The Types of Work Wheel and Virtual Work

Tom GibbonsChange, Learning, Organization Development, Virtual TeamsLeave a Comment

Early on in 2020 as the pandemic took hold we published a few documents focusing on the models of the Team Management Profile (TMP) and virtual work. Our small team here at TMS Americas has been virtual for about 18 years now and we thought if we captured some of our experiences through the lens of the TMP, people could use that to help make use of their TMP’s to navigate what for many was a new virtual world of work. In fact it was not just new for many, but new with virtually no planning, no choice and no experience!

This is the second post of 3 that will focus on this topic; this one looking at the Types of Work Wheel and virtual work. The post will highlight some of the things in the document and you can find the link to the document at the end of the post.

When the pandemic first began and organizations and people were thrust into virtual work, the primary focus was on business continuity; how do we actually keep doing what we do? The Producing work function of the Types of Work Wheel was dramatically disrupted.

For months the east wheel work functions of Developing, Organizing and Producing were where most people spent their time. Innovating was primarily incremental, in the service of finding ways to do what people, teams and organizations did, before things were virtual. In fact all the work functions were in the service of that Producing function.

Once we discovered, one way or another, how to continue business (if we could) you might think that we would see a bit more balance in the performance of the various work functions. Interestingly, and perhaps unfortunately, not much really changed in terms of focus; the pandemic simply amplified what organizations typically do anyway; focus on the east wheel functions! In the absence of a crisis organizations may spend a bit more time in the west wheel functions, but add a bit of financial pressure, a bit of production pressure and it is quite obvious what is deemed most important.

Virtual work alters the way in which we perform the various work functions, and that is what the article linked to below is about, but it doesn’t change the focus…. maybe….

As we we begin to emerge from the pandemic it is interesting to see that many individuals in organizations have re-thought the west wheel work functions, at an individual level. Many people have reconsidered What is Really Important, (the key question from the Maintaining work function). They have pondered What Do We/I Need to Know (the key question of the Advising work function) about how I can do and engage in my work. And many people have asked What Are the Possibilities (the key question of the Innovating work function) for me in how I want to work now.

Certainly some organizations are rethinking these questions as well, but not too many. Will there be enough individual push to actually change the east wheel focus so dominant in organizations? I think the jury is still out on that. But as virtual work becomes more of a norm and less of a crisis response we need to understand how virtual work impacts those work functions.

To access the article on how virtual work affects performance in the various work functions, click here.

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