In Remote, Inc., Bob Pozen and his co-author, Alexandra Samuel, share what they have learned from studying the mindset and habits of people who flourish while working outside the office some or all of the time. Their secret? They think like a “business of one,” embracing the work habits and independence of an entrepreneur – while also tapping into the benefits of collegiality and online collaboration.
We were fortunate to be able to read two of the chapters ahead of publication, Chapter 3, “Managing a Remote Team” and Chapter 16, “Thriving in a World of Remote Work,” and discuss the timely subject matter with part of the Kotter team. Bob came at the topic from the individual’s perspective, while John Kotter took the organizational view.
Martha Kessler, Director, Federal Portfolio at Kotter, pointed out that the Federal government has been trying to institute remote work since 2010 but had met significant resistance. That resistance was largely arising from middle managers while front-line employees and senior officials were generally in favor of such a shift. Since the pandemic forced the issue, however, the earlier resistance was overcome at least in the short term. The question remains, for all of us as well as for those working in the federal government: what can be learned from this experience and how shall we proceed post-pandemic?
John and Bob agreed that it is unlikely any organizations, including the federal government, would return to business exactly as it was conducted pre-pandemic. Indeed, our company conducted surveys at the beginning of the pandemic and again 6 months later which showed any attempt to return to “normal” would likely be met with significant resistance.
Pozen’s Chapter 3 on “managing a remote team” was a useful starting point for the discussion. For many years, mangers have insisted on a direct line of sight into what their direct reports were doing at all times during the workday. But this approach has not been feasible during the pandemic. Instead, as Bob details in the book, effective managers are finding ways to focus on the results to be achieved by negotiating success metrics for each objective. These managers set ground rules for communicating as a distributed team, run better meetings online, and hold effective remote performance reviews.
Our discussion ended on a high note as we looked to the future through the lens of Chapter 16: “The Goldilocks Plan”, which is what Bob refers to as working remotely and at the office, combined to create a “best of both worlds” scenario. His approach includes creating a schedule that combines staying home for work requiring extended concentration and going to the office for more collaborative work. He also asserts that we will all need to plan our careers going forward to seek the optimal combination for us of home and office work.
John concluded our event by noting that the massive changes forced by the events of 2020 are not likely to abate. Those organizations that are able to build on the flexibility developed in 2020 with a consciously tended culture of agility have the best shot of growing while meeting the needs of 21st century stakeholders.
Kotter’s new book, Change: How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times, arrives in bookstores on June 2. Together with Bob Pozen’s Remote, Inc., due April 27, these books are essential reading for any manager looking to successfully navigate the work world in 2021. Pre-order your copy of both books today.