Posts Tagged 'virtual work'

How do you find and implement a new Learning Management System (LMS)?


http://www.slideshare.net/natknit/pls-lms-search-quest

I’ve been trying to think of some of the projects I most enjoyed over the past few years. I know Christy posted this already in her blog, but I’d thought I’d share our journey to selecting a new Learning Management System with all of you.   This was quite a journey we took to find a new Learning Management system. I have to say it’s been one of the projects I’ve been most proud to work on during my entire career. I learned much more about working effectively with a virtual team on this project than during my seven years at a technology development company.  Of all the highlights of this journey I’m most proud of the work we did to provide a usability test and develop a comprehensive training package that prepared our users for the transition from our old LMS to Sakai.  Overall, we’re very happy with Sakai and our contract with rSmart to house and maintain our LMS (not our content).  As we noted in the presentation we reviewed and tested several LMSs and even several vendors before we found one that met our needs.  For me this was a lesson in the value of thorough planning rather than making snap and uneducated decisions about choosing any type of system or vendor.

A fun note, we used ToonDoo to create slides around a narrative about our story, and we told our story to the slides. Christy even opened our preso by playing the Star Trek theme. Fun times!

What Does the Ideal Virtual Workforce Look Like?

I was talking to my manager the other day about writing some sort of article that highlights the skills and talent needed to manage a virtual team. Last year I was able to briefly describe the ideal virtual employee. I decided to come up with characteristics for both virtual managers and virtual employees.  This is what I came up with so far… I’m still working on it.

Ideal Virtual Workforce

Click on the image to view the full sized mind map

I based the qualities and behaviors of managers on several of the managers I’ve had in the past whom I felt to be highly effective. In a nutshell, I really liked/like working for these people and I’d pick up another job with them in a heartbeat if it was available.

Honestly, I feel that the first thing an effective manager of a virtual team does is hire ‘the right people.’  In a sense, half the chore of managing a team is done once they’ve hired the correct type of person. This isn’t easy, because good employees are often hard to come by, and I speak from my own experience on hiring panels in a corporate workplace. Often interviewees have been coached to “talk the talk,” and a hiring manager needs to be able to see through this. A good virtual manager will probe employees to see if they can truly demonstrate the qualities and behaviors of the “ideal virtual employee.”  Moreover, a virtual manager will request and thoroughly review a portfolio of the prospective hiree’s past work before the actual interview. They will aslo ask pointed questions about how the interviewee accomplished or made these portfolio items.

To be honest, when I enter an interview, I actually look for the behaviors I described above in the hiring manager.  I want to know that the person who’s leading me is capable of managing me and the whole team effectively. There’s nothing worse that being hired into an extremely dysfunctional team. I’ve often thought of scripting scenarios that take the best moments from interviews I’ve had with managers.  I’ve even thought of taking the best coaching moments I’ve experienced and sharing them.  So many of us have in the past worked for or currently work with poor managers, sometimes It’s good to know that there are good ones out there. While the economy is bad right now and many people might be willing to put up with working in a dysfunctional workplace, it’s still important to hire good managers (virtual or not) who encourage productive innovation. Innovation and the ability to change and adapt readily is what helps companies survive in succeed in trying times.

Addendum… thanks to Twitter, I’ve found a number of interesting articles on virtual workers:

My cat deleted the file… honest.

It’s not unusual for me to leave my desk and computer for a moment or to and come back to find several applications running that I didn’t start myself. Sometimes the text narrator is on.  Sometimes chunks of text are deleted from documents I’m working on. Sometimes, as my virtual co-workers can attest… strange cryptic messages are typed and sent in an open instant message window.

Once, I came back to my desk and found a search for the letter “O” typed in google, and the Oprah website open in another tab.

My cat logically has an affinity toward my laptop because it’s warm… but still…

Was my cat trying to tell me something?

It’s been awhile since I’ve lived with a cat, let alone share my workspace with one. I really need to get used to living and working with a cat. Who knows… if I don’t, I may find myself missing important files right before a deadline :)

Ms. Ciprilla hanging out in Erics DJ bag

Ms. Ciprilla hanging out in Eric's DJ bag

Work expectations/behaviors of the ideal virtual employee

  • Image from the Morguefile
    Image from the Morguefile
  • Are you a self-starter, a life-long learner?
  • Do you find yourself researching and looking up answers to questions on your own?
  • Can you effectively connect and communicate via e-mail, chat and phone?
  • Do you have exceptional written communication skills?
  • Can you work with out tons of positive reinforcement or those ‘pats on the back?’
  • Can you set your own reasonable timetables for getting your work done and then meet them consistently?

If you’ve answered yes to all or most of these questions, you’d probably make an ideal virtual employee.

When I tell people I work from home 100%, I usually get one of two responses.

“That’s great! You get to work in your pajamas!”

or…

“Work must be a cakewalk for you.”

Of course, I try to explain to them that it’s not that simple. It still astounds me that people have those preconceptions that working from home means 1.) You get to do what you want and 2.)You don’t have to do much work. In my own experience, neither of these two notions is true of working from home.

To be honest, after the first six months of working from home I seriously questioned whether or not I was the right person for this job. There were things I horribly missed: making connections with workmates when you work in an office. Informal coffee break talks, lunches, impromptu meetings at the whiteboard to explain or get some validation on a concept.

Working from home and working alone, I found myself having regular conversations with my dogs. At least they were happy because they now had a human being in the house with them twenty-four-seven.  In the end, I found that I needed to join extracurricular social groups outside of work or make sure I pencilled in lunches with former coworkers and current friends into my schedule.

More, I don’t really get to “do only what I want” when I work from home.  I realized early on, that I had to set my own project schedule and milestone deadlines and meet them. With virtual employment gone are the days when the boss sits in an elevated place where they can see what all their employees are doing. The virtual boss needs to trust his or her employees to get the job done, and reciprocally, the virtual employee needs to constantly deliver the products and services that make his group and company successful.

Setting these self goals for success is not the only challenge I face as a virtual employee. As my work now takes place in my home environment, I have to discipline myself to separate both of these worlds. I set boundaries. Work takes place in the room that is my ‘office.’ I stop work at exactly 5:00. I must set up  rituals and practices that enforce the law of separation of work and home life… otherwise I face the danger of work enveloping it all.

Working from home 100% of the time is not the simple cake walk some people make it to be. And oh, I haven’t noted the challenge that those of us face who work from home with other family members including children at home.


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