need to have everyone in the same physical location to communicate and collaborate effectively – this coming from a technology leader that produces a number of tools (such as mail, calendar,Yahoo Messenger, Yahoo Groups, etc.) that are designed to help people work together regardless of time or distance! Read more