Remote Management – The Unconquered Frontier


In the best managed companies, building performing teams across silos and functions is demanding. Add to that the dimension of distance and it does get tougher. Sprinkle that with dispersion across time zones, and it enhances the difficulty. Spread it across countries, continents, vastly contrasting work cultures and market realities, and now you really have a delicious challenge.

This scenario, described above, is more prevalent now than it was just a few decades ago. And it is not limited to multi-billion transnational corporations either. Remote management is here to stay. It has the power to differentiate, create success or failure. Mastery of remote management creates bridges to new markets, to cultures, doing significantly more than creating sustained growth and profits. Unfortunately the converse is equally true.

So here is the question, are organisations dealing with this frontier adequately? Are there companies that have mastered this challenge? Do CEOs consider the impact of poor remote management? Does HR consider this a preparation for selection and training? Are line managers mentored consciously to excel at remote management?

Even in mature large companies, debates continue on expat versus local leadership when expanding to new markets. Globalisation naturally brings with it dispersed teams, and the issue of remote management, at all levels, well below the top layer.

There are convenient and cost-effective communication tools available today, no doubt. Options of deploying sophisticated systems, supporting unified global processes and metrics management exist. And these continue to improve, helping with remote management tremendously.

But management starts with “man” (to include “woman”). All the tools do not create a flying machine without the required knowledge and skills.

This is the beginning of our discussion, aimed at exploring the underlying root issues which need better understanding and addressing. Not from an academic base but from learning acquired through experience. With over two decades of global experience, in large and small corporations, and robust exchanges, sharing of ideas with several practicing managers and executives, I hope to share my insights into this challenge and some potential resolutions.

Admittedly one shoe will not fit all. But hopefully over the next few essays, we will lay down the considerations when devising a way forward to deal more effectively with this Unconquered Frontier!

Contributor: Navin Anand

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