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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Managing from a distance – How to manage virtual teams | Deloitte SA Blog

Managing from a distance – How to manage virtual teams

This blog post follows the Deloitte e-tolling article (written by Candice Silverstone and published on the 18th March 2011) which discussed the effect e-tolling will have on employees. I have provided an excerpt from the article below:
“Given the impact that this proposed system will have on organisations and their employees, it is crucial that companies consider the implications on their Reward and Travel policies and practices, as well as changes to traditional modes of working. In order to cut travel time and associated costs, the creation of home offices, particularly by professionals and knowledge workers, is likely to become more attractive with the implementation of e-tolling. The trend of remote/off-site/virtual teams is therefore likely to increase, particularly with advances of technology.
Such working arrangements may present socio-psychological challenges however, such as a decline in team spirit due to little personal contact and supervision, feelings of social isolation as a result of increased use and dependence on technology, and poor employee well-being and frustration due to possible role uncertainty”.

Managing from a Distance – How to manage virtual, remote and/or dispersed teams
by Candice Silverstone of Deloitte Consulting
As many organisations are aware, non-traditional teams are growing locally and internationally as enterprises convert to global organisational structures and invest in more complex technology. The introduction of toll roads is also likely to decrease face to face time in the hope of reducing travel costs. It is time to stop thinking of dispersed teams as special cases and start developing management strategies for dealing with the new challenges that they create so as not to risk team dysfunction and sub-optimal performance.
Critical Success Factors for High Performing Dispersed Teams
Extensive research, coupled with our own client experience, demonstrates the following characteristics:
  • Strong team member relations, characterised by camaraderie, trust and respect, considering the effect or impression of communicating with team members at a distance;
  • The existence of specific, measurable, achievable goals, objectives, project specifications and performance metrics.
  • Positive team processes – such processes include management by objectives strategies, distance job review techniques and distance corrective action;
  • Effective staffing strategies for both remote leaders and employees – people who are working remotely must be proactive communicators and must be especially good at working independently and meeting predefined deadlines. Effective leaders of dispersed teams also demonstrate an aptitude in managing diversity and exhibit high levels of emotional intelligence;
  • Sponsorship and support from top leadership; and
  • Staying connected, by capitalising on appropriate technology which suit particular types of situations and messages.
Implications on Leadership
Technology cannot substitute skilled leadership in the digital age. Without effective leadership, individual and teams in virtual and network environments cannot begin to realise the potential inherent in non-traditional and decentralised environments. Leading a remote or virtual team requires a strategic approach, good communication skills and inspirational leadership. Skilled digital leaders understand how to build trust in the remote working environment; empower others when working remotely; create a sense of community in a remote environment; and select the most appropriate and effective technology for remote communication and collaboration.
The bottom line is that Remote / Virtual team leaders need to recognise that there is an inherent risk associated with managing from a distance. Ironically, it is the human component that is required from leaders more than ever to succeed. This will differentiate leaders from managers in the digital environment.
If you would like to have a more detailed discussion, contact Candice Silverstone at You may also click here to visit the Deloitte Consulting Human Capital website.
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Category: Talent & Human Capital
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Managing from a distance – How to manage virtual teams | Deloitte SA Blog

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