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Virtual & Local Teams: Communication Success and Failure


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Virtual & Local Teams: Communication Success and Failure

  1. 1. Virtual vs. Local Teams:Communication Success and Failure Kathy Moore STC Summit May 22, 2012 ©2012 K. Moore
  2. 2. Crashing into Virtuality 2
  3. 3. Preview ● Employers assign web-savvy workers to virtual teams with no qualms – Smooth communication is assumed – Multiple factors at play on virtual teams ● Online ubiquity does not guarantee communication success on virtual teams 3
  4. 4. Agenda 1. Meet Kathy 2. Virtual team characteristics 3. Challenges and strategies 4. Communication is key 5. Social! media 6. Who is joining our teams? 7. Summary and bibliography4
  5. 5. Virtual and local teams ● (Local) Team: Group working together at one site with a common objective ● Virtual team: Group of geographically, organizationally and time dispersed workers brought together by information technologies to accomplish one or more objectives of the organization* – Many flavors; telecommuter; on-site + consultant; multiple local offices; open source projects; nonprofits; worldwide team. (Some in 1 time zone.) 5 * DeSanctis and Poole, 1997
  6. 6. Virtual team characteristics ● Virtual team defined by: 1. Purpose 2. Members 3. Connections ● Advantages – Productivity; customer access; flexibility, cheap ● Disadvantages – Mistrust; communication break downs; conflicts; power struggles; and management issues 6
  7. 7. Virtual team vs. Local team Virtual Team Local Team 1. Geographic dispersion One site (approx.) 2. Time shifted One time zone/office 3. 24-hour cycle Time constraints 4. Increases diversity Accustomed diversity 5. Tech-dependent Usual platforms 6. Minimal face time Customary interaction 7. Flexible Corporate time ethic 8. Malleable definition Traditional “team” 7
  8. 8. Comments from STC members* Supportive Drawback ● Work from home, ● Inundated with emails overcome disabilities ● Trouble understanding ● 24-hour turnaround accents possible ● Very time consuming ● Minimizes distractions, ● Infrastructure issues increases productivity ● Virtual team was ● Better than silos marginalized ● F2F important ● Success depends on ● Communicate! leader ● Upsets time routines * Email responses from SIG members and TECHWR-L archives. 8
  9. 9. Agenda 1. Meet Kathy 2. Virtual team characteristics 3. Challenges and strategies 4. Communication is key 5. Social! media 6. Who is joining our teams? 7. Summary and bibliography9
  10. 10. Geographic dispersion consequences 1. Barriers to team bonding 2. Time zones = time conflicts 3. Source of cultural diversity (challenges) 4. Difficulties in status monitoring, management 5. Overdependence on technology 6. Imbalance between members 10
  11. 11. Challenges and strategies ● Barriers to team bonding and trust: – Face to face meetings – Ongoing team activities ● Time spread: – #1 issue for virtual team managers! – Site awareness – Rotate discomfort – Personal policy11
  12. 12. Culture: Iceberg model ABOVE Surface: 20% Obvious like clothes, language, dress, art, etc. AT Surface: 5% Image Wikimedia Creative Commons Subtle but discernible: PersonalBELOW Surface: 75% space, hierarchies,Obscured, table manners, etc.subconscious, likebeliefs, prejudices,time ordering, bodylanguage, kinship,etc. • External culture (the tip) is easier to understand and change. • Internal culture (underwater) is based on underlying beliefs and thought patterns and is more difficult to change.12
  13. 13. Example: Cultural challenges ● Manager gives mildly worded instructions, such as “Why don‟t you…” ● Team members elsewhere hear a mild suggestion, not an order – Chaos on team if orders are not received – Resentment between manager and member13
  14. 14. Overcoming: Cultural diversity challenges Culture is #2 challenge for vTeam leaders. Nationality, regional, generational, religious, socioeconomic, corporate ● Keep your mind open. Think before (e-)speaking ● Learn about team members ● Be aware of your own cultural conditioning ● Study cultural effects ● Consider personality profiles (MBTI, etc.)14
  15. 15. Culture defines members‟ responses ● Individualist: Personal initiative, success, advancement, independence, are valued. ● Collectivist: Group harmony, agreement, cooperation, are valued; disagreement is avoided. ● Gender Perception: Fluid or rigid roles ● Uncertainty factor: Accepting or avoiding – From Dutch anthropologist Geert Hofstede* * Geert-hofstede.com15
  16. 16. Collectivism in world cultures Collectivism in world cultures. Yellow is low in collectivism, red is high. From Chiao and Blizinsky 2009.16
  17. 17. Virtual team = Intensified team V-teams (typically) require MORE ● Management ● Team building ● Project infrastructure ● Communication ● Cooperation ● Infrastructure / Technology ● Attention ● Time17
  18. 18. Agenda 1. Meet Kathy 2. Virtual team characteristics 3. Challenges and strategies 4. Communication is key 5. Social! media 6. Who is joining our teams? 7. Summary and bibliography18
  19. 19. Communication treats ills ● Communication is medicine for: – Isolation – Cultural differences – Team status and administration – Shortage of esprit de corps ● Improves: – Quality of team’s work – Day-to-day experience of members19
  20. 20. Nonverbal: Endangering virtual teams ● 70% of face to face communication is nonverbal: Virtual teams at risk ● Overcommunicate – Enunciate clearly, speak with energy – Walk, gesture, aim voice at target or photo – Be theatrical ● As the camera that adds 10 pounds, so the electron muffles the message20
  21. 21. Define team communication protocols ● #1 complaint from virtual teams relates to communication flaws ● Clearly define team communication protocols, early ● Explicit discussion of email turnaround, cc policy, out-of-office messages, etc. ● Team-building: – Include communication exercises21
  22. 22. Virtual teams have extra issues ● On local teams, 70% avoiding a crucial conversation ● Of 14 all-team issues, 13 much more frequent with virtual teams ● Handled by: 1. Avoidance, screening calls, ignoring calls and emails, leaving other out of the loop 2. Undermining by gossip, criticism, complaints ● Remote problems significantly more difficult to solve and last longer Long-Distance Loathing: The Hidden Dangers of Virtual Teams, March 200922
  23. 23. Poor communication: NASA ● Loss of NASA Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999 ● Two teams worked jointly on the orbiter ● Failed to realize: One used metric units, one used Imperial (English) units ● The routine project communication and oversight did not uncover Image NASA their assumptions23
  24. 24. Agenda 1. Meet Kathy 2. Virtual team characteristics 3. Challenges and strategies 4. Communication is key 5. Social! media 6. Who is joining our teams? 7. Summary and bibliography24
  25. 25. New face of communication ● iPads and tablets ● Cell phones, androids, iPhones ● Facetime, WebEx, GoToMeeting, wikis, blogs, forums, agile, crowd sourcing… …These accumulate to a new nexus of work interactions, empowering virtual teams ● Connections now “always on” ● Workers always “on demand”25
  26. 26. Control the medium, control the message Hierarchy of other‟s proximity and resignation of control in electronic media: 1 Text: Terse, ~synchronous in use, revisable 1 Chat: Wordier, emotions, revisable, ~synchronous 2 Email: Asynchronous but verbose; revisable 3 Cell call: Voice is human interface; often multi- tasked and interrupted 4 Landline call: Tied down, reduces multi-tasking and interruptions 5 Video call: Most vulnerable. Cannot multi-task, emotions revealed26
  27. 27. Work, especially virtual, is influenced ● Texting, IM-ing, emailing, calling, chatting, … preferences are molded in private life ● Impress upon work behavior too, especially as virtual team lacks in-person reinforcement ● The chatter chats, the IM-er IM‟s, the emailer mails – Clashes when “talking” to each other27
  28. 28. Flood of e‟s on virtual teams ● Communication is oxygen to virtual teams ● But flood of electrons is overwhelming ● Email fatigue degrades quality of questions and responses – Writing to medium, not to the issue ● Movement online to make email more considerate and efficient – Email Charter: emailcharter.org28
  29. 29. Meet my avatar ● Worker controls virtual persona ● Worker may control virtual personas ● Missing: – Body language – Serendipity of real life – Negotiation and surrender of control – Synchronicity – Full attention29
  30. 30. Virtual teams are theatrical ● Virtual teams = writing, editing, revising: Performance ● Harder to “know” the team members: as people, as competencies, as potential, as other than what they choose to present ● Easier to hide sub-optimum work30
  31. 31. Electronic media impinge on virtual work “„It was almost surprising that no one seemed to notice [how much time I spent reading the site]. But you could say in a sense it was cutting down my productivity, because I could have been experimenting with stuff and improving them a bit more. But everything was working fine.‟ As Joseph began to think of Slashdot as an addiction, he began to think about his unrealized potential. He was functioning „fine‟ at his real job, but falling down on his idealized one.” Chan, A.S. The Inner History of Devices 2008.31
  32. 32. Disconnecting? ● Some hyperconnected people crave “down time” and sign off Facebook or chat – Some try―yet fall back to their “old” ways ● Pulled away from real-life accomplishments ● Some find it easier to be unkind, rude, or unethical to online connections, even knowing this phenomenon is occurring32
  33. 33. Type a mile in whose thumbs? ● Study: Less empathy in college students today vs. 1980s/1990s ● Therapists report more patients divorced from bodies and unaware of basic courtesies; “unaware of people around them except to passively see them as tools.”33
  34. 34. Electronic media steal our control “I went away to a cabin. And I left my cell phone in the car. In the trunk. My idea was that maybe I would check it once a day. I kept walking out of the house to open the trunk and check the phone. I felt like an addict, like the people at work who huddle around the outdoor smoking places they keep on campus, the outdoor ashtray places. I kept going to that trunk.” Turkle, S., Alone Together 2011.34
  35. 35. Agenda 1. Meet Kathy 2. Virtual team characteristics 3. Challenges and strategies 4. Communication is key 5. Social! media 6. Who is joining our teams? 7. Summary and bibliography35
  36. 36. Introverted wonks ● Classic head-down introvert embraces the isolation of virtual team ● Quiet, overlooked in meetings ● Prefers working, own stuff to team activities, socializing. ● Hides or is a lost voice in teleconferences36
  37. 37. Introversion, autism-spectrum increasing ● Temple Grandin of An Anthropologist on Mars: “NASA is largest sheltered workshop in the world” ● In California, 7 new cases of autism per day ● High-tech areas reproducing geeks, nerds, dorks, introverts ● Geekier geeks enter the workforce ● We adapt to these traits on teams37
  38. 38. Welcoming the introverts ● Get good voice technology for low talkers ● Pause, query, rotate, roll call ● Discover introverts‟ personal goals, hobbies: Weave into team doings ● Ping for their progress ● Actively, repeatedly seek their opinions ● …Or, leave them in their solitude and check in as needed38
  39. 39. Welcoming Gen Y tsunami ● Gen Y workers (1980s - 90s) are flooding into our teams ● Approximately 80 million Millennials – 44 - 50 million Gen Xers (1965 - 1980) – 76 million Baby Boomers (1946 - 1964) ● Teams likely to expand with Gen Y‟s39
  40. 40. Gen Y traits ● Confident but seeking feedback ● Self-absorbed but philanthropic ● Job-hopping entrepreneurs ● Collaborative crowd-sourcers ● Friendly to diversity and inclusion ● Techno-savvy data mining info-seekers ● Comfortable getting authority figures‟ tips These are good traits for virtual teams40
  41. 41. Agenda 1. Meet Kathy 2. Virtual team characteristics 3. Challenges and strategies 4. Communication is key 5. Social! media 6. Who is joining our teams? 7. Summary and bibliography41
  42. 42. Discussion ● Survey – How did you react? – Results42
  43. 43. Future ● Virtual tools are trending into the local office ● Building our skills as virtual teammates will make us more effective, efficient, humane team members ● We can be the “just right” connected colleague, prepared both to contribute and to assist others43
  44. 44. Summary ● Virtual teams are intensified teams ● Communication is key ● New media are everywhere, everywhen ● Media can distance us from our teams ● Help your teammates by recognizing and adapting to their quirks ● Know your own quirks; be adaptable ● Social changes may affect team make-up44
  45. 45. Bibliography Arnison, L. and P. Miller (2002). Brown, M. K., B. Huettner, et al. "Virtual teams: a virtue for the (2007). Managing virtual teams: conventional team." Journal of getting the most from wikis, Workplace Learning 14(4): 166- blogs, and other collaborative 173. tools. Sudbury, MA, Jones and Brewer, P. E. (2010). Bartlett: 6327. Communication and Economist Intelligence Unit Miscommunication in Virtual (2009). Managing virtual teams: Workplaces. Taking a more strategic Brown, M. K. (2004). Building an approach. Effective Multi-Site, Multicultural Email Charter. (2011). "Email Team. Management SIG News, Charter." Retrieved February 12, Society for Technical 2012, from Communication. 8: 3-4. Fisher, K. and M. Fisher (2011). Managers Guide to Virtual Teams. Briefcase Books. New York, McGraw-Hill: 4412.45
  46. 46. Bibliography Pongolini, M., J. Lundin, et al. TECHWR-L archives. (2002). (2011). "Global Online Meetings in "Virtual Teams thread." Virtual Teams - from Media Retrieved Feb. 17, 2012, from Choice to Interaction http://www.techwr- Negotiation." C&T11(29 June - 2 July 2011): 108-117. 0201-01172.html. Skill Soft. (2008, Dec. 13, 2011). Turkle, S., Ed. (2008). Inner "Leading Teams: Managing History of Devices. Cambridge Virtual Teams" from MA, MIT Press. Turkle, S. (2011). Alone Together: ourse_detail.cfm?course_id=1257 Why We Expect More From 22. Technology and Less From Each Other. New York, Basic Books: 7517.46
  47. 47. Thank You47