Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why Virtual Workforces Are Virtually Impossible


"This trend will, in turn, encourage the increasing virtualization of the

organization. As 24/7 connectivity, social networking, and increased

demands for personal freedom further penetrate the walls of the

corporation, corporate life will continue to move away from traditional

hierarchical structures. Instead, workers, mixing business and personal

matters over the course of the day, will self-organize into agile communities

of interest. By 2020, more than half of all employees at large corporations

will work in virtual project groups." Roman Friedrich, Michael Peterson, and Alex Koster, Generation C at Work


The concept of virtual workforces is very appealing yet highly unlikely.


In some industries, it works well and online collaboration ensure that the best

heads are put around a project regardless of their geographical location.


For the most part, I don’t see employees ‘self-organising into agile

communities of interest’ mainly because existing power structures are still

locked into a 1960’s mentality of spending 8am to 5pm, bolted in a cubicle

with half an hour for lunch.


One of the most frustrating scenarios that inevitably crops up with the project

work I do is the ‘where were you?’ conversation or worse still, the ‘what time

do you call this?” conversation.


I make it very clear to all my clients that I’m contactable 24/7 but don’t expect

me to sit at a desk and pretend to look busy for eight hours per day.


(If the meeting is at 10am, I’ll turn up at 10am, not 8am and then read the

paper and fluff around and have a coffee until 10am).


What’s the point?


The reality is, most of the people that sign my invoices (and their employees)

ARE required to clock in like good little factory workers and they don’t see

why I should be treated any different.


Often, the C-suite have been with the organisation their whole career and

have come up through the ranks by being the first to arrive, the last to leave

and aspiring to climb the corporate ladder. The complete opposite of a flat,

egalitarian, trust-based structure that virtualisation requires.


Human beings are naturally competitive and any opportunity to tar a

colleague with the ‘slacker’ brush is often taken by middle managers trying to

make themselves look good in the ascent.


Some people make their whole career out of crowing about how busy and

important they are and making sure that the other bees in the hive know

about it.


You just need to go to Friday night drinks at a large corporate to hear ‘ Jason

had two hours for lunch today’ or ‘Sue is always on the phone organising her

house renovations’ moans of injustice.


Virtual workforces are a nice idea, but a long way off and certainly not

something I expect to see dominating in the next 10 years. What are your thoughts and experiences?

Posted via email from cjlambert's posterous

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