Delivering to B2B customers it’s hard to avoid having a geographically dispersed and remote workforce. Depending on the role of the employees, you actually want them out of the office and having face time in front of your customers.
I’m not just talking about sales teams, but services teams and occasionally support teams. Anyone who is customer facing should spend some time with the customer. My working week has more often than not been a mix of working at customer sites, working at the office, and also working from home on days where it was convenient for me to do so.
In my 12+ years as a program/project manager I’ve only had the luxury of one 1 year contract where my project had a dedicated onsite team. I was PM on the part of the customer. A vendor delivered into the project and there was a program requirement to have the vendor onsite and co-located with our team. I call it a luxury because it was easier in terms of communication and collaboration. I say easier, though it didn’t eliminate all problems.
I’ve read a variety of articles and comments on the recent decision by Marissa Mayer to have the Yahoo workforce come into the office this June. With most of it in general positive about the management decision to pull the team together, although sometimes critical as to the execution.
One interesting article from Business Insider commented that Marissa Mayer was aware that people working from home weren’t actively attentive to their jobs because of stats on VPN usage. (http://ow.ly/izHOz ) Which begs the question that if they weren’t connected remotely, what were they doing? For me using this type of edict to solve this problem, is taking the easier way out then dealing with the employees individually in a disciplinary fashion. Or better yet, looking at the effectiveness of the management culture that enabled this behaviour.
I’ve often worked with geographically dispersed customer and teams, dealing with different time zones as well as different locations. On a recent project, with a remote technical expert team in Portugal performing an overnight upgrade in Canada, it meant the experts were actually fresh and working during their normal day. The local customer management team were the ones up during the night.
When dealing with remote teams, are there things as a manager I needed to do to make sure the team is all connected – yes. Are there critical moments in the project where I have to bring everyone together – yes. Do you have to have good tools in place to enable people to do their jobs remotely – yes. Do you sometimes have to cut your people some slack for being up all night or spending too much time on planes – yes.
Thumbs up to Yahoo for taking a stand and creating an environment for the team to focus. Thumbs down for making it about employee behaviour rather than their management.