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Our Leading Framework

Remote and Distributed Team Success

Jack Nilles, physicist and engineer, is famous for coining the term ‘telecommuting’ in 1973. He demonstrated fantastic results for turnover and productivity. Remote work continues to achieve similar positive impacts. Despite these realities, uptake has been slower than Mr Nilles expected.

 

The technology for telecommuting, remote work and distributed teams is widespread. Why is it still more common for a business to allow staff to work from home occasionally than to have fully distributed teams? Why does genuine flexibility seem so hard? The answers are particularly important to businesses seeking to increase their remote and distributed work. 
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Leading Practice Flexibility Capability Framework
Transformed Teams 2014

Nearly half of today's knowledge workers (49%) in Germany, the US and the UK report that their organisations operate through technology and communication rather than offices and locations.

Increased distributed work could save the average 10-person Australian or New Zealand business $17,500 a year for each worker based at home just two days per week.

1.3 billion workers globally - one third of the world’s workforce - are now mobile workers.

THRESHOLD ISSUES

Trust. In our experience trust issues are a normal part of most teams. For some leaders and business owners, it is a step too far to trust employees who can't be seen consistently during working hours. Contrary to what most managers imagine, remote work does not require blind trust, as outlined below. Nonetheless when low levels of trust are systemic and cultural, a business is not likely to succeed with a widespread approach to remote work or distributed teams.
 

Manager pushback.  Remote work is a major challenge to managers, who are ultimately responsible for the performance of their team. Managers perceive that they stand to lose a lot from remote and flexible work styles. They envisage stress, communication issues, uncertainty and lack of control. It is crucial to get managers on board because they play an integral role.

 

HOW CAN A BUSINESS SUCCEED?

The Transformed Teams capability framework is an Industry- and Government-endorsed framework for flexible work styles, particularly the most challenging styles of flexible work: remote and distributed work. It guides organisations in how to create distributed work that is effective, productive and genuinely flexible. - Nina Sochon, Distributed Teams Expert and CEO Transformed Teams

 

One critical shift in thinking allows organisations to succeed with flexible and remote work styles. That shift is not a greater focus on technology and infrastructure - as important as these are. Neither is it an office space that is better designed for collaboration, although this can be an asset. The critical approach is not obvious to many business leaders. 

 

Successful, leading businesses have shown that the best approach is to zoom out to a bird's eye view. By thinking strategically rather than focusing on one or more elements, businesses can see that there are a lot of moving parts. There are in fact ten keys to success. These ten keys have been testing with leading businesses and organisations, who endorsed their relevance (see below).

THE RIGHT APPROACH

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Business Case

Without a strong business case that establishes the organisation’s likely return on investment, neither leaders nor managers are likely to invest in increased remote and distributed work. How do you know that your plans won't stall due to lack of buy-in at the senior leadership level? Do your managers know why this change is important for the business? Staff members also want to know the 'why' behind changes to their work arrangement. A strong business case is an important part of the answer to these problems. A business case for remote work can usually be made on the basis of improved attraction and retention, improved productivity, reduced staff churn and a reduced office footprint. Once your business case has been made, resourcing becomes logical and buy-in easier to achieve.  Contact us today to build a powerful business case.  

Leadership

Leaders have an important role in ensuring the success of remote and distributed work. Taking the journey towards genuine flexibility can require significant change, which simply fails without strong leadership commitment or involvement in the process. Are you as a leader aware of what remote and distributed work will demand of your role? Leaders provide modelling, resources, accountability, inspiration and direction. Any work program around new ways of work needs to start with strong, clear leadership that sets the tone and direction, whether that is agile work programs, increased work from home, Activity Based Working, ‘hub and spoke’ models etc. Contact us today to achieve buy-in within your leadership team. 

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Flexibility vision, strategy and policy

Successful management of remote workers requires a new mindset. Managers need to see remote work as an effective win-win arrangement, not a perk. Do your managers and staff have a clear vision of the win-win potential of agile work styles for the organisation? Do you have in place a supporting strategy and policy? Policies need to be legally compliant. Policies should also be informed by learnings achieved through the change process and generated from leading practice examples. Leading businesses tend to have a policy that specifically supports flexible working arrangements for all employees, with an ‘opt out’ approach rather than one that requires staff to opt in. Contact us today to create a crystal clear vision of distributed work in your business or to see how your policies need amending.

Results Management

Distributed teams only thrive when managers are confident in the productivity of their staff. Managers develop that confidence through a results-focused approach - focusing on outcomes and results rather than time spent at the office. Are your managers still focused on time spent at work? Managers often focus on inputs rather than outputs or outcomes. Inputs are a a poor proxy for performance measurement. Are the results expected of your employees described with sufficient voracity that they could be the primary source of information for determining performance? The Trans-Tasman Telework Study confirmed what many successful managers have reported - managers in businesses with widespread remote work don't monitor hours spent at the desk. They trust their staff to be productive and don't use technology for monitoring. Managers develop and maintain that confidence in their staff through transparency about results being achieved. Contact us today to develop a powerful results-focused performance management framework in your business

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Management Capability

A new manager mindset is critical. Will your managers change their thinking? Do they know how to adjust their approach? Do they know what will jeopardise and enhance success in their distributed team? Distributed work requires significant adjustments. Distributed teams adjust their communication, meetings, resources, collaboration, use of technology, team behaviours and culture to be able to work effectively. There are ten good practices that managers should adopt. However many businesses don’t provide training that specifically addresses distributed teams. General training is not sufficient. Lack of training is likely to lead to poor, difficult and stressful experiences for managers and team members alike. Contact us today to develop capable distributed team managers

Employee Experience

Your employees' experience of flexibility is the litmus test of your business's flexibility capability. Without a manager who ‘gets it’ staff quickly become stressed and isolated. Are your staff at risk of work intensification, reduced access to information or stigma? Not every employee is well-equipped or skilled for remote work and not every team is fully aware of their employees. Some employees may also need to develop their skills. There are ten good practices that team members should adopt. Failing to check in with employees carries a high risk. Businesses can quickly rise and fall on the basis of whether they attract great people, retain them and keep them engaged. Contact us today to develop capable and high-performing remote and distributed employees

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Client and Supplier Experience

Perhaps even more important than the employee is the customer whose purchases generate revenue for the business. If their experience of your remote and distributed work arrangements is negative, they’ll find other organisations and businesses that can meet their need. Contact us today to create a fantastic client and supplier experience of distributed work. 

Technology and Infrastructure

Distributed teams usually use technology and digital infrastructure to help them communicate, meet, collaborate and share information. Some of the most prevalent communication technologies are poor collaboration tools. Do you know why many distributed teams are moving away from email in favour of other technologies? Do you know whether you should add videoconferencing to your set of tools? Your technology and infrastructure should suit the demands of the team. Contact us today to be savvy about choosing the right technology and digital infrastructure for distributed work. 

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Learning Cycle

Creating an effective distributed team requires an innovation approach. Do you have a plan for how to starting small with a trial or pilot, learning, adjust and continue to learn? Establishing an effective learning cycle is absolutely vital for a business to maintain successful distributed teams. Businesses can find it difficult to achieve productive work if there is no concerted effort to learn what works and what doesn’t. Contact us today to develop a powerful learning cycle in your business. 

Change Management

Increasing distributed work in your business is usually a transformational change management process. Improving your approach to remote work is not like introducing a new process, technology or strategy. There are many moving parts and unknowns. Individuals can feel that they stand to lose a lot and can find the prospect of remote work challenging. In large businesses it is reasonably common that HR, IT and Facilities/ Accommodation functions fail to work to a coordinated strategy. Each area may pull funding from a different cost centre, leading to possible resource limitations. A common failing is that teams fail to prepare, and don’t think about how to address communication, collaboration and culture challenges that could arise. Businesses need to create a wholistic, integrated and tailored approach that involves all the key players who can enable distributed work. Contact us today for support leading your business toward higher-performing remote and distributed work

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HOW WE CAN HELP

At Transformed Teams, we offer the unique experience of Nina Sochon, CEO and Distributed Teams Expert. Nina led the Australian Government's telework initiatives between 2011 and 2013. This gave Nina a unique combination of in-depth understanding and close contact with leading examples of good practice. Nina manages her own remote workers and has created several high performing teams.

 

Nina went on to share her knowledge through creating the leading practice flexibility framework promoted by the Australian Government and endorsed by representatives from Deloitte, University of Melbourne, KPMG, Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ and Mirvac. Several of these organisations said that the Transformed Teams framework and toolkits are "phenomenal" guidelines that they wish they had access to before they began their journey towards a greater degree of flexible work.
 
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OUR SERVICES

We specialise in setting up effective remote or distributed teams - whether your team works remotely full- or part-time. We help you with consulting, training and coaching. For example: 
 
  • Training managers and staff to be effective remote managers and workers
  • Creating buy-in with your leadership team
  • Building the business case for increased remote and distributed work
  • Designing your remote and distributed work strategy
  • Assessing your organisation's readiness and capability for increased remote and distributed work
  • Developing your results-focused performance management framework
  • Gauging the effect of remote and distributed work on your employees and your level of risk
  • Creating legally compliant policies that suit your organisation, e.g. Work Health and Safety, flexibility agreements and BYOD 
  • Facilitating effective change management

 

Capability Assessment and Development

  • Capability Assessment: We provide an analysis of your existing capability for distributed or remote staff and teams against the leading practice framework, clearly highlighting where you need to focus to ensure success
  • Capability Development: We develop the capabilities that are lacking in your training and development, capacity for change, infrastructure and technology, results management, business intelligence or policies.

AN EXAMPLE OF OUR WORK

 

 

A medium-sized business approached us about their plan to transition out of a physical office. They already had several people working across Australia and had experimented with working from home. Several staff worked from home several days a week.

 

The organisation's customers were located all across Australia and New Zealand. As a result the CEO had noticed that the office was usually half empty and was never used for client interactions. 

 

As part of a strategy to increase their profile and attract the best talent, the CEO began to explore a 100% distributed work model, so that the business would no longer be dependent on time or place.

 

Transformed Teams delivered both Capability Assessment and Capability Development.

 

Capability Assessment

  • A questionnaire was completed by all employees
  • A four-hour workshop engaged staff on the possibilities of distributed work
  • Individual coaching sessions provided support
  • A technology audit identified where their existing technology was insufficient

 

Capability Development

  • A six-week preparation phase consisted of:
    1. Employee training
    2. Team-based problem solving workshop
    3. Update of the organisation's performance management system to leading practice
    4. Introduction of supportive technologies
    5. Individual coaching
    6. Work, Health and Safety checks of the home
    7. Provision of legally compliant policies
  • A six-week transition phase consisted of:
    1. Team-based experimentation, using agile methodologies
    2. Adjustments to policies
    3. All staff reported being comfortable with the arrangement

 

As a result of this program of work, our client was able to transition to effective, productive distributed work without losing any staff members.

 

They saved $30,000 per year on their office lease and have begun to attract a higher calibre of employee.  Productivity is now higher, communication has improved and turnover rates are 10% lower.

 

Contact us today to discuss your unique situation

 

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