Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Ours is the age, that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to think"

Mumford Jones

I once saw this quote as a tag line at the bottom of a project manager’s e-mail signature. It certainly grabbed my attention and at first sight made me think that perhaps it conveyed a deep seated truth. So when this week I overheard a lunch conversation where someone stated that the most common cause of house fire in Finland today was Sauna’s catching fire by people who were switching them on remotely via their mobile phones (forgetting that they had left clothes or towels in them), I asked my self is this something anyone should be proud of?

It seems that mobile phones are now able to control multiple devices all over the world and as long as they hook up to some kind of domotic device almost anything is possible… Yet I was wondering if it might be the case that this technology could add any useful advantage to project and interim managers? And the more I thought, the less convinced I became.

If you have ever had to manage teams of people remotely, you will know how hard it is to ‘read’ the current status of a project, you have their words, via the phone and timesheets via e-mail, but it is almost impossible to actually get a feel for the real status. For example, when the remote team are in their office in Connecticut or Calcutta (or wherever they might be) are they actually working constructively, or are they fooling around or even debating all day?

It is hard enough sometimes to adjust to different cultures of companies (some like to debate every fine detail) others seem to just get on and delegate, putting the sole responsibility on the shoulders of the executor. So any device, to assist the remote control of projects would be great, but all we seem to be focusing on is knowing how warm our fridge is or to program the TV. There must be better applications that can help company managers perform more efficiently?

This week I am switching my preferred communication protocol for remote project meetings to Skype video conferencing, I am a late adopter it seems? I am curious to know how effective it will be or whether I will be shortly switching back to landlines, planes and mobile phones?

1 comment:

Matthijs said...

Indeed, video conferencing brings you a long way to improve the communication. This is certainly true when one makes use of the modern technical solution to create with multiple video devices a virtual round table in each of the participating locations.

However, nothing goes beyond a face to face meeting. In that case, one needs to accept a lot of flying, which is a real burden for the involved manager and costly to the organisation. A visit to a remote team is not only effective for controlling the progress, but is essential for team motivation as well. And motivation is, as we all know, one of the most important drivers for team performance. Therefore, one should in my opinion visit them regularly and not rely on video conferencing only.