As part of our series on decentralized businesses, here is another installment.
In recent years, the dispersed work model has seen a surge in popularity. This trend shows no signs of slowing down, leading more businesses to adopt the model without adequate planning or preparation. This often results in unsuccessful implementation.
It is essential to possess an in-depth understanding of dispersed businesses to prevent any potential issues. We have previously outlined what a dispersed business entails and why it is essential. Having taken the first step towards embracing the distributed approach, we will now focus on the second significant step: forming a strategy that utilises the distributed approach.
At Works, we have always adopted a decentralized approach to business, and so we wanted to share some of the considerations that we have given particular consideration to over the years.
Business Challenges in a Globally Distributed Environment
In order to successfully transition to a dispersed business model, it is essential to conduct a thorough assessment of the challenges that must be addressed. There are many benefits to this approach, such as increased readiness for post-pandemic life, but it is important to remember that transitioning to this model can be complex and should not be undertaken without a well-considered plan to mitigate any potential risks.
With this in mind, I suggest we start by compiling a list of the most common issues associated with distributed methods. The following are some of the most frequently observed difficulties that arise with distributed methods:
Challenges in conveying ideas.Organizations operating across multiple locations, such as cities, countries or regions, can face difficulties with real-time communication and collaboration. Without a clear set of principles, including expectations, regulations and tools, any attempt at decentralization is likely to be unsuccessful.
Threats to computer systems in cyberspace.Given the dispersed nature of your team, there is increased vulnerability to attack when accessing the company network from multiple locations. This is particularly true if team members are required to use personal devices or a shared network connection.
Threats to safe operation.It is important to note that the transition from traditional in-house work to distributed work will require adjustments of varying levels of intensity. This is due to the fundamental differences between the two approaches, meaning that the usual practices and procedures are not applicable in a distributed business environment.
Group mindset.Working in remote teams can lead to a greater diversity in terms of both culture and ethnicity, which can be a great asset. However, it can also have an impact on morale in the office, potentially resulting in disagreements and a lack of unity within the organisation.
Obstacles in communication due to differences in culture and language.English is widely used as a language of business across the world, however, there can be difficulties caused by differing levels of English proficiency and cultural differences amongst team members. Without proper consideration, people who share a language may struggle to communicate effectively, which can lead to misunderstandings and even offence.
Formation of a Plan
The challenges mentioned above are not the only ones you might encounter when transitioning to a distributed model, but they could present the most significant disruption. Therefore, it is recommended to consider these questions in relation to your strategy. Nonetheless, there are certain guidelines and considerations that should be taken into account regardless of your organisation or activities.
This list includes the most crucial ones.
1. Invest in necessary infrastructure
Having adequate infrastructure is vital in order to overcome any challenges that a remote organisation may face. It is important to note that the technology available to employees such as computers, software and networks is essential in order to ensure their effectiveness in their respective roles.
It is evident that there is a need to reassess the approach to constructing the system. Historically, organisations have opted to construct their own server infrastructure in a private network in order to keep their data and processes internal. Whilst this is an option, cloud computing provides the same benefits as a private network with reduced administrative effort.
Investing in the right infrastructure can help to address some of the challenges identified, and strengthen cyber defences, increase productivity and improve communication. Whilst infrastructure is not a panacea, it provides the foundation for all other elements of a distributed system.
2. Alter your methods
Having sufficient infrastructure in place is only part of the equation; in order for progress to be made in an efficient manner, clearly defined procedures must be established to guide team members. Furthermore, the current office dynamics may not be conducive to a distributed strategy, meaning that existing procedures may not be suitable for such an approach.
It is essential to review current processes to establish which should be altered, which can remain unchanged, and which should be replaced. Communication should be considered carefully; despite the prevalence of digital communication, face-to-face meetings may still be necessary. To ensure successful communication, a system must be established to accommodate the dispersed method.
In order to effectively modify procedures, it is essential to consider not only how communication is conducted, but also the procedures for data management and storage, reporting, collaboration and execution. It is therefore recommended to take a thorough look at the entire business in order to identify which processes need to be adapted for remote working.
3. Rethink your approach to management
It may be appropriate to include this under ‘Operations’, but it is worth considering this separately as managing staff remotely is a different proposition. There are numerous factors to consider.
One of our primary issues is the lack of alignment between team members in terms of goals and objectives. Additionally, it can be challenging to keep track of progress without resorting to micromanagement. Lastly, as a leader, it is important to ensure that everyone in the organisation feels like they are part of a unified team working towards the same end.
Transitioning to a more progressive business model can be challenging. To ensure a successful transition, it is necessary to abandon the traditional approach of monitoring employees’ time devoted to tasks and instead focus on the output of their work. A delicate balance should be found to ensure that employees are given the freedom to feel comfortable in their role, while also ensuring that their job is completed. It may be necessary to hire new middle managers and experiment with different management techniques.
4. Increase your recruiting efforts by using innovative methods
In a decentralized organization, the recruitment process must be adapted to attract the best and most qualified candidates. It is essential to interact with them from the outset, so they can gain an understanding of the company’s values and the team. This may require a rethink of existing practices, such as advertising open positions, searching for potential hires, and the type of questions asked in the initial screening. Furthermore, the welcome process for new employees should be carefully considered.
If you are currently utilizing internet recruitment and conducting interviews remotely, it may be tempting to continue with this approach without making any changes. However, I would strongly recommend considering how you select candidates and ensuring that any potential blind spots are addressed in order to meet the expectations of today’s workforce.
To recruit the most talented and capable individuals from different regions, it may be necessary to alter our approach. In some cases, it may be beneficial to research regions which have not been previously considered. Additionally, potential incentives to make a role more attractive to applicants may require re-evaluation if physical attendance at the workplace is necessary.
5. Do not devise the approach on your own
It is typical for only the organisation’s most senior executives and managers to be involved in such a critical decision. While I understand why that could be the case, it is essential to remember that everyone’s commitment is necessary for the successful implementation of the transition to a new working approach, particularly one as radical as the dispersed model.
When referring to ‘everyone’, I am referring to all individuals within the organisation. It is recommended to arrange meetings, seek feedback on proposed ideas and commence a discussion about the organisation’s future. This will enable employees to adjust more rapidly to the pending changes. It is also possible that new information will be gained that can support the transition.
Additional action may be necessary in this situation. If you are feeling uncertain or require further assistance while implementing the change, do not hesitate to seek external help. There is a range of professionals who can provide support, such as strategists, software developers, digital transformation experts, HR professionals and many more, which should make the transition to the distributed environment easier.
Strategies for Moving Forward
It is important to be aware that the aforementioned five recommendations are only a starting point in creating your dispersed approach. You will need to provide further details than what has been discussed here and it is likely that you will encounter unforeseen issues. However, do not let this discourage you.
Undertaking the transition to a distributed organisation carries a number of challenges, however, the potential rewards are considerable if the process is managed efficiently. If you are determined to pursue this course of action, you should now have a good understanding of the initial steps required to ensure a successful outcome.