Greg says:

I’ve been hearing concerns in multiple organizations from people who work remotely, whether “remote” is a branch office or home office.

The complaints? That remote colleagues are missing out on important conversations that only happen in hallways, company break rooms, or around the foosball table.

Looking through the looking glass, there’s a managerial aspect of the situation, which, perhaps surprisingly, constitutes a breakdown of the old RACI chart (if you aren’t familiar with the framework, it’s an account of who does what on all project tasks – who performs work (Responsible); who decides something (Accountable); who influences (Consulted); and who cares (Informed; except for when the “I” stands for “Ignored”).

Virtualizing the workforce has revealed that RACI is no longer complete, and probably never was. RACI, as it turns out, is limited to a transactional view of employee interrelationships: Many project decisions are made “around the water cooler,” beyond the reach of project task assignments. To manage well we need another “I” – “Informal.”


 Bob says:

Maybe this is just a tangent, but one of the great leadership challenges virtualizing the workforce creates is that “What employees want” is only exceeded in its fogginess by “What management wants.”

As you point out, employees miss the watercooler effect and all the related socializing, informal brainstorming and so on that remote work has left behind. At the same time they like the convenience of not having to commute to a centralized office.

Meanwhile, managers want to be able to establish a consistent business culture – a goal already made difficult in a branch office situation even before Remote Work became a thing – while also keeping management/employee interactions relational rather than deteriorating into a purely transactional mode.

And while they want all of this, this they want to keep their workforce happy with their work situation.

So fess up, Greg. You manage people. How do you handle, and encourage them to handle, the growing gap separating the addition of Zoom to the missing RACI entry?


Greg says:

To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a magic bullet–yet.   What seems to be the best solution so far is regular, face to face interactions, where people get these watercooler interactions that they need.  When technology has been tried, such as tablet based virtual telepresence robots or collaborative smart boards, they generally end up collecting dust.  When Google tried to replicate the sense of being in a room and working together to solve a problem, they ultimately gave up.

I am cautiously optimistic that AI tools will help us sift through the communications and help us find those important nuggets of information that lead  to feeling  “Consulted” and “Informed”.


Bob says:

I keep wondering if some of the solution is as prosaic as the Surface Pro stylus, coupled with a decently intuitive White Board app, along with sufficient training in its use, plus leader commitment to actually using it. The goal is to replicate the chemistry of a bunch of people in a room together, surrounded by whiteboards and fully charged Dry Erase markers.

Or am I just engaging in optimism bias, with a generous dose of wishful thinking?