I’ve seen a number of articles, blogs and other forms of media articulations about the dos and don’ts of properly managed remote organizations. The focus, due to the current circumstances, has been about advising on best practices to lead fully remote organizations (e.g., where everyone works from their own location/home). Whilst this is worthy information, my preference is for it to be of use in exceptional circumstances such as the one we are currently enduring due to the Corona-quarantine. In general, my opinion is that companies should be organized as remote as necessary, NOT as remote as possible.
I’ve had the opportunity to build and lead global organizations, thus natively remote, for the better part of 30 years. I’ve always been comfortable about the quality of operations that can be orchestrated by properly weaving together remote locations. During the early years of modestly useful telecommunications tools/services, I was probably even a bit optimistic. Early on I accepted the gradual evolution toward remotely distributed resources as an inevitability to master rather than a burden to contrast.
There is widespread articulate advice about the proper code of conduct, orchestration of tools/services and rigor of adhering to schedules – I’m not going to repeat that. Rather, I’d like to offer my point of view regarding what I believe to be 3 essential elements of building effective distributed organizations:
Embracing NOT Accepting. This is the critical element. It is simply not enough to be positively predisposed toward working with remote locations, across time zones, with different cultural modes, different languages etc. It requires the actual desire and belief that it can be made to work well (not acceptably). This is the necessary fuel to the drive toward a seamless, collaborative, sharing and unified virtual organization that is productive and responsive. It is inevitable that some individuals will not find it comfortable and/or productive to work with remotely located partners. That is to be accepted and managed so as not to give such individuals roles that either directly or indirectly put them in a position of becoming detrimental to the overall performance of the teams.
Intelligent Distribution of Competencies and Work. It is a fallacy to begin with the precept that all key activities and competencies must be centralized in the originating location. If not a doomed approach, this is certainly a recipe for the overall deterioration of the work environment and decrease in productivity. What happens is that remote locations are made to feel less important by the lack of senior representation and/or by the allocation of work considered less central to the mission of the company. The natural outcome is lower engagement, difficulties in attracting and retaining talent and other related trends that inevitably lead to lower performance. Two elements are essential: figure out the top talent and relative skills across all locations, and organize teams and the allocation of work around them. Centers of excellence can be anywhere where there is top talent that can build and lead a team. The work is to be allocated so that each center of excellence is afforded the maximum degree of autonomy and control for the work they are entrusted.
Trust and Respect. These words are readily understood, but truly feeling them requires the assumption and belief of competency. This is somewhat analogous to assuming positive intent when interacting with others, the lack of which breeds distrust and inevitably leads to dysfunction. Similarly, you need the true belief that your remote partners are on balance as competent as you, more so in some areas and less so in others. Otherwise, it is not likely to build the trust and respect necessary to foster a collaborative and productive relationship.
There is obviously much more that could be said about this subject. I hope these 3 simple observations foster some thoughts.
Tags: Nic Di Iorio, NeoDev Technologies
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