Sunday, June 10, 2007

Everybody Loves Telecommuting

From Information World, yet another article noting how gosh darn fantastic telecommuting is. Well, let me tell you, you're preaching to the choir, brother!

Howesomever I just returned from a work-related retreat and we were talking a great deal about inter-departmental collaboration and information sharing. I work for a very large, very prestigious research and medical university, and the science that is done there is inherently collaborative. People are working across disciplines like crazy, and the result is big discoveries. Cool. Cut to the fundraising side, where people are often mighty choice of their philanthropic prospects, to the point of potentially disappointing the donor by not allowing her to give to all the parts of the cause in which she might be interested because we're afraid that she might give less to the thing that we originally had in mind to ask her about. (Sorry about that sentence.)

I was in a working group which was discussing how to foster a more collaborative atmosphere, so as to more fully engage the donor and (we believe) raise more money to support the good work of our fine employer. Most of the ideas involved soft-skill type goals -- measure collaboration, model collaboration, choose target projects that will attempt to unstick a stuck donor by using a collaborative approach to cultivating the gift, and so on. But "space" kept coming up. Over and over again. From the Vice President saying "Getting more of the staff in one space is a top priority," to group after group reporting back that "Space will allow for better communication."

Let me tell you that as one of only two people in this part of the organization who commute from a plane ride away, this made me a little nervous.

Finally, someone from one of the departments that currently occupies three floors in one building spoke up. "We're all in the same office, and I still don't know what's going on."

To which I say, "Hallelujah, I'm glad I didn't have to say that." But I made a point of mentioning in our group report-out that physical proximity does not a collaborative environment make. If everyone is sitting in his or her office making calls and lining up visits without thinking about what information and insight their colleagues might bring to bear on the solicitation, then being next door to the person who knows that your prospect's newborn grandson was recently diagnosed with a particular metabolic disorder (and that the prospect had signed a HIPAA release form, of course!) isn't really going to help you make those connections.

You've got to connect with your colleagues in meaningful ways, whether you're picking up the phone to call them in their office down the hall, or two timezones away.

No comments: