The idea of this post came to me when reading a blog post on technotheory.com. It has actually been published a while ago, but I’ve just discovered it recently, and it did strike me as truthful, and still relevant. The author identifies two communications issues, heavy of consequences, that distributed teams face: over-perseverance and over-polish.
The first one particularly resonated with me as I’ve seen it “live” during my team experiences, so I felt the need to develop this topic and bring my own observations. Besides, there’s been a lot of talk about distributed teams lately. Marissa Mayer’s decision to ban Yahoo’s telecommuting fueled the now classical debate “Does distributed organizations really work?”. (Speaking of that, here is a nice article on this topic by CMSWire).
No matter if we’re talking about small businesses, start-ups, or big corporations, distributed teams are de facto ubiquitous nowadays. It seems to me that a new generation of more or less self-managed employees is born. A good degree of autonomy is required when operating within virtual groups; but, paradoxically, it might also prove counterproductive.
Putting in place the right collaboration/communication strategy is not easy. However, there are a couple of simple things to do – routinely – that will avoid common – and critical – problems distributed teams encounter.
For me, the advantages of using a distributed team comes down to 4 major benefits:
- since the geographical limitations are off, you can hire for quality and culture
- custom and distraction free work environment – this offers flexibility and comfort to each team member
- exit commuting time, costs and stress
- the performance metrics can be objectively measured from afar.
But then, there are also challenges that a distributed team faces. The following ones are common, and well-known:
- vital information getting lost in translation without face to face interaction
- failure to develop task related processes like setting goals
- inability to collaborate with members with different knowledge and expertise.
But there are others, more subtle, yet full of impact. Over-perseverance is one of those things that at a first glance could never get any negative connotation. Perseverance is by its definition a virtue right? Well, yes, but excess is not. Good on time is better than perfect late; and sometimes, we simply cannot get everything done rightly by ourselves.
Within distributed teams, projects are being executed by independent and self-lead people. This means that they are inclined to face new challenges on their own. Working hard might turn not to be the most effective strategy, and it may deliver slow-work and over-polished actions.
And when this happens, it leads to frustration for everybody involved, altering the work of the whole team and the upshot of the project.
The good news is that there are simple ways today to diminish this phenomenon, via well chosen online collaboration tools. They can help get to know your co-workers and their area of expertise, so that you can easily spot who to turn to when you need help. Our Question&Answer product, for instance, has ways of automatically routing questions to the right person. Very helpful for new members!
Sharing about your work in progress is also beneficial because you can get an early feedback, thus reducing the risk of re-work, and avoiding to make known mistakes (that is, known by your colleagues because they already made them).
Here at Quandora we strongly believe in the distributed teams model, mainly because we think the technology is now capable to enable skilled people to work together from wherever they are. People are ready, too: it’s been years since sharing, searching, connecting online is a routine part of their life and work. As long as you anticipate the barriers that might interfere with the work progress, trusting your projects to virtual teams will pay off. Communication is the pivotal factor in a successful project completion when it comes to distributed teams.
Hence our motto: Happy knowledge sharing!