Something interesting happened to me last week, I was caught up in a riot. Literally caught up, as waiting outside my hotel to meet Paola, manager of our Barcelona office. I suddenly found myself herded inside a police cordon, gas masks, shields, batons and all. Ever the accomplished diplomat Paola talked her way through the police line to meet me inside the cordon and we did the picturesque hug of greeting in ‘no man’s land’, with riot police on one side and shouting protesters on the other. We then had an impromptu media idea, not sure for which service, although Paola was somewhat disappointed as she could have responded in any of five languages however having heard me speak they immediately insisted on everything in English. After this we gradually worked our way through the massed hoards, with the odd bit of drama but nothing overly dangerous or threatening, before eventually escaping the cordon and sitting down for dinner in a slightly more remote part of the City.
Now here’s the thing: I have experienced protests and riots before, and although the odd dumpster was set aflame and there was some projectile throwing, it really wasn’t that bad and pretty much everyone went home once it got dark. Perhaps not the carnival type atmosphere that I had witnessed in Zimbabwe some years earlier, but certainly far less intimidating than recent experiences in London and Manchester. However watching the news later they made it look closer to Armageddon, as if much of the city had gone up in flames and anarchy now ruled the streets.
If I had seen these image whilst back in the UK my concern for our Barcelona team would have been immense, whereas the reality of the situation was that by the next morning just about everything had been cleaned up and the city was once again functioning as normal.
This brought into my mind the extra challenges associated with remote offices. For no matter how big or small an organisation, however good the infrastructure and lines of communication, the office remains remote, one stage removed from the central hub. I have first hand experience of this having personally ran a remote office for many years, and it is hard not to find yourself at the end of the information food chain, invariably the last to know about any new changes or developments and with less exposure to central colleagues and management (although the latter was sometimes a good thing!). Therefore remote offices tend to develop an identity all of their own, fully part of the corporate set up but nonetheless often possessing their own culture and even idiosyncrasies. This can actually be a good thing, often evolving an extra dynamic from which innovative ideas and solutions can flow. At the very least there often exists something akin to a mild siege mentality, a determined self reliance that ensures performance and delivery always matches that from central office as a minimum.
The most important component in a remote office is getting the team right, strong leadership and a good chemistry between all personnel. In any large organisation, with all the best will in the world, there will always be one or two people who don’t really get on with each other, however in a remote, particularly if the numbers are not large, a cohesion is absolutely essential. Actually I would suggest that every remote office, or any office for that matter, should have someone like our Federica who smiles pretty much all the time – its certainly a good position to start from!
Regular communication from and with central is also essential, plus an appreciation amongst all colleagues about the extra challenges that those working remotely can face and therefore being willing to extend additional assistance when required. In fact anything that ensures that the remote never feels, well, remote, but is always very much part of the big picture.
Codex already has a number of remote offices, in the UK, Europe and the Middle East, with further locations in Germany and the US scheduled for later this year. This means better servicing for our customers spread throughout the globe and greater logistical challenges internally – we would not want it any other way!