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Ryan McDonald of Uncommon Innovation at work in Calgary. (Todd Korol)
Ryan McDonald of Uncommon Innovation at work in Calgary. (Todd Korol)


How to make the most of virtual teams Add to ...

Andrew Gaudes: The basic ingredients are already out there. It really is a matter of seeing them utilized in such a fashion that supports collaboration...


Andrew Gaudes: However, it will result in larger screens down the road.


Comment From Chris: Are there special security concerns about virtual communication?


Andrew Gaudes: Hi Chris...good question...


Andrew Gaudes: Any communication in a virtual domain poses risk of being scooped by others...

No matter how much encryption we apply, there is always someone out there that has a work-around.


Andrew Gaudes: We try to balance the risks with the benefits of having the right skilled people to work together from wherever/whenever.


Andrew Gaudes: We also have to realize that even face-to-face communication and hard-copy poses risk of security breach.


Dave M., Globe and Mail: Another question from a reader: Are there different personality types who are more sucessful at working in virutal teams. Introverts vs. extroverts? Are younger people more adept at doing this? Can the older crowd join in - with a bit of training?


Andrew Gaudes: Fun question...let me address in several parts.


Andrew Gaudes: Personality types can come into play, but not in the way you would expect. We find that people that have self-confidence are good in virtual teams...and this can cross the intra/extravert boundaries...


Andrew Gaudes: We find that people with higher professional designations, education, rank, so on have greater confidence.


Andrew Gaudes: What we have to do is provide great team leaders that "pull" ideas and reward contributors that may feel "less" than others.

To answer your question of young/old...I'm finding that the gap between the two is closing as time passes. Five years ago I would have said younger is more in tune with the technology that needs to be applied...


Andrew Gaudes: Today though, the comfort zone with collaborating over time/distance has increased across all. For example, the greatest growth in Facebook right now is with middle/late-age females.


Comment From Catherine: What are some ways you can reproduce the benefits of live interaction (e.g. emotional connection, etc.) in a virtual way?


Andrew Gaudes: Hi Catherine...I find from the work I have done with virtual teams has shown that teams that also socialize virtually have a greater bond for their work.

Using Skype for example for real-time interaction with multiple cues...


Andrew Gaudes: One organization I worked with hosted baby showers and holiday parties virtually. A great example where the comfort of collaborating over distance crossed the task-based interaction to include relationship building events.


Comment From Jason: What about doing business in Asia, and specifically China? Have you had any experience with that? Has it posed any challenges, like censorship of Internet communications?


Andrew Gaudes: Hi Jason...virtual teams with members in China presents challenges...


Andrew Gaudes: The challenges are primarily cultural, with differences in expectations, outcomes, procedures in managing a virtual team.

There is benefit in creating a terms of reference for how the team will interact for the duration of the project.


Andrew Gaudes: With dialogue in virtual teams, the structure is different...not necessarily hierarchical, which can create surprise when not expected by members of the team.


Comment From Tina

Is there a danger that social-network-like work interaction means work intrudes into every moment of people's lives and there's no "clear-your-mind" time (or less family time)?


Andrew Gaudes: Great question Tina...The most difficult thing to teach people on virtual teams is how to use the "off" button on the equipment.

For many, being on a virtual team is like having a new toy...people just want to keep using it...


Andrew Gaudes: Balance is critical, for all stakehol;ders, to ensure a successful, long-term virtual team strategy. Otherwise organizations are prone to members getting burned out and not being able to sustain the initiative.


Comment From Sam: If someone's not working on site, is there the possibility they won't feel as connected to, or even loyal to, the company?


Andrew Gaudes: These are great questions! Hi Sam...yes, that's one of the greatest fears of people collaborating away from the office...

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