Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
Online
Volume 02, Issue 04
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Trust and good relationships key in a virtual workplace

Experience smoothes rough roads.

Once you've gone virtual, you don't want to go back. A brief Boeing Frontiers sampling of experienced Boeing virtual workers shows many find it beneficial.

Andy Miller, director, Computing Infrastructure Services Integrated Defense Systems, lives in Arizona and for a little more than two years has led a virtual team with members in Southern California, Alabama, Texas, Florida and Arizona. The group recently expanded to about 400 people with additional members in Wichita, Kan., Colorado and the Washington, D.C., area.

Miller said in the "virtual environment" developing trust and establishing good collaborative relationships is more important than ever.

"In addition, the team needs to establish measurable goals and objectives. Each member is accountable for achieving these results, and members hold each other accountable," he said.

Managers need to become proficient with new enabling technologies that allow them to stay in close, personal touch with members of their group, Miller stressed.

"You need to get away from the 'out of sight and out of mind' way of thinking. There are lots of opportunities to communicate—using the telephone, e-mail, those little Web-cams and WebEx (formerly Net Meeting)," he added.

Joe Elston, finance manager for Workplace Services, made the change to virtual for the first time when his team moved out of a traditional office building near Seattle Plant 2.

"At that time I was not excited about it. I actually tried to make a case for not going virtual; we were a new group and I saw it as an obstacle to working as a team," Elston said.

What made the difference?

"Once we got through it, more information was available about how virtual would operate; we learned that there would be space for working collaboratively," he added.

"We had to be more organized, schedule time together and create action-item lists, and there was a lot more formal, written communication."

In addition, staff meetings took on greater importance as an opportunity for face-to-face communication.

"Instead of the glazed look you used to see at meetings, there was more excitement and interaction—it was a more festive occasion," Elston said.

Mike Hoff, an environmental scientist-engineer in Boeing's Safety, Health, Environmental Affairs organization, began working without an assigned desk in 2002 in the SHEA Assessments Organization. "The primary convenience is no commute—it saves me an hour a day," Hoff said, although he uses temporary office space in a customer's area when he is working on an audit.

Planning is the key, said Jerry Batschi, an Information Technology manager for Workplace Services Customer Support, who leads a team of 16 people at Puget Sound locations from Everett to Auburn. His employees have assigned desks at each customer location, whereas he and three staff spend much of their time traveling or working at a central hoteling location where they can reserve workspace or meeting rooms.

"I like to visit the sites four days a week, one day per location. Before I leave work one day I look at my calendar to see where I'm going the next day," Batschi said. "It requires a little more planning than usual—you have to schedule your life."

"We just have meetings at our different customer locations. That way we get to see each other's environment," he added.

Bonnie Soodik, president of Boeing Shared Services Group, said working virtually means the emphasis is on managing information rather than managing people. "By focusing on the job that we're doing, rather than where we work, we see many opportunities for everyone to benefit."

—Eve Dumovich and Allegra Berrian

 

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