Monday, January 19, 2009

Social aspects of productive virtual teams

When we think about efficiency in a virtual team, we often relate this to being effective in a practical manner, like optimizing our workflow in the online environment or having the right tools to interact with our colleagues.

But there is also the social aspect of such a team.

Image by Allis0n J


Even if the people are not together in the same office, social interactions still take place. In an article called Working Together … When Apart, the author gathered what she calls ten golden rules for making virtual teams more productive.

The list is based on a research that surveyed more than 1500 virtual-team members and leaders from 55 teams across Europe and U.S. and it also covers social facets, as selecting team members based on their relationships or encouraging frequent communication.

These are the 10 hints:

1. Invest in an online resource where members can learn quickly about one another.
2. Choose a few team members who already know each other.
3. Identify "boundary spanners" and ensure that they make up at least 15% of the team.
4. Cultivate boundary spanners as a regular part of companywide practices and processes.
5. Break the team’s work up into modules so that progress in one location is not overly dependent on progress in another.
6. Create an online site where a team can collaborate, exchange ideas and inspire one another.
7. Encourage frequent communication. But don’t try to force social gatherings.
8. Assign only tasks that are challenging and interesting.
9. Ensure the task is meaningful to the team and the company.
10. When building a virtual team, solicit volunteers as much as possible.

In the article you'll also find examples about how virtual teams in well-known companies employed the hints.

The rules cannot be applied in every context. Not all the tasks can be challenging and interesting, so point 8 has to remain unsatisfied from time to time. But the list remains relevant for both small and large teams.

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