War Rooms or Regional Collaboration Centres?

Jessica wrote earlier this month about some research and her personal experience which suggests that war rooms and reduced face-to-face activities will result in leaders closing war rooms for collaboration.

“We’re wrapping up a project where we’ve been working with a crack team charged with developing a handbook for leaders who have to work in this new way – across organization, culture, timezones – AND with peers. Command and control, obviously, doesn’t cut it in situations like this so what’s a “virtual leader” to do?

For one thing, get rid of those long-standing war rooms, skunkworks, as per the scent that arises from people working in windowless settings dressed in flip charts and armed with magic markers.”

The survey Jessica referred to was from the Institute of Corporate Productivity:

“more than two-thirds (67%) [of companies surveyed] foresee their reliance on virtual teams mushrooming in importance. In companies with more than 10,000 employees, the virtual team concept jumps to more than 80%.”

Do I agree?

I believe that it depends upon the organisation, the team formed, and the culture.  In some cases the best team possible for a task will be co-located.  We support customers with tens of thousands of people working in offices on the same site.  In those cases a number of war rooms will remain.

In other situations organisations will be large enough to sustain regional sites, and if I consider many of my customers they will have multiple sites in the UK with potential for people to be at a regional site within 2 hours.  If that is the case then war rooms can be adapted to link them between those regional centres and support remote users.  Thus encouraging teams to maintain relationships through regional centres.  You’ll note I use the word maintain because I do feel where possible teams should initiate face-to-face.

The final situations will require completely remote tools and giving everyone a level playing field.  I still remember a phrase Jessica used at the Collaborative Technologies Conference in 2005 which was the “disadvantaged participant”.  Its important in virtual teams that a common baseline is met and those working above that baseline (perhaps being co-located with others) don’t forget the limitations of those on the baseline.

Conclusion

We have 3 key working styles here:

  • co-located
  • regionally based with very rich collaboration tools
  • remotely located with less rich tools

Each will require different leadership styles.  A lot of the tools, methods and processes will be defined by the remit the team has, i.e.:

  • do they have travel budget?
  • do they have a carbon budget for the project?
  • where are the key people?
  • the motivation and requirements of the individuals concerned
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