A few days ago, I joined a meetup about distributed agile?>
In the last decade technological advances have enabled new ways of communicating and collaborating that have been unthinkable not even 15 years ago. We can now meet virtually and see and hear each other in a quality that feels almost as if the person were in the same room.
… but only almost. Something always seems to be missing, and many teams mourn the days when they could meet in the same location every day to get their work done. It just felt better, more personal, more productive, more fun.
So, which tool should we use? This is a question we hear very frequently when we talk to potential clients. It is true that virtual work is not possible without online tools, but to think that there is a tool out there that will make all the problems of virtual work go away is an illusion.
The perfect tool for your team does not exist. There are better and worse tools out there, but they will only be a good fit for your team if it is clear what they will be used for and how. In other words, tools have to serve the needs of team collaboration, and it is more important to get the processes right than to pick the “right” tool. This usually also means that I have to adjust my work process to the capabilities of the tool.
For example, project management tools require their users to be very systematic about the information that is put into the tool, so it can deliver the benefit it advertises. If half the team does not add deadlines (because they are used to keeping track of progress differently) the tool will not be able to show the status of different projects, at how much capacity the team operates and similar information.
Another assumption related to the belief that technology is the most important factor for remote team success is that technical skills (tool skills and professional skills) are more important than interpersonal ones. This is not the case. In a virtual team, just as in any other team, people have to communicate with each other to get stuff done, and because they do not see each other and do not know each other’s context, misunderstandings, which can lead to conflict, happen much faster and have more severe consequences.
Think about email: how often have you received an email that annoyed you, that made you wish that the person on the other hand had explained better, not been so rude, read your email well enough? We often assume a bad intention that’s directed at us, when in fact this other person might have simply had a bad day. The communication channel in virtual communication is usually thinner than in the face to face communication. Building a relationship in the virtual work environment requires;
(1) the willingness to overcome obstacles,
(2) time investment and
(3) know-how about the human factor of work relations
This belief leads to the assumption that the virtual workspace and process should be as close to the face-to-face experience as possible. Yet, virtual collaboration is never going to be the same as co-located work, hence face-to-face must be better!
This approach to virtual work acknowledges the functional possibilities to get work done, but emphasizes the nostalgia I talked about in the beginning of this post and leads many to adopt a quite defeatist position: I have to endure the new situation and accept that work will never be fun again.
Instead of trying to recreate the physical experience in the virtual work context, we help our clients rethink work completely. Get away from thinking of co-located versus virtual as a dichotomy and start using the best of both worlds. Why not use virtual tools to prepare a face-to-face meeting, so we can get the work part a lot faster and focus on the soft factors of our team when we meet face-to-face?
In our own work, we find that some habits from virtual meeting have started to creep into our face-to-face meetings. For example, we use online document platforms to jointly write during a meeting – no matter if virtual or if we are in the same room, because it is the easiest way for us to create a record of the meeting: no taking pictures, no handling of large pieces of flipchart paper, no carrying around paper, pens and other stuff.
Virtual work does offer much more flexibility than working in an office but it is a myth to think that any virtual worker can do their work as effectively from a beach as they can at their desk in the home office or the co-working space.
Sure, there will be some, who can work from the beach and the conditions under which any team member is productive will be different. Still, there are requirements for remote team workers that limit this flexibility for most:
Overcoming these beliefs requires acknowledging that the old way of working is gone and will not come back. This is no easy feat, especially for those, who have spent most of the professional lives in co-located teams.
It also requires teams to invest in skill development and rethinking how work is organised. In doing so, it is important to keep the whole team motivated and to show how virtual work can be productive and fun.
Radical Inclusion – Brings remote teams closer together.
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A few days ago, I joined a meetup about distributed agile?>
I’ve been working with remote teams for the past 7 years, many of which are globally distributed across EUA, Brazil, India, and China and at least 4 different time zones at a time. I’ve also worked with teams located in Ireland and Canada. What I’ve learned during these years is that communication and trust are the key for success when man?>
Happy to welcome Tallitha Campos who has more than 12 years of experience in Information Technology, an enthusiast on new trends, technology and culture to discuss on distributed teams from Quality Analyst perspective. As a Quality Assurance Analyst for 8 years, Tallitha’s customer centric approach helps Yellow Pencil deliver user-friendly software with the finest quality. She has experience wo?>