My earliest experience with remote work came in around 2010. At the time, I believed it would enable me to connect with project teams from around the globe. What I considered a novelty has now become a new normal for myself and project professionals everywhere. With this shift comes the necessity to rethink leadership, collaboration and teams.
A high-performing team can be defined as a group of people with clearly defined roles and complementary talents and skills, aligned with and committed to a common goal to innovate and deliver results.
The importance of teams is not about to diminish as digital transformation reshapes the notion of the workplace and how work gets done. On the contrary, the (digital) leadership role becomes increasingly demanding as a diverse workforce, including freelancers and partners, works from home.
It’s time that we adapt the essential characteristics of high-performing teams in the digital age:
Open and clear communication
Maintaining an open-door policy can be a challenge in the modern workplace. Multiple notifications and meetings take a toll on productivity. High-performing virtual teams define ground rules for productive communication without abandoning social interactions. It’s possible to create water-cooler sessions, happy hours and the like to engage people on a personal level, while also keeping formal meetings focused on getting work done.
Solid team infrastructure
Virtual spaces enable people to connect with other teams, yet it’s necessary to have clear roles and responsibilities just like those that existed in physical work spaces. Many-to-many interactions cause distraction and waste. Leaders must clearly define team topologies, boundaries and interfaces.
Working from home isn’t easy—and some people don’t get used to it. Trust, motivation and well-being are all deeply affected by remote work. So be sure to give those issues your attention by establishing the right incentives and offering feedback.
In a way, digital transformation empowers people to do more, extending and expanding capabilities. But it means nothing without strong leadership and clear communication.
How have you adapted your leadership style to best manage your virtual teams? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
There have been a number of memes and social media jokes about how the COVID-19 crisis is “accelerating” the digital transformations of many organizations. But that’s a misunderstanding: The pandemic is in fact a major setback to digital transformation, as organizations venture into the uncharted waters of sustained virtual work and remote project management.
What Is Digital Transformation Anyway?
Digital transformation refers to the integration of technology into all areas of business operations, fundamentally changing how the organization operates and delivers value. It also describes the application of digital capabilities to processes, assets and products.
Let’s take the sharing economy, for example. Uber, Airbnb and many other modern services are built on the idea of collaborative consumption. But did you know that bike-sharing was first introduced as a business model in the 1960s? At that time, it didn’t work well because there was no easy way to find the bicycles. Now that we have mobile phones, GPS locators and ubiquitous connectivity, business models that seemed unviable before are now possible.
The pillars of digital transformation include:
As project teams across the globe settle into the reality that remote work is the new normal, focusing on these pillars becomes even more important.
What Lies Ahead for Project Teams
A few months from now, organizations may face unforeseen cybersecurity issues, sensitive information leaks and the uncontrolled spread of data across digital channels.
In terms of cost, adopting consumer-grade or free preventive tools might seem reasonable now. But that’s because organizations are not taking into account the fact that these tools won’t be effective to take their competitive advantage to the next level.
In fact, a myriad of tools without integration, uncategorized information, old business processes and tech-averse employees pose a huge challenge to collaboration and productivity.
As teams continue to collaborate virtually, people will likely waste even more time trying to reach a solution, and they will plan multiple, unfocused daily meetings, as managers struggle to provide guidance and accurately measure the performance of employees working from home.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
How to Avoid a Dark Project Fate
Now that you know what digital transformation is and the setbacks imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, what can you do?
1. Review your digital transformation strategy and reprioritize all projects and initiatives. If you don’t have an official strategy, start working on it now before it is too late.
2. Your organization likely already put in place business continuity plans, contingency plans and crisis management measures. As a result, you probably launched projects to enable remote work. Considering there was not enough time to conduct proper analysis, now take a step back and reevaluate these choices. Do they still make sense? How can they be improved?
3. Begin by understanding different organizational needs, since digital transformation starts with people and processes. Next, develop a teamwork architecture that encompasses people, processes and tools. Finally, create a roadmap to implement integrated tools that accounts for the total cost of the life cycle, including support, maintenance, training and more.
Digital transformation is platform-dependent, relying on common data and integrated information flows and workflows. On top of that, security, compliance and general data protection must be observed at all times. There are no shortcuts.
Digital transformation is a very serious strategic topic. Wrong assumptions might lead your organization into a dark future of low productivity, ineffective collaboration and potential issues and liabilities.
How is your organization navigating the digital transformation shifts brought about by the COVID-19 crisis?