Remote and virtual teams have chronic ailments. These ailments exist in almost all teams of this nature. The goal of this post is to point out the most severe generic impediments to provide a context for readers interested in this common organizational configuration.
Hidden Agendas around control
Hidden control agendas are based on who tells whom what to do, which site is strategic and which site is tactical, and who is the dog that wags the tail.
Over time, the stronger more controlling sites gets the sexy work, the budget and the senior management patronage so necessary for long term growth of the local site. The other sites whither and are downsized, or are relegated to boring continuous engineering.
Most remote sites have more internal transparency to one another than they have towards other sites. It is a type of local patriotism. Information that is shared internally within a site may not be as freely shared with members of another site.
And to be even more blunt, transparency between remote sites is are rare as democracy in the developing world, Middle East and Africa. Transparency is often viewed as weaknesses, in the Darwinian struggle between sites.
Various sites tend to have very different competencies. US based sites are close to the market; Israel based sites are highly innovative; India sites are very flexible; Japanese sites have unique customer intimacy, and the list goes on and on.
The lack of trust between the sites often reflects the tension between the competencies; for example the Japanese site will obsess about what the client asks for. whilst the Israeli site will focus on what the client “really needs”, whilst the American site will try to ensure that the demands of the Japanese don’t divert the product from an agreed upon (American) product road map.
And a final comment. There is very important work to do in order to enhance the individual skill of the remote/virtual team member. Nevertheless it is important to carry around individual skill enhancement within a context of the trust-busting environment in which ALL remote teams function, so as not to saddle the individual with the burden of the organizational design.
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