Jeffrey Phillips wrote a nice post on Accountable for production not attendance. In it he argues that most knowledge workers should be treated like virtual workers – they should be held accountable for their production, not their attendance. The implication is that the results of the work is far more important than when or where they work. This is something I have given a great deal of thought to and agree with in principle. However, the focus here is on the individual. What if the individual works on a team?
Teams and times
Generally I find there is a happy medium when the team is allowed some flexibility in the individual schedules while maintaining some amount of schedule overlap so that there is a guaranteed time when everyone one the team is present. In my experience this is typically 10am – 3pm. For highly interdependent work I have seen team members on healthy teams adjust their individual schedules to overlap significantly so as to not impede individual tasks purely because of individual schedule preferences.
Teams and locations
Location seems less flexible to me. Certainly technology exists to allow teams to access all the resources they may need from far flung locations, but sometimes you need more that access to just electrons. Just ask someone who needed a flaky server rebooted and couldn’t get in contact with someone who could actually flip the power switch. Admittedly access to physical devices varies by team. My current teams deal with lots of hardware add-ons and regularly visit “the lab” to ensure the product is working as expected. Whereas in my previous position the entire team could have been airlifted to Fiji and it wouldn’t have mattered much (other than their tans).
Teams need to work together
Now teams could be distributed or virtual, but I believe that teams work best co-located and face to face. The team’s output is still of primary importance, but because they are working together the where and the when become important as well. It is harder to work together if part of your team is either at a different location or a different shift or both. And if it is harder to work together the output suffers and the results are what really count.