The ‘Internet Era’, or whatever this period will be named in future times, has resulted in a seismic shift in our working environment. People can do and access almost anything from a system perspective, remotely (if we disregard the bane of my life, company security access considerations). We have conference calls, Skype, Facetime and a whole host of virtual working tools, facilitated by the underlying fact that we are all connected.
In our Consulting industry, we are at the cutting edge of adopting these tools into our standard working practice. Our business relies on having the right skills to do the right job in the most cost effective way. Being able to disregard the location of that skill makes a tremendous difference (in fact, it’s the core of our business model, but that’s a different story)
As a company we work on many projects where the various team members are in several different countries (continents usually!), time zones and speak different first languages.
Putting into practice this new way of working places a huge strain on what I call our basic skills: team work, individual contribution, and project management. So what have we learned that is useful/worthy of note? I will focus on the other subjects later, but for now, let’s look at the good old basic principle of teamwork. What works? What doesn’t?
- Taking ownership
If I look at the one thing which helps us the most, yet, conversely, can also cause the most problems; taking ownership. Let me use an example, we have team members in the US and Costa Rica work on projects with EMEA customers, which extends our working/contributing day as they continue working until about 10pm EMEA time. This is great
IF the people working ‘take ownership’ of what they are doing. There is nothing worse than waking up one morning to discover the file has not been updated or that there aren’t any notes on progress and we have a customer who needs to be informed! Fortunately the ‘Lanshore Culture’ plus a combination of experience, and carefully nurtured skills means that in the main we do have people who automatically take ownership so we feel the full benefits of this extended working day, made possible but being in this new era.
Constructive, two-way communication is absolutely crucial to team work, again more so now than ever.
Constructive, as there is no need ever to communicate in a destructive way, it can only do harm. Even the most harsh of messages can be delivered constructively!
We also find the older more established ways of internet enabled communication coming back into play, such as e-mail. If different time zones are involved, recorded, auditable communication is key.
On this, one thing I have learned is that if someone mails you with a question, it’s because they want an answer. They have mailed because they are not in the same office as you and so can’t pop round to your desk. Moreover, they are probably in a different time zone, so a phone call or instant message wouldn’t work either.
PLEASE ANSWER !!
If you don’t, that person thinks that you’re not interested, which doesn’t help build trust and they have to chase or, worse still, they give up! .
As demonstrated in the above point, a successful team relies on respect for each other. Make sure you value other people’s contributions, communicate constructively, be nice. Simple.
- Project Management
The most able ‘team players’ can be sent down the wrong path by bad project management. This could happen when, for instance, the ‘teaming element’ is challenged by members being in different locations etc.
It is crucial that the project manager or team leader creates the correct process and practice for communication but also considers the different constraints in the activity location.
Nothing works without a bit of compromise; if it seems to do, then something will pop up at some time.
If the team is well balanced, with good team players who communicate well and respect each other, they will be happy to compromise. Call this a test, but if compromise seems hard, then one of the other things I have mentioned is not in place.
It could simply be a small difference of opinion, or, as it often happens in our case, it could be a bigger ask – a project deadline looming and someone working earlier or later hours to meet it. Our superstars are happy to do this, if they are valued, happy and communicated with. IF there is reluctance, it is almost certainly as a result of one of the things mentioned above !
Hopefully these lessons of ‘extreme teamwork’ are useful. It’s very much back to basics – simple but
- On June 16, 2016