energizing breakthrough performance

Virtually Yours: Your Virtual Team

When the virtual team is indicated, then management should provide training on the use and benefits of groupware technology. Management should also work with staff in setting broad stroke expectations for, e.g., when to use groupware and when to choose interactive videoconferencing, or face-to-face sessions.

The technology of the virtual team permits each team member to participate through hardware. The team member’s "second self" or "mini-me" is the filter through which team participation occurs. There is some degree of remove, or—less charitably—alienation that is entailed when team membership and participation is intermediated by equipment. Sometimes this matters and sometimes it doesn’t. We need to know what matters when. If we can’t make this distinction, how can we wrestle successfully with dysfunction when it occurs?

Making a virtual team work is a challenge presented by technology that can only be answered in part with technology. Technology by its lonesome won’t do it: Teams need to attend to basic teamwork issues no matter where members are located; cross-functional teams located in a matrix need to follow the essential rules of effective matrix management. For those readers who have received Strategic Futures® Matrix Immersion Training, please recall that you must ensure that all eight Strategic Futures® Matrix Success Factors are operating, particularly those related to role clarity and process definition. Role clarity means, in part, defining the prerogatives of horizontal and vertical team leaders and members; it involves establishing the protocol for resolving dueling priorities and dueling team members whether they are across the hall, across the street, or across the world.

The cybertrail of virtual team communications, coordination, project plans, interim products, etc., are all viewable by management if we choose to turn on and tune in to the stream of e-mail traffic and more. However, daily pressures seldom permit managerial monitoring of this kind. Following this logic, the inner workings of virtual teams are even more invisible to management than the working of non-virtual teams which management can observe by happenstance.

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