Monday, March 8, 2010

Virtual Teams & Technology, A Fairy Tale

Gather round everyone, and I'll tell you a fairy tale about how technology enabled virtual teams to live happily ever after...

"Once upon a time, there were teams of hard working employees, each reporting in to a noble leader right there in their own offices. Times were peaceful, clients were happy, and bonuses were paid out every year. Then one day, the benevolent Queen Economy fell victim to a terrible illness. In order to survive, the businesses were forced to consolidate, and the employees now reported to noble leaders in offices remote from their own. With little money to travel, how would they communicate, hold meetings, work together as a team? Fortunately, the businesses were blessed with technically savvy professionals who set them up with sophisticated web conferencing capabilities, highspeed data transfer lines, global phone systems, and video teleconferencing equipment. Soon, order was restored across the land and times were again peaceful for the new virtual teams. In fact, things went so smoothly, Queen Economy was able to stay focused on her health and made a full recovery. And they all lived happily ever after."

Wouldn't it be great if it were true? That all we need is the right technology to connect us and then everything just falls into place? But alas, the truth is that technology is just one piece of the puzzle.

In fact, after attending a webinar last week, I learned that most experts on virtual teams consider technology to be a much smaller part of the success story. An important part, but only ~10% of the total equation. So what's the other 90%? According to authors Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, "Virtual Teams - People Working Across Boundaries With Technology", 90% of the success comes from the people component.

This made me smile a big smile. Why? Because I worked for many years leading virtual teams, and that had been my exact experience. And if you're leading virtual teams right now, it should make you smile, too. It means you're an important part of the success equation, and any opportunity for you to step up as a leader and show your stuff is good news.

So yes, make sure your teams have the technology they need to work and to connect, but, don't be lured in by the fairy tale that technology it's the end all solution. Your virtual teams need you and your ability to create an environment that unites them while still recognizing their unique cultural differences, skillsets, and histories.

And while we focus on our virtual teams this week, let's also take a moment to send a Get Well card to Queen Economy. I think she could use it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for quoting our 90/10 rule. I've been posting about this regularly on my blog to encourage organizations to *think* before just hurling technology at virtual teams. Here's the link to all my posts on the 90/10 rule:

    Jessica Lipnack