A term often used to describe online working is Remote Distributed Working. The responsibility of leadership however is not just to distribute work, but also to bring things together and to manage for results. For what we want to achieve Remote Coordinated Working is a much better term. Just as in musical concertos, leadership must bring individual performance together in a wonderful coordinated whole.
Corona induces many companies to work remotely. This comes with advantages: people spend less time commuting and many report that, working from home, they are less distracted and hence more productive. Naturally measures need to be taken to compensate for the missing social interaction when working remotely. Another issue is the question of whether increased individual productivity translates into increased productivity of the company as a whole. As management by walking around seems to belong to the past now, many leaders find it hard to get an overview and sense that without overview and coordination, increased individual productivity gets wasted.
As knowledge work is concerned every task starts on the basis of information – input – and produces new information at completion – output. In the event of missing information or disagreement on information, workers make assumptions. This increases the number of faults, which are passed on to adjacent tasks. Soon faults and rework are cascading through the system and destroy both quality and productivity… New tasks being started now, lead to multitasking, stress and frustration, and further decrease quality and productivity.
A term often used to describe online working is Remote Distributed Working. The responsibility of leadership however is not just to distribute work, but also to bring things together and to manage for results. For what we want to achieve Remote Coordinated Working is a much better term. Just as in musical concertos, the work must be assigned, prepared and worked out individually as well as in teams to make sure that at completion everything comes together in a wonderful coordinated performance.
It seems that best practices from multi project management benefit Remote Concerted Working as well. Multi Project Management Flow is, for a good deal, based on Goldratt´s Theory of Constraints. By insightful analyses Goldratt found out that the bottleneck in a project consists of the longest chain of interdependent tasks. Not just on paper but also considering the often, unpredictable dynamics of people working on these tasks. Protecting this critical chain from disruptions and managing for its quick completion instead, also on the multi project level of the project organisation, results in an astonishing increase of productivity. Using these practices for remote working – in simplified forms – gives leaders a clear overview of progress and priorities. This enables them to focus their attention to where support and call for action is needed. A concerted way of working is the result and it feels like FLOW.
In the overview below in the column Remote Distributed Working the practices are marked that McKinsey and Monday recommend regarding remote working. The column Remote Coordinated Working adds practices to not just distribute work in an effective way, but to also achieve overview, focus and increased output.
|Practices required to foster effective on-line working together||Remote Distributed Working||Remote Coordinated Working / MPM Flow|
|1. Design formats for work like project plans at the abstraction level of work packages that designate steps in the flow of work. Formats, of which most of the time a few are enough, highly contribute to working in a coordinated manner.|
|2. Identify dependencies between work packages and make sure that adjacent work packages are only started until preceding work packages are finished. This prevents faults and rework cascading through the company.|
|3. Multi tasking – people working at more than one main task at a time – is the number one cause of decreasing workflow. Establish a practice of workers allocation that minimises multitasking.|
|4. Establish synchronised agile 15 minutes stand – ups on a one or two daily basis over the hierarchies to solve problems and authorise decisions to prevent waiting time and secure output.|
|5. Empower and endow teams with the authority to take decisions themselves. Add expert knowledge to teams if need be.|
|6. Connecting on a personal level and instilling empathy is highly important to compensate for the missing social interaction when working remotely. For example organise one on ones and communicate by text and video messages.|
|7. As opposed to measuring progress backward looking on the basis of spent-time, measure progress in relation to estimated-time-to-completion´. This enables a real time overview of progress.|
|8. On the basis of the overview established above (7) only support or intervene in work that that surely is in danger of being late. This practice saves lots of time for both management and workers.|
|9. Choose the right communication channel. Videoconferences fit to discussing complicated topics in real-time and for creating a sense of community. Channel (chat) based collaboration software is great for quick synchronization or easily answered questions. Rate digital meetings on criteria as usefulness, effectiveness and preparation.|
|10. Keep everybody aligned using the right level of information. Task overviews on the operational level show priorities – based on overall dependencies. On the strategic level portfolio overviews make it clear where to focus and support.|
Intelligent multi project management techniques and work approaches, already implemented at companies like Skype and Amazon in pre-Corona times, fit very well to foster remote working. Apart from improving individual productivity, they give overview and enable leaders to focus and drive overall productivity as well.
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