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.
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
This guest post was submitted to The Anywhere Office by Kevin Gillam of Ruby Receptionists
Whether you wear all the hats in your virtual office or you have staff working from remote locations,there’s often one thing missing – a receptionist. A phone answering service for your virtual office is a simple solution that can provide you with the same invaluable benefits enjoyed by businesses withon-site receptionists.
From forwarding calls to your business number to making calls on your behalf, a virtual receptionist service is the glue that helps hold your operations together, no matter where you or your employees are. Just like on-site receptionists, virtual receptionists provide a variety of services, including: Phone answering with a custom greeting and letting you know who’s on the line before transferring, just like a receptionist in a physical office. Taking messages by hand or forwarding calls to voicemail – both of which can be emailed to you. Connecting calls to any phone number of your choice. Making phone calls on your behalf. Relaying messages and information to callers.
The big companies all have someone to answer the phone on behalf of the head honchos and other employees. There is no reason you can’t have someone providing you with the same professional first impression just because you have a virtual office. When you have an attentive virtual receptionist handling your calls, you provide your callers with a top-notch experience.
Late last year, I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar for Cisco where I shared my three secrets for turning your office into The Anywhere Office®. In the presentation I discussed how the world of work has changed and that whether you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, telecommuter or remote worker, there are smart ways to work without an office.
In case you missed it – you can watch the replay of 3 Secrets to Turning Your Office Into The Anywhere Office®. In this webinar I share three secrets to mobilize your workstyle and make your business and projects more flexible. These simple steps will allow you to work wherever and whenever you want.
We had a lot of questions during the webinar and not all were answered, so I answered the bulk of them in a 2 part guest blog post I did for the WebEx blog. There were some excellent questions – here are the links so you can check it out:
In this post I answer these questions:
- How can you stay connected with workmates and interact with your team in a virtual office while avoiding feeling isolated?
- What is the best way to convince ‘old school’ management that this will better for yourself and the company?
- How do you keep the team spirit and consistency in the quality of work when everyone is working from home?
- How do you convince a customer to trust in remote management of his/her data?
In part two of this Q&A I answer these questions:
- What is the best way for a few employees to keep a task list for their boss that we can all access remotely?
- Do you have some basic tools that you think are absolutely “must haves” for a virtual team?
- I share some of the best free and low-cost tools available for keeping teams connected and productive.
If you’re currently a mobile worker, or you’re starting to get more involved with virtual teamwork and remote collaboration the tools and strategies I discuss in this Q&A will help. The key to success is embracing the change about what defines work and taking the time to really think about how business gets done.
If you have further questions, you can post them as comments below or over at the webex blog and I’ll answer them there.