Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be so interested in the issues of leading teams in a complex and increasingly virtual world? Penny Pullan, Virtual Working Summit
This was the question put to Kevan Hall as part of the Virtual Working Summit which she organized earlier this year (You can access the full interview using the link provided at the end of this piece) His response?
Well, I guess because it was because it happened to me.
During my early days at Mars I worked in the national organization – I moved into manufacturing and I ran a manufacturing plant. In manufacturing, everybody worked for me, it was my own building, I could walk around and shake their hands and it was all very tangible. I then moved into a succession of business planning and HR roles that became more and more international, and so had to become increasingly dependent on colleagues in different locations who maybe didn’t work for me, I had never met and were from another culture. And in one of my head office roles, their bosses were telling them to ignore me!
How I got things done changed radically in those roles. It was pretty clear that my management skills and the way I worked with colleagues had changed, and so I went and looked for training. At one point I was in a role where I was responsible for learning and development for Europe, and when I looked for training suppliers there really wasn’t anybody – this was back in the early ‘90s. So we started to think about it ourselves; and in ’94, after complaining for about a year there were no suppliers, I decided to become one myself.
I started up the business, and then went and worked with some of the earliest organizations to work very globally – people like Hewlett Packard and Motorola – and found a very willing market. Since then, as you said, the company’s grown. We now have businesses in Asia, the Americas and Europe, and our focus is really on the matrix and the global way of working. And it’s absolutely fascinating, both in terms of the culture and the challenges of working through technology. It really is a very enjoyable field to be working in.
Interviewer Penny noted that it’s a role she’s also grown into, having started off also in Mars as well. She asked “What is your view on virtual teamwork and that team and work split?” There’s a comments box below if you want to have your say.
Hear the full interview here: Virtual Working Summit