Objections to Training in Cyberspace

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Scatterwork gets a lot of comments about why Training in Cyberspace can’t work so it makes sense to listen to what is being said. A lot of them boil down to personal issues and here are five of them.

One is that the participant has the freedom to be engaged or not to be engaged; to come on time or not to come on time and thats related to self-control.

If during a program, they get involved in other things because nobody can see them, then clearly the training interaction or the learning interaction is not going to be as effective.

The third one is that it can be very impersonal to be on the receiving end of training through cyberspace. That can be very appropriate for example for a webinar where there’s a thousand people online but if you’ve got a team and they need to learn things, it is not as good that they are just on the receiving end, a bit like a cinema.

A fourth objection is the one of responsibility. Again it is a bit like the freedom. People have the responsibility to learn – that is always true of course – but it in a live training environment somebody will notice that it is not working very well and they might cajole or pull people in. But in the cyberspace environment nobody is going to notice.

Another objection we get is that it can be very isolating. You are doing your learning, you don’t really know who else is involved, and this makes it harder to follow up. So in Scatterwork we have a few guidelines that help us when we are preparing learning in cyberspace. We make sure the participants get to know each other personally.

This can be by for example showing each other their Facebook pages or something more than “hello let’s start the business”.

We hold training for teams, not for individuals because by being part of a team it makes learning much better, particularly topics that are in any case targeted at teams – such as project management.

We build in processes to keep the participants in touch after the training event. It is not adequate just to say “you guys can be in touch with each other” – you really need to provide some sort of structure for it to happen.

And likewise for programming the time, somebody who’s doing a program also has to do some private learning. It does not work too well just say “you should do some programming of when you’re going to learn”. It’s much better to build that in as part of the progra.

So if you want to discuss any of these issues with me, then please feel free to connect – I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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Are you ready for virtual project management training?

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A project is a unique undertaking where part of the uniqueness is the particular combination of people. They will probably have different understandings of how to run the project, different experience and different styles and the people need to develop into a coherent team.

Getting a project up and running is always a challenge. Ideally everyone understands the requirements and they bring their varying experience and styles to develop a solution.

In practice, the team will not reach the “performing” stage without passing through “forming” and “norming”. A project is not simply a collection of technical objects and processes, but a team effort of people who probably never worked in quite that configuration before.

One of the ideal ways of building a team is to provide the group as a whole training about the project, what is wanted and how it might be delivered. By adding some technical project management training, the team have to opportunity to share their competence and to support each other in a way not possible if the project is managed as if it were simply a technical undertaking.

Even before the term “virtual project management” came into fashion, many projects had team members in different places, multitasking and meeting only from time to time. This seems to work best when most of the team know each other. Similarly, if most of the team share something in common (e.g. the employer), the virtual training can also be very effective.

In reality all projects these days have members who operate individually and work in different places, maybe even in different countries. The term “virtual team” is effectively redundant but it is still not always easy to bring these people together for face-to-face training.

Virtual project management training has great advantages as the logistics are far easier than traveling to meet in one place. With proper organisation and infrastructure, the benefit:cost ratio can be better than face-to-face events.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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How to select your remote team members

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I am going to give 4 pointers about how to select remote team members.

The first of them is competence. You always need competence among people working with you but when remote, they cannot see when you are available and ask for your assistance.

They they might not be online all the time and people have different rhythms; they might be in different time zones and so on. So the person needs to be able to do the work on their own.

The second is good chemistry, because it’s very easy in an electronic environment to misunderstand somebody, particularly when there are different cultures involved or people have a different choice of words. If there is good rapport, it will be easier to keep the communications under control.

The third one is: communication itself must be reliable. There are two things here. One of them is that the status must be reported: “I have just started this” or ” I have just finished that” and finishing something and not telling the next person in the chain blocks the work. The other person just doesn’t know.

And the other thing about communications is that when you speak or write you have to be able to understand each other. Maybe there are culture and language differences. It is fine if the communication is slow but what is not good is when people really don’t understand each other and they muddle along and create problems.

The fourth requirement of course is honesty. We can check, we can get background checks and references and things like that. In a remote environment it is harder to check up.

One way to work it out is to get these indicators of honesty and then to give a small task out and over a period of time. Working together you get a feel if the person is honest. People are very, very sensitive to honesty and dishonesty among others.

So there you have four tips: competence, good chemistry or rapport, reliable communications and honesty.

Thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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How can your team get more done?

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How can your team get more done?

I am going to give you four tips. The first of these is responsibility, that is responsibility not only for doing the work but for making sure that it is correct. In the old days, bosses used to give out work and then come back to check it.

That has several disadvantages including that it’s dispiriting and it also causes delays, because you have to wait for the boss to come and then the boss effectively becomes a roadblock so the work gets slowed down. So that is not a very good idea.

The second tip is to have clearly defined small tasks. In a virtual team, it seems to work better when the tasks are much smaller than they would be if you are working in the same place. In the same place (“colocation”) you can check as you go along but in the virtual world, somebody starts a task and might get interrupted and then come back to it and so forth. So it seems to work better that the work is broken down into smaller tasks than otherwise.

The third thing, of course, is competence and part of competence is suitable training. People come into the work, they have the background, they know the company and so on, but it may be that what you are doing is new and they need some introduction to what it is; some background information. So competence and training.

The fourth one is standardized tools Just think of how difficult it is if two or three different people in the team use different applications for something as simple as setting up the time of a meeting. That can waste a lot of time: copying and pasting, importing calendar events and so on. So it does make sense to work out a minimum set of standardized tools.

Think of it like the telephone, which just works. It should be the same when you’re working in a virtual team.

So there you have the four tips: responsibility, defined tasks, competence & training and standardized tools.

Thank you.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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Managing your remote team

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This video is about team management.

Of course there are a lot of things that you can do in connection with management, but maybe one of the most important ones is to work out how you’re going to communicate.

Some people prefer to write to each other in text. Some people prefer to telephone. Some people work asynchronously. Others prefer to talk to somebody at the same time and so on.

Of course when you have a remote team, people are living in different cultures and have different styles. Maybe in one culture people talk a bit more and another one a bit less.

Unless these things come out into the open early on, it can make the communication very difficult.

One way to get around this is to ask your team to put together some rules for communication:

If you have something urgent, do you do it by text or do you do it by telephone?;Or do you do it by email? And how quickly do you expect a response?

Try to be detailed in your plan, because your normal in your culture is most likely different from the culture of the others, but you may not notice the difference.

If you write down the details of how you are going to communicate, you have better chances of working well together. You should end up with a table which has details for different types of communication: problem solving, reporting, communicating with each other, team building and so on.

Maybe it highlights a preferred way of communicating (eg talk in emergencies) and goes into some more detail about for which tools to use or which time of day is preferred

I had a manager once who said “Don’t talk to me before 9 a.m. I’m really very busy trying to work out what to do with the day.”

So all of those details need to be captured, not in too much detail but enough detail to record in a table and get agreement from your team.

Review this communication plan from time to time. Adjust it if over or under-documented? Just use a little more detail than would have been traditional when the team used to all sit in one room.

Thanks very much

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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Starting a remote team

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This is about starting your remote team. The very first thing we do is to draft the charter.

We then authorize it using the authority of the sponsor. This means that we have a fixed starting point for the project which is very important. If this us not done, people tend to go around in circles and the negotiations always take time.

The next thing that we do is to bring the team together online, to explain the charter to them and get their feedback from it.

Then we take everybody in the team and set up a matrix where we ask everybody to make a one-to-one call to all the other people in the team, to introduce themselves.

They can do things such as looking at their facebook pages showing photographs of their children, using Street View to show where they live and similar personal things, to get a feeling of who the other person is.

Then the first assignment of the team is to draft the team communication rules.

If the team cannot agree for example which application is used to set up team meetings or which application is used for writing notes, then you tend to loose a lot of time just moving from one to the other.

We then hold another meeting with the team to review these rules together. When agreed, we go back to the sponsor and say “We have agreed to these rules. Can we write these into the Charter?”

If you follow this sequence, you have some chance of the team starting up quickly and reasonably under control.

I wish you good luck, Thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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The Benefits of a remote team

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This video is about the benefits of having a remote team.

I am going to divide this article into two sections: Benefits for the team and the benefits for yourself.

The benefits for the remote team include that work that doesn’t need to be done physically close can be done by anybody, anywhere. For example, anything that we are doing will have information: when things are available, what they cost, and so forth. All that sort of thing can be done remotely.

Then we have the physical side:
We might be moving house or shifting things or going on holiday or whatever it is that we do, but the non-physical side of it can really be done from anywhere and that gives us extra flexibility. Because it is from anywhere, we have a wider variety of people we can call on so we probably get a better match. And then the fact that these people are really only interacting with us for the work means that we can take them for quite small chunks of work that would not be feasible if we were working on site.

It would not be worth people’s while to travel a distance and sit down and so on unless the work is quite big, but when they are going to interact remotely then they can have much shorter bursts of activity.

Then the benefit for ourselves is that if we want to, we can be quite direct and just use our time for the work. Of course we all want to be friendly and chat to people and so forth but if we’re working remotely there’s less need for us to get involved in long chats after the weekend and long coffee breaks So there you have it.

I think that there are benefits for holding remote teams and these are some from my own experience, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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It’s time to automate some of your meeting processes

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The question is:

Where is the balance between work and personal interaction? Are you utilizing automated meeting processes?

What are your priorities at work?

Do you put in the best effort for your employer?

Or build a career even if everything you do doesn’t really suit everyone else?

Or enjoy human interaction?

Of course, we can have all of those but if we prioritize the wrong one, then we don’t get the best balance.

A colleague of mine used to say work is a lot of people busy enjoying human interaction and then they have some technical issues scattered around the edge.

So let’s work for efficiency and prioritize the human interaction where it’s really needed. Of course it’s needed but it doesn’t have to be embedded in every single interaction. Repetitive work can take far less effort by using the tools available and everyone will appreciate that.

So here’s an example for meetings:

Use Wiki documents, or documents where everyone can log in at once, so you can collect comments from participants during the meeting. Google Sheets is an example, but there are also mind maps where everyone can log in at once. Or drawing applications, where everyone can draw on the sheet at once, and so on.

That is far better than having a document that you type up and then send around as an attachment.

To select meeting times, it is far easier to use a poll which takes into account people’s time zones and say: here are some times; which of these suits you? And they just click and that’s it.

It is very very simple and it takes far less effort than phoning and emailing.

If you have for example to prepare the same documents every time, for example an End of Phase meeting for projects, then you can set up a workflow to remind you what to do.

This is much easier than pencil and paper because once its it setup, then you complete something and you click it and it says: this is the next action.

So let’s enjoy the work but don’t let it prevent you from making useful improvements in how the work is done.

By the way, don’t underestimate the need for training the rest of the team. Sometimes I’m surprised at how resistant people are to using new technology.

So if you have any project issues to discuss, please connect with me.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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Do you have usable intelligence?

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Let’s look at data which is raw and has not been interpreted. Information is the conclusions drawn from data and then usable intelligence can be said to be the insights about the information. In the old days, most documents were physical, which meant the data couldn’t be accessed automatically.

For example, if somebody was working on a project, the information was on paper on their desk so you just couldn’t get at it. Even for your own work, the retrieval effort was so high that the value of the data was completely ignored.

So to extract usable intelligence requires a change of mindset. What type of intelligence is available? Provided you can access it, things like spreadsheets, purchasing & delivery records, manufacturing data, internet traffic data, product complaint data and so on.

It’s all there and to help analyze this we can use tools:

Pivot Tables have been around for quite a while and they use a graphical interface to design reports using spreadsheet tables. It requires a certain amount of learning but they’re very helpful when you’ve got the idea of how they work

IBM Watson Analytics is interesting because it examines the data automatically and suggest reports. You see a report that could be useful and click on it. So you don’t have to do so much thinking.

So the challenge is to experience the benefits of shifting from pencil and paper working. Once you’ve got the benefits, then you will start using more of the intelligence which you already have.

So if you have project issues to discuss, please do contact me.

Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

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Do you really benefit from your virtual meetings?

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How often have you experienced a teleconference where the answer to a question is: “Sorry, I couldn’t hear that. Please repeat your question”.  In my experience, this is a sure sign that the colleague was doing something else instead of listening actively to the discussion.

Meetings can be used for many functions including:

  • Sharing information about the progress of your work
  • Problem solving
  • Encouraging team building
  • Confirming understanding
  • Briefing about the work
  • Training
  • Checking the mood of the team

and so on.

The unwritten assumption used to be that all of these functions are best (or even only) achievable using a face to face meeting. Nowadays this assumption is simply not correct. Many or even most of the objectives of meetings can be carried out more simply by other methods.  To answer the question in the title is: “No, we do not always benefit from our virtual meetings”.

Very often, meetings take place to achieve one or other of the objectives already mentioned when it is simply not necessary to hole a meeting.  To give one example in project management: status of work is better communicated by updating a database of actions completed which is shared with management, clients and colleagues.  The meeting need then only review the status, not waste time collecting status information.

Project work requires that those involved and the stakeholders understand each other exactly.  This is not possible if the virtual meetings take place in an atmosphere where the participants focus on something else and treat the meeting like a cinema: I can look when I want to and nobody will notice if I don’t.

In French, the saying is “Ce n’est pas du cinéma” – “it’s not just cinema” is a good motto for virtual meetings.

My tip: look at the information sharing needs of each participant, then decide how to deliver this.  If a virtual meeting is suitable for some of this, that’s fine, but it should not be the default solution.

Thank you.

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