Virtual Teams

Now we are more connected , what happens next?

We have been continuing our discussions with a wide range of organisations around new ways of working. One of the trends that is coming out very strongly is that people are feeling much more connected to their colleagues in other locations and international operations.

Working from home has been a great leveller and has undermined the impact of distance. Now that it’s just as easy to connect with someone in a different continent as it is to someone who used to work a few feet away, then why not connect with the best person, not just the closest.

Now that we don’t have the difficult situation of several people clustered face to face in a room and a couple of others dialling in trying vainly to contribute, we have levelled the playing field and enabled a much more diverse group of voices to get involved.

Now that we can all contribute in parallel through chat and other engagement tools in online meetings, rather than fighting to be the person who speaks next, different voices are being heard.

Having seen this happen in a wide range of organisations over the last 30 years, we can make some predictions about what will happen next

  1. there will be an upsurge in interest in cross cultural skills. Cultural differences is something we immediately notice when we work with colleagues in other locations. It is useful to know a little about how to understand , enjoy and reconcile these differences
  2. teams and organisations will become more integrated across the traditional silos of function and geography. It is just easier to connect with people now we are used to doing it virtually
  3. global talent will be more in demand and less locked up in local silos. The best people will be at an increasing premium and will find it increasingly difficult to manage their workload as everyone wants them involved in their projects and teams
  4. virtual working encourages lateral connections across the organisation rather than working through the hierarchy. As a participant on one of our matrix programmes once said, “why talk to someone with the job title when you can talk to someone with an answer?” This will cause challenges with traditional control in many organisations
  5. individuals working from home have valued higher levels of autonomy and flexibility and will expect that to continue. This will change their attitude to being managed and their desire for higher levels of self-direction. Traditional managers will find they have fewer tools to resist this development now the people have demonstrated that it can work. Those organisations that fight a rear-guard action insisting on their people returning to the office full time will find attracting and retaining the best people difficult

This isn’t the new normal by the way. It was  already happening in many organisations that we have worked with. For them this is a development of an existing trend. For people new to this way of working it will cause disruption, particularly in legacy ideas of power and control.

From what we have seen in other organisations this will be largely positive, leading to higher levels of empowerment and engagement and better performance. Most of the resistance to these changes in normal times has come from line managers unwilling to give up control over their people.  They will find it hard to regain old notions of control now that we have demonstrated that this way of working works at scale.

If you need to learn more about how to give people the skills and develop the ways of working needed to succeed during these developments please get in touch.

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