The Virtual Water Cooler

Operating 100% virtually – advantages, tips and challenges

By Kim Peacocke, Communications Manager, Readify

I am delighted to include a short guest article on by Kim Peacocke

Kim is Communications Manager with Readify a Microsoft Technical Readiness organisation based in Melbourne, Australia.

Kim is helping Readify implement innovative methods of virtual operation – particularly the "virtual professional community" model to offer a complete service to local Readify clients and to grow and develop beyond borders.

Kim provides some very encouraging feedback on and offers a very useful tip for bringing Instant Messenger sessions to life.

Kim also raises two important issues about virtual organisations in the area of physical interactions (planned and unplanned) which I will explore further in a future article.

Operating 100% virtually – advantages, tips and challenges

By Kim Peacocke, Communications Manager, Readify

I just wanted to commend you on your site

There is not a lot of useful information around about the dynamics of a virtual organisation. It has been a fabulous resource.

About Readify and operating virtually

We are a Microsoft centric organisation, specialising in Technical Readiness. Our team is made up of 38 people, based in Australia. Readify is different to other organisations. For most a ‘virtual organisation’ translates to “we have top level managers, scattered around branches instead of at the head office”; or “our managers can work seamlessly at home sometimes”.

Readify is in fact fully virtual. By this I mean we don’t have a head office, or any other office. Along with other benefits, being virtual enables us to recruit the best people as well as provide a quality of life for one and all

Feedback on

I only recently discovered your site by accident. It echoes a lot of our beliefs/findings as well as providing us with some great additional tips. site has become my bible. I have yet to find any other resource which offers useful information for our definition of virtual. It is useful to bounce around ideas other than our own.

The Virtual Water Cooler Effect

Being a virtual organisation has worked successfully for us as we are very conscious about our methods of collaboration. The biggest difficulty is trying to replicate the water cooler effect – by this I mean casual social interaction and information sharing.

From my point of view, ‘water cooler’ chit chat promotes team bonding. It is an important ingredient for creating trust and transparency. Although a team may constantly share information about job related subjects, casual social interaction is a conscious effort.

I would be interested on your views about this. How often do you think a virtual organisation should be bought together, to have face to face interaction? What methods do you know of to encourage social interaction within a virtual team?

Adding pictures to IM

Just to share one of our experiences with you: we have had great success from using Instant Messenger.

This is not an unusual tool, and one of many which we use. However we have made it compulsory for all members of the organisation to use a photo of themselves. This has enabled the team to create a stronger relationship with each other. We recently held a conference. 80% of the organisation had never met each other before, but since we all use IM with photos the each individual was instantly surrounded by familiar faces, making integration and interaction a lot more fluid. We didn’t even need name badges.

What's next for us?

We are about to evolve our Intranet and embark on a SharePoint & LCS adventure to promote information sharing. Now all we have to do is encourage everyone to get fully involved.

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