What Makes A Virtual Team Effective?

A reality in 21st century organizations is the need for effective virtual teams. What goes into making these teams work?

I was part of a successful virtual team that operated for about three years. It was the group of OD practitioners that wrote Chapter 27, on practicing internal OD, for Roland Sullivan's book Practicing Organization Development - A Guide for Consultants, 2nd Edition.

We had members in several organizations and various states here in the U.S., as well as at least one member in Europe.

(The team was: Allan Foss, David Lipsky, Allen Orr, Bev Scott, Terrence Seamon, Julie Smendzuik-O'Brien, Anna Tavis, Dale Wissman, and Catherine Woods.)

We communicated primarily via a special Yahoo Group and e-mail, with an occasional conference call. We also divided into sub-teams to tackle parts of our project. (If we had known about wikis, we probably would have had one.)

What helped us to be a successful virtual team in acheiving our goal? A few thoughts...

- Engagement: We were all happy to be part of this team. We were excited by the opportunity to add value to our field.

- Challenge: We were empowered to tackle our topic, the practice of OD as an internal consultant, in whatever way we thought best.

- Diversity: We were a diverse crew. Lots of experience, lots of wisdom. We were turned on by the enthusiasm and talents of our fellow team members. We knew, that if we could harness the diverse viewpoints of all on the team, we would have a rich chapter.

- Leadership: We were given direction and encouragement by Roland that kept us pumped. Additionally, one of our team (Allan Foss) kept us informed and kept us going, organizing our efforts so that a final product was delivered.

Can any generalities be gleaned from this case?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 05/11/06

Comments

Astha said…
I guess one take away would be that virtual teams organized around passions and interest might work better than teams organized around jobs.

The bit about empowerment and diversity seem to relate to Hackman's model of teams.
http://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b02/en/common/item_detail.jhtml?id=3332

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