Don’t Throw the Virtual Baby Out With the Virtual Bath Water!


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In an era of ever-expanding virtual teamwork, some companies (Yahoo, Best Buy, Bank of America and others) seem to have taken a Luddite’s view of the digitally-connected world. They’re smart people, so why are they bucking the future?

First, some equate ‘virtual worker’ with ‘non-contributor’. Not so! The quality of someone’s contributions to a team effort can’t be judged by geolocation. Is anyone looking at the organization as a living entity, and asking which team members are instrumental in maintaining processes, relationships, and ‘team spirit’?

Second, a blunt ‘work in the office or find a new job’ message assumes that ‘good’ employees will return to the office while ‘bad’ employees won’t. Whether they have more good or bad employees isn’t the question. It’s equally likely that non-contributors will return to the office rather than seek out new opportunities where they might be more closely managed. It’s also likely they’ll lose people who are quite comfortable and highly productive when working virtually.

Third, there’s usually a downside to making statistical, tactical decisions instead of informed strategic ones. Consider the wisdom of Solomon when presented with the challenge of delivering justice to two mothers who were claiming the same child as their own: When he offered to cut the child in two and give half to each mother, one of the contestants saw the outcome as thoroughly without merit in the larger sense. Solomon’s logic worked.

Certainly, there are problems with virtual teaming. In a research survey conducted by Siemens, only 44% of the respondents said that virtual teaming could be as productive as face to face. However, plenty of the same problems manifest in 100% collocated teams! The strategic solution will come from a new and better understanding of how people ‘team’ together to achieve common goals, and that’s the unique form of information that Teamability® provides.

So keep the baby, but change the bath water. Better communications, better performance management, and better team performance from ALL people is possible – and profitable – in both physical and virtual workplaces. When the invisible bonds between people’s hearts and minds are strong, they will get the job done, and done well. You don’t have to worry about where they are!

For more on virtual teaming, see this.

This post originally appeared on the blog RoadMender.

Dr. Janice Presser
Dr. Janice Presser is a behavioral scientist, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, thought leader in talent science, author of six books on teams, and architect of Teamability® , the completely new 'technology of teaming'. Launched in 2012, the technology caps a quarter-century of behavioral science R&D, including nine years of software development. Engineered to identify and organize the foundational elements of team activity and team management, Teamability produces true analytics of team chemistry, and delives practical, repeatable business benefits.


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