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February 23, 2011

Telework & Virtual Teams Strategy: Expert Tips for Distributed Work

This article begins a series of interviews with noted authorities on subjects important to small and mid-sized business; in this case, virtual work or telework, distributed teams and succeeding with Virtual Team Strategy. I spoke with Phil Montero of Montero Consulting who has made a career for the past decade plus of enabling companies and individuals to move into the new work environment of working virtually.

THE WAY OF THE TELEWORKING WORLD

There is a global phenomena that is changing the way we work. That of course is working virtually or teleworking separate from brick and mortar corporate offices. This may be difficult for many 9 to 5-ers to grasp, but over a billion (with a B) people already work remotely worldwide and major corporations, particularly in the hi-tech sector, are capitalizing on the tremendous cost savings and talent pool available when using the new, increasingly less costly technology–talent that may not be available within driving distance of your company. Small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) are getting into the act as well, even though they may not be as far up the learning curve as the heavily resourced giants. This article is for you.

Succeeding with Virtual Work is simple in concept, but not so easy to implement. There are more failures than successes due to leadership that doesn’t recognize the distinction of how the nature of work changes when dealing with distributed work teams, for the company and for the individuals involved. The dirty little secret is, the cost of failure in slipped deadlines, HR body count, and overall sacrificed productivity will almost always surpass the investment required to do it right up front. If you’ve been unsuccessful with virtual work teams in the past, take heart and don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

SET UP THE VIRTUAL TEAM STRATEGY PROTOCOL

OK. So you think you’ve found the coolest toys available to have electronic meetings, develop ideas, and otherwise communicate with your firm’s new, remote employee teams.

Are you done? Of course not. When employees are co-located, so many things occur automatically that can be taken for granted that just aren’t there in the virtual work world.

Things like a sense of connection with each other, total understanding of the direction and how I as an employee on an island connected only by the tether of the Internet fit into the plan.

According to Phil, it starts and ends with communication, and not just setting up the wireless network, but really connecting. If you’ve read my article on managing customer expectations, you know that dealing with customer expectations and controlling them up front is critical to project success in the world of consulting. The same applies to virtual co-workers and employees, in spades!

Proper protocol is the first element of communication you need, setting the agenda for how communication needs to happen. What happens on a web meeting? When is teleconferencing or Skype videoconferencing required? What about email and text usage? And lest we forget, at what point is face-to-face meeting and hand shaking essential?

Leaders of distributed workforces need to establish that protocol with their teams early and reinforce it often.

This only scratches the surface of setting up a distributed or virtual work environment for your company and overcoming barriers to success. It should, however, emphasize the need to take a structured approach to making it happen at your company.


Is your Virtual Team falling short? Downloadable Course here can help now! Karl Walinskas is CEO of Smart Company Growth, a consulting firm that helps small enterprises develop business and control costs while growing. He is author of the Smart Blog at smartcompanygrowth.com/smart-blog & “Getting Connected Through Exceptional Leadership”, available in the Smart Shop.

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