Today begins a new series of posts related to distance leadership. If you’re currently participating on any type of a distributed team or work group, I hope you’ll share some of your experiences.
Why the New Rules?
Our world has changed dramatically in the past decade. An explosion of broadband networks, mobile devices, social networking, and cloud computing has reshaped our mental landscapes. These shifts have changed the way we live, work, think, learn, and relate to family and friends. Our expectations have also changed; we expect information and people to be available whenever we want them. The boundaryless global economy allows buyers and sellers to conduct business non-stop, 24/7. It is easier and cheaper to order books, bike parts and Mother’s day gifts from a mobile phone than it is to wait until the next free weekend to shop around in brick-and-mortar stores. If doubts remain, perhaps one could ask any political leader of the dozen or so Mideast countries that recently changed governments how his or her views on the power of social networking have transformed in the past four months.
Companies and institutions struggle to keep up with this pace of change. In today’s 21st century workplace, technological advances have forced most companies to embrace some form of distributed teaming. In fact, the presence of purely colocated teams is decreasing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the proportion of U.S. workers taking advantage of flexible work schedules has more than doubled since 1985. Cisco estimated, in a 2007 study entitled “Understanding and Managing the Mobile Workforce,” that by 2009 over 870 million mobile workers would connect to their corporate headquarters online or via mobile devices. Reasons for this shift include the need for diverse talents and skills, cheap telecommunications technology and dynamically shifting marketplace that expects higher quality products and services that are delivered faster, better, and cheaper. Leadership in this environment, explains Michael Hammer, “is about vision and commitment, but it is also about taking difficult and even painful steps to ensure your company gets to where it needs to be.”
Embrace the New Rules of Work
Some of these painful steps include helping our organizations rethink the way we view work. How will we, as servant leaders, identify the paradigm shifts necessary to remain relevant, model new attitudes and behaviors, and embrace new ways to accomplish our mission?
|Old Rules (Assumptions)||New Rules|
|Work is a physical place||Work is something you do or accomplish|
|Work takes place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.||Work takes place between when it is assigned and when it is due|
|Employees, staff or volunteers need to be controlled||Employees, staff or volunteers are responsible for results|
|Work must be completed where the worker is located||Work (e.g. surgery, personal evangelism, follow up, mentoring, leadership decision-making) can occur far from the worker’s location|
|Relationships are limited to whom I can meet personally||I can interact with almost anyone I want to online and develop deep relationships with people I’ve never met face-to-face|
How are you doing at embracing the new rules of work? Do you have any tips you’d like to offer?
Clemons, David, and Michael S. Kroth. Managing the Mobile Workforce: Leading, Building, and Sustaining Virtual Teams. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.
Hammer, Michael, and Lisa W. Hershman. Faster, Cheaper, Better. Kindle ed. New York: Crown Business, 2010.