Technology doesn’t improve communication; it’s another tool, another lens through which we try to communicate. We now have the capability to stream video across oceans, share screens and provide remote control, and it’s introduced entirely new possibilities for how we might reinvent the modern office (or reassess if we even need an office altogether). But the ability to share information more quickly and at greater volumes than you could through phone calls or paper trails does not inherently make our communication easier or clearer.
Look no further from the overflow of data and information that floods our social media feeds every day; faster information could make communication even more cluttered, unclear and ineffective. Perhaps that’s why some managers have strayed away from the concept of a fully virtual enterprise, eliminating working from home policies and bringing back the personal touch. But as Vanguard Health Systems SVP & CIO Scott Blanchette says, these people are going after the symptom and not the cause.
Blanchette says that response is appropriate when you’ve got broader cultural or trust issues that can’t be patched in a virtual environment. But it’s a short term fix, and the people who will not only solve those communication issues and make the best strategic use of new technologies in a new world for the modern workforce are the leaders and individuals who can engage and manage their employees effectively.
“There is no magic benchmark that if you use video the project is going to be 10 percent better; you need to look at, is the organization responding and changing,” said Accenture CIO Frank Modruson on our show “Enabling an Effective Virtual Enterprise.” “The real value that people bring to the table is the ability to continue to evolve and change as an organization. The real challenge for us as leaders is to help our organization move into the future and be better than it was before. Video is just one more arrow in the quiver.”
Modruson’s position is that he really doesn’t care what the process is as long as it’s done. That’s a controversial philosophy today, and it definitely doesn’t mean throwing process to the wind either. But Modruson has noticed that hours and locations matter less when employees are getting their work done, are engaged and have an interactive, relatable boss who gets out of the way and allows people to do their job.
“I do believe the people who take the 50 hour task and get it done in 10 hours generally come back and say ‘Yo, what else do you need help with?’ They don’t say, ‘I’m going to go hang out on the beach the rest of the week,” Modruson said. “It’s a little less about the technology and a little more about the individual.”
To quote Prof. Mohanbir Sawhney from one of our previous shows, “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” Video will not solve our problems, but it’s a tool that can help enable new possibilities.
A virtual enterprise is more than the locations where people are based or the bandwidth they have to connect. It’s about how we are approaching talent acquisition, workforce productivity, engagement and our company’s globalization efforts, which makes this not a political or cultural challenge but a strategic one. Those leaders prepared to step up to the plate and get specific about what they want to accomplish are the ones who will take their organizations into the future.
Hear more from Blanchette and Modruson on our show “Enabling an Effective Virtual Enterprise.”