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How to Manage a Global Office

How to Manage a Global Office

Renee Weisman | HRPeople

May 20, 2010

Undercover Boss has become a new hit show, largely because it demonstrates the value of a basic management principle, first proposed by Peters and Waterman known as “managing by walking around”.

But today’s global business world taxes a manager’s ability to apply this principle. Most of us don’t have corporate jets to fly us all over our company but it is not at all unusual for several of our employees to be in different locations and even different time zones. Many work from home and call in for meetings. Some employees have never even met their managers face to face.

If you can’t manage by walking around, what can you do? How do you really know what your employees are doing? How can you know what information has been “filtered”? How do you motivate others in this wired, global, impersonal, business world? Is it really possible to manage thru emails, IM’s and emeetings? Yes it is, but it requires a new approach, a great deal of energy, flexibility and the ability to communicate, communicate communicate.

Managing electronically requires you to be available and reachable. Know the technology tools you have available and use them wisely. Much depends on the nature of your work, where employees are located and how many time zones you span. But email, videoconferencing, IM’s and PDA’s provide continuous ways to stay in touch. Use team databases to post information so all who need it can find it. Most large companies provide this but you can also accomplish this through google documents (just be aware of security and privacy controls).

Formalize what you often did informally. By this I mean, write a summary after a teleconference (or have someone do it for you), write notes concerning comments you used to just tell the person in the next office. Over-communicate but keep your memos and notes short and crisp with valuable content. If required, there are even tools to enable you to track employees’ “time at work” through the telephone (often necessary if you are paying for contract work by the hour). Managing remotely does not mean hands-off management.

Being available also means having a schedule others can access. That way, they know times you have set aside for calls, reading mail, etc. They will also know when you might be “in the neighborhood” and ask for some face time. You can block confidential and personal entries and still provide employees with read access to your calendar. You most likely want the same access for their calendars.

Be very sensitive to what should be private and what is public. If something is very private, it is best done on the phone.

Be crystal clear about requirements and deadlines. Establish appropriate tracking methods (program management tools, periodic written updates, team reviews, whatever fits your need). Do these at clearly defined and understood times and establish deadlines for projects with interim checkpoints.

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