Face to face contact is essential to getting things done in remote and virtual teams – it may always be the best and most comfortable for us a human beings. But time, cost and carbon mean that we cant always get face to face in a distributed organization.
Because of this we have no choice as managers of remote and virtual teams but to prioritise our face to face time rigorously to get the very best value from it.
For example you can build relationships remotely, we can all think of people we “know” and work with who we never met face to face- but it takes more time and in a serious situation do you know you could absolutely rely on them?
A second good reason to get your remote or virtual team face to face is where you genuinely need participation, involvement or interaction of a group of people, what I call spaghetti team working.
Thirdly, things like one to one discussions on sensitive issues like career or appraisal. I think we show people respect by doing this face to face.
Fourthly there are things like celebration and recognition which are just hard to do remotely so maybe we need to put more focus on these issues when we are face to face.
Our experience of facilitating hundreds of remote and virtual team projects is that the biggest impact and the number one for reason for travel should be project or activity kick offs. A well run kick off can reduce project cycle time by 25% or more and also reduce the need for total travel during the project by getting the ways of working agreed at the start.
So what about the worst reasons for travel – ones where you should really push back and say no? Well I would certainly start by challenging the need for many internal meetings. I would also look at the flip side to our good reasons for travel, so if you already know people well, if the purpose is to be presented to or given information rather than participation, if it can be delivered through technology then it is certainly worth challenging the travel or trying alternatives.
What do you think is the worst reason you have to travel at work?
Published September 29, 2008
Broken link corrected September 2012