Five Reasons Remote Teams Fail
Working remotely does pose challenges in unexpected ways. However, if we think about what teams need to do (and leaders need to help facilitate) - share information, collaborate, offer assistance to each other - the job is the same whether our desks are adjacent or thousands of miles apart.
Here are five ways in which remote teams struggle:
1. Team Lacks A Compelling Vision And Purpose
Is everyone pulling in the same direction for the same reasons? While we often think we do a good job of this, working remotely makes it very easy for people to become very focused on their own tasks and work at the expense of the overall team and sideline the goal.
2. Team members don’t hold each other accountable for their work and deliverables
Because we don’t see each other all the time, and don’t have a lot of accidental or incidental communication with people, we don’t know what they are up to until a project is finished and a deliverable is made or not made satisfactorily. Remote workers often develop a ‘tunnel vision’ where they are worried about their work, and their relationship with the manager. If you are unwilling to confront a co-worker, or ask for frequent assistance, working virtually becomes a very convenient excuse. Working remotely actually requires more proactive communication, definitely not less.
3. Team Doesn’t Have Shared Leadership
In the project management world especially, we are often tasked with leading teams or groups where you have no authority over the individual members (oh, but you get all the blame if things do not work out!). When someone has a ‘real boss’ as well as their responsibilities to the team, the potential is ripe for conflicting priorities, misspent time and confusion.
4. Team Processes Aren’t Effective, Or At Least Not Adhered To
Working virtually and remotely from each other requires clear, explicit processes. Use technology extensively to communicate and share knowledge, collaborate and allocate resources. Often, when people are unclear as to chain of authority, roles and scope of influence, the default choice is not to communicate or take action. Negligence can lead to grave losses of time, money and resources in this case.
5. Individual Relationships With The Manager
Working remotely doesn’t lessen the importance of good communication, effective coaching and influence but it sure makes it different than what we’re used to. Explicit effort has to be made from both sides so that the remote team is as active and tuned in as the co-located one.
There are many organizations with highly functional, productive and motivated remote teams, just as many people who share same office space yet are mired in despair and unproductive behaviors. These five things, though, raise questions organizations managers and individual workers need to think about if they’re going to do the best work they can.