Value of Virtual: Barbara Harvey on ‘Overcoming the Challenges of Leading Global Teams’

23 09 2010

Unfortunately I missed the first part of Barbara’s session, but Phil Anderson, a colleague who will speak later today, has passed me some notes which follow.

Barbara Harvey is a Senior Executive at Accenture where she is the global lead for industry and survey research.

During the Q&A session, someone asked about finding a work-life balance. According to Barbara, “it depends”. She says her days are not divided into ‘work’ and ‘life’ but a combination of both. If it’s a lovely day, she might go for a nice walk in the woods but then be working at 10pm at night because she has to have a conference call with colleagues in San Francisco.

On a personal basis, isn’t this the way forward for all knowledge workers? Once organisations overcome the issues of trust, which they should with knowledge anyway, surely people work best when they are ready to do the work, and not when the company, or society, says that you must write a report between 9am and 5pm.

Of course, when you are dealing with clients, you have to meet their timetables, which will often be during traditional office hours. But global clients in different time zones automatically mean that you must be flexible on when you are available to talk to the client…and, according to Barbara, they should also be flexible that you might not be available at 10pm at night.

Barbara also says that on conference calls, the first thing she always asks is when people are able to work… so that you can find common timetables that suit all attendees. 8pm in the evening, for example, is no good for people with young children, but they might be happier to talk at 10pm.

Management and leaders in organisations can take the lead here, according to Barbara, by stating categorically that they will not email you at the weekend or on holiday. Absolutely never. If there is an emergency, the manager can call, but the manager can set the bar by saying that emails will not be sent at the weekend.

Now…Phil’s notes on Barbara’s session…

What are the issues of leading virtual teams?

Getting to know people is harder. How do we start conversations… chat about stuff… kids, hobbies…

Once a year – run a virtual quiz.. all picture driven… people and stuff around the world… do it for a charity… do it in own teams… have about 25 teams competing in this… marketing and others…

Christmas party – allocate a budget.. you have to go out with whoever is in your local team.. and you have to take a picture of something funny which represents your experience…

Teddy bear around the world – sent it on to various people… and record the bear’s journey…

Also look at other festivals as they happen.. it doesn’t work in all cultures…

What about conflict?

IF there’s ever something being exchanged which is NOT good… everyone encouraged to pick up the phone – “unacceptable”…

You cannot send a “grumpy” e-mail at the end of the day… unless you’re willing to get up early in the morning to deal with it and have “the conversation”…

Good way to get ideas… and there are measures / prizes for those who use it…

Office communicator – call everywhere apart from India for free

Technology champions in each region – they’re techies… and they try things out and recommend to others and then help them to make it work…you need ‘champions’ of the technology…

Celebrating success:

Making a real point of celebrating.. trophies, money to go and celebrate…

Innovation and impact prize

Prizes for people development – recognising

Recognising individuals who have spent a lot of time developing themselves… named after a former colleague who passed away but was seen as someone who was effective in developing themselves