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
Here is some good, pragmatic advice from Carrie Sommers about how to address some of the unique challenges of virtual team management.
Managing a virtual workforce has its own set of challenges. It can be hard to keep track of what everyone’s working on. Similarly, without the ability to stop by someone’s office, it can be hard to keep a constant finger on the pulse of employee morale. Here are a few ways to manage these issues and get the most out of working with a virtual team:
Wayne Turmell breaks down one of the key ideas in Darlene Derosa’s Book ‘Virtual Team Success’ in this article from Management Issues.
In her very good book, “Virtual Team Success”, Darleen Derosa has a lot to say, but one of the most helpful is her “5 Differentiators for Top Virtual Teams”. It’s based on lots of research but has the added value of being true on a gut level as well.
Here are the five ways great remote teams are probably operating at a higher level than yours and mine:
This article gives some real world advice specifically about how to motivate employees and recognize accomplishments in virtual teams
“As more companies expand globally, telecommuting is becoming a common work arrangement for many employees,” said Dr. Paul Eccher, author and co-founder of The Vaya Group. “However, just because these workers are out of sight does not mean they should be kept out of the loop. Leaders must learn how to effectively manage virtual teams in order to improve the bottom line and sustain talent over time.”
“Through our research and work within Fortune 500 companies, we’ve discovered that only 21 percent of leaders excel at motivating their teams,” Eccher’s partner Dave Ross said, “With these simple tips, leaders can build camaraderie, create a more positive work environment and encourage stronger business performance, regardless of distance.”
The Vaya Group recommends the following tips for motivating virtual teams:
We all understand the importance of face-to-face communication and non-verbal cues. This study would suggest that even ‘virtual’ face time promotes more effective distributed team work.
MANCHESTER, England, November 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ –
New research shows that video-conferencing is more effective than telephone and email for remote team-working.
The research was conducted by the globally-recognised Fraunhofer Institute, a specialist in workplace collaboration technology, for OmniJoin, a new video and webconferencing solution from technology giant Brother.
It tested the impact of video-conferencing on the behaviour and productivity of two teams who undertook simulated workplace tasks* while based at different locations.
The key findings were that, compared to collaborating by telephone and email, video-conferencing…