Some good advice for the virtual company. I found many times moving away from the keyboard and picking up the phone resolved a question or problem in minutes. Voice inflection can be so important. As Dana points out, the article is a little dated, but still the concept is still true today.
In Virtual Company Advice Will Pape, co-founder of VeriFone offers advice for making remote management work. VeriFone grew up as a global virtual corporation before being acquired by HP in 1997. (from inc.com's 101 Great Ideas for Managing People FROM AMERICA'S MOST INNOVATIVE SMALL COMPANIES, October 1999)
Here's the one that struck a chord with me today, during a Telework Consortium strategy meeting where we were discussing specific suggestions on how to break down the barriers to increased telework within the federal government:
'At least some of the time, have managers operate in cyberspace , rather than out of the main office. “Sitting in a central office without plugging into the virtual culture is almost a guarantee of failure,” Pape says. “You don't know what's going on, and you signal your employees that operating virtually isn't really important.” '
And despite the fact that this piece was written in 1999, before many of the advanced tools for virtual presence were much more than a glint in their developers' eyes, Pape offered these very relevant observations:
'”When you become a virtual organization, your staff suddenly loses all those interactions in the hallway, in the elevator, and by the water cooler that help move projects forward and smooth out conflicts,” Pape says. To compensate, he suggests making regular use of videoconferencing and telephone conversations. Relying on e-mail too much, he finds, can allow conflicts to escalate. “When workers do most of their communicating by e-mail, small irritations easily grow into major conflicts,” Pape says. “Learning how to disagree remotely is an important component of being able to operate virtually.”'