I have coached a variety of teams virtually and wondered how someone else did it. So I asked a could of questions.
An excerpt from last week’s podcast, Managing Product Development .
Joe: Much of a consultant’s role is relationship and trust building; when we do it virtually, that’s sometimes very difficult to do. How does working internationally as a consultant different for you than let’s say working with a client in Columbus?
Gabi Vandermark: Yes. There is nothing like a face to face interaction, a handshake, or a hug, or whatever the culture accepts and requires, that face to face interaction is absolutely important, but you also can’t afford to travel every day to another country to see your client or see your customer. What I typically do is I combine the two. You have to find ways to build a relationship up front with some face to face interactions and then maintain it throughout with whatever online tools we can find. Video chat, I spend most of my day on video chat. When conversations need to happen, that if I was around somebody, I would maybe call them into my office, shut the door, a one on one conversation. I typically choose to do a video call. There is that face to face. It’s not as warm as being in there with someone, but you can still see their facial expressions, and it gives you a little bit more of a sense of being close to that person.
But upfront, it’s important to be together and especially when you’re going through sessions where you’re designing something or you’re starting a process. A lot of times in Lean Product Development, I would always suggest to a client to start with a vision. The vision not only for the product, especially for the product but also for the team that’s going to be building that product. In those sessions where you’re defining a vision and maybe defining an identity for that team, it definitely needs to be face to face.
Joe: In developing a team, you’re just not ending up with an existing team, let’s say in Brazil that you have to work with and then six months into the project, you meet them most of the time, you’re at the very beginning. You’re trying to meet that team in some capacity as visually or face to face if possible.
Gabi: Absolutely, yes. Typically what we do is we identify who the team is, who are the members of that team, and plan a first meet and greet in person to validate that that team makeup makes sense. A team is one of the most important things for Product Development or any sort of project. You want people that are dedicated and you also want to explain to them the ‘why.’ Why are we doing this? Why are we putting in a brand new URP system that’s going to change your entire life? There have to be ways to you connecting with that team to explain the why. They may not like the why but understanding the why will at least help them deal with that change and be focused on the project. Definitely upfront, a face to face interaction as quick as possible with enough information on my back pocket about what we’re about to execute. Because also meeting the teams without having enough information, just to sit in front of them and say I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know – that’s not worth it. When I do meet the teams, I need to be prepared to answer a lot of their questions about what we’re about to do.
Joe: Do you find that limiting the size of teams is important, even more internationally?
Gabi: I think the makeup of the team is more important than the size. Having the right people doing the job that one, they’re good at, and two, they like to do, is more important than the size. I do tend to try to build smaller pockets of teams, if I have a large number of people, so that they become self-organized in their little groups and it’s easier to spread that knowledge and reuse knowledge. But when I do break into smaller groups, I have to find a way to bring collaboration amongst them. When I was at Nationwide for example, I had three different teams. Two in the US, one offshore, and collaboration communication was a constant job for me or a constant task for me to bring those three teams together to make sure that they were talking amongst themselves, because all three of them were touching the same product. That becomes kind of my role, as the quarterback of bringing everybody together and making sure that collaboration exists.
About Gabi Vandermark: Founder of Rottie Consulting LLC, Gabriela (Gabi) Vandermark, discussies Lean Product Development with an emphasis on Product Owners. Rottie provides consulting services to a variety of industries specializing in IT Project Management & Delivery, Technology Leadership, Organizational Change Management, Leadership Coaching, and International (South American) Relations.
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