Mobile Collaboration: An Interview with Michael Kroth, author of "Managing the Mobile Workforce"

The growth of mobile technology is simply staggering. According to mobiThinking, there are 5.3 billion mobile subscribers (that translates to 77% of the world's population.) By 2014, it's expected that mobile will overtake the PC as the most popular way to access the web. People are using mobile technologies for commerce, entertainment, and productivity.

No surprise, this trend has a definite impact on business and the workplace. The International Data Corporation (IDC) has estimated that the mobile workforce will exceed 1 billion people in 2011. The reasons that businesses are moving in this direction vary - everything from cost savings and reducing the carbon footprint to attracting and retaining the top talent necessary to remain competitive.

As business talks more about mobile strategy, the conversation will not be exclusively about the hardware. In order to effectively leverage mobile technology, it's equally important to use it effectively. I recently finished reading the book "Managing the Mobile Workforce: Leading, Building, and Sustaining Virtual Teams" co-authored by Michael Kroth, associate professor of organizational learning and leadership at the University of Idaho with David Clemons, founder of Achieve Labs Inc., an educational solution connecting learning and mobile technology. The book outlines the case for developing a mobile workplace strategy and the key components for successful implementation using best practices from companies such as LEGO, Citrix and Hewlett-Packard.

As part of our ongoing focus on mobile and collaboration, Michael graciously shared with me his thoughts on the new mobile workplace.

First things first, tell me what prompted you and David to write the book?

"My friend David Clemons and I were mountain biking one day and as we enjoyed a post-ride cup of coffee and a bagel our conversation turned to the mobile workforce. His business, LearnCast, provides great easy-to-use online tools that support and enable organizations that want to go mobile. (At the time he was just getting started, today he has global clients who are rocking the world of mobile work.) My writings and interest had always been about what it takes to create healthy highly motivating work environments. We decided that day that we could learn a lot from each other and from the process of writing a book that combined the two interests. We both felt that the timing was right for this amazing movement to mobile work so decided to go for it. It's been a fabulous experience for us as friends and it's been very rewarding to contribute this incredible move to mobility that is happening worldwide."

If I'm a company considering telework, what's my big takeaway from reading the book?

"The principles of managing mobile workers are the same as for managing co-located workers - but the practices, emphases, and effort can differ. Part of the challenge of working with people who aren't right there is to realize that distance is more than geographic - it is also cultural, emotional, and social. We talk a lot about "presence" - the sense that you are there even when you aren't - as well as trust, autonomy, and motivation."

What do you feel mobile technology can bring to collaboration efforts?

"The better the technology the fewer barriers to communication; the more opportunities for sharing than there ever would be if limited to who you could get into a room or information you could find in a physical library; and the more colorful and complex the kaleidoscope of perspectives from which the group can draw."

What would readers learn about mobile collaboration from your book?

"We have a chapter about developing virtual teams where we share a different configuration of the forming, storming, norming, and performing model most folks are familiar with, and which might make more sense for virtual team development. We start the chapter by comparing virtual teambuilding to what occurs with millions of people playing online games like World of Warcraft every night. Then we share the experiences of mobile managers and thought leaders we interviewed from such places as LEGO and Hewlett-Packard. And lots more!"

Many thanks to Michael for sharing this thoughts and expertise. I really can't say enough good stuff about his book. Go check it out at Managing the Mobile And you can follow Michael on Twitter.


This post originally appeared on Workshifting, sharing resources on telecommuting, online tools, travel, technology, business & virtual offices to help you shift when, where & how you work! Powered by Citrix Online.

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