The virtual office can reduce costs and pick up the pace of the business while connecting and unifying teams. But my own experience suggests it can fail badly, too. There appear to be two critical success factors.
- The leadership has to be 100 percent part of the team. When a manager insists out of sight is out of control, refuses to use the online technologies the rest of the team uses, and sticks to phone and email conversations, the whole system quickly breaks down. Worse, when executives decide the distributed approach is for the staff and not for the leaders, they quickly create isolation and division. For distributed workforces to be effective, there must be buy-in from everyone in the whole organization, particularly the executives.
- An open culture is essential. While different people have different roles and are hired for the skills they bring to the team, it's important to view the team as peers and not as a hierarchy. That can be a challenge for some, so a tolerance for robust communication and a willingness to read written missives with an open mind are both crucial.
No, the virtual office isn't for everyone. But strong, visionary leaders who realize that influence yields better results than tightfisted control in our modern, meshed society should consider it seriously.
This article, "The open source model for managing virtual offices," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.