Transforming Virtual Teams

globalThe accelerated pace of globalization has made the need for virtual teams essential. The list of benefits that corporate executives tout to stockholders and channel partners is accelerated time to market, customer intimacy, resource utilization, employee retention and cost efficiency, to name a few. The challenge lies at the feet of project managers around the world to deliver on these promises. My role is to help simplify the complex algorithms of culture, time zones, processes and technology to find the project team equation that fits your current situation.

Last week’s conference at Stanford on “Engaging Teams Across Distance, Time and Culture” has planted new seeds of insights and solidified long standing beliefs that we’ll explore, discuss and debate with you over the course of the week.This eclectic mix of international thought leaders from academia and corporations across the world are pushing the boundaries to create more predictability in the team development process for virtual teams. These teams vary greatly in distance (building to building –> multiple time zones), task (customer support –> design integration), culture (homogeneous –> multi-faceted) and language (common –> unfamiliar). But don’t be overwhelmed by an intoxicatingly complex set of factors to comprehend. Instead take heed in the lessons from Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” , to find the critical few factors and individuals that will have the most profound impact on your ability to create positive team momentum from which to build from.

The topics for discussion this week are the critical success factors that stand between you and project success for your virtual project team.

  1. Digital communication (one-on-one and small group)
  2. People and process interfaces (decision making and handoffs)
  3. Participation (meaningful contribution and accountability)
  4. Human Dynamics (trust and personal development)

We’ll also dedicate some time at the end of the week to explore the concept of cultures (national, corporate, functional, etc.) because of the cultural mixing pot that define global organizations in today’s environment. Finally, we’ll touch on an emerging phenomenon that is transforming the development of virtual project leaders – ON-LINE GAMING. These sophisticated quest oriented environments (no, I’m not talking about Wii or shoot ’em up style games) that unite 10’s of millions of individuals are based on the following premise:

  1. diverse groups from individuals from around the world
  2. work together by leveraging personal strengths and playing specific roles
  3. focused on a common goal in a rapidly changing world
  4. collaboration is king and communication is digital rather than face-to-face

Sound Familiar? Keep checking in with an open mind to unleash teh power of your virtual team this week at

Jeff Richardson (aka – “Jefferson” – A Team Transformation Guide)


1 thought on “Transforming Virtual Teams”

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    Colleague and author of Kind Ambition, Ian Blei offers a viewpoint about communications that also impacts managing virtual teams. Pull and push technologies mimic our natural communication the way databases try to mimic our brain’s ability to sort information. Push technology is like commercials on TV. You didn’t request this information; it is being pushed toward you. Pull technology is more like a search engine. You actually pursue the information you want. Each has its place; we need to look at what best serves us in communication.

    Communication in the form of dialogue works best with gentle pull technology. We ask questions, we delve, we probe, we explore with each other. We need to relax, and not pull too hard. If we’re so focused on pulling a specific piece of information or answer, our “search” can be too narrow; missing potentially important information. The other downside is where pulling too hard begins to affect the other person like pushing; they feel like they’re being subjected to an interrogation, and their reactions will obstruct effective communication.

    It helps us communicate better with remote partners if we try to create more pull instead of push.

    Randy Englund

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