Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams
December 29, 2012
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Having finished some books on managing virtual workers, I’ve come to realize that there is some content overlap. All thoroughly address the leaders’ and managers’ roles and responsibilities as well as the process through which they can develop and maintain an organizational culture that supports a telework arrangement – i.e., one built upon trust, frequent and effective communication, clear expectations, and accountability. For the sake of avoiding repetition, I’ve decided not to go into heavy detail here as all authors appear to agree about the important components of such an organizational culture.
I’m starting with Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams by Kimball Fisher and Mareen Fisher because this book goes in-depth into some specific areas not covered in the others I’ve read. In particular, they stressed the importance of understanding how to set up a functional, cross-cultural team and explained the problem of cross-cultural miscommunication. This spoke to me as I’ve experienced this issue only recently, and this is a subject I will expand upon in a future post. The authors point out that there is greater potential for cultural differences to emerge when working with team members dispersed around the world. They also correctly state that the problem is that one cannot effectively become an expert on another person simply by picking up and reading a book about that person’s culture because it is highly unlikely that a written summary of a culture describes everything. Additionally, the people in any given region will differ from each other culturally due to many other factors – e.g., socioeconomic status, education level, life experiences, gender, age, etc. Thus, the authors provide guidelines on observing cultural sensitivity as well as emphasize how important it is to establish an organizational culture that will bring virtual team members together in such a way that they will collaborate effectively.
Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams not only provides guidelines on effective use of various information technology tools (with consideration of etiquette) but also instruction on how managers can preemptively help their virtual team members understand business and finance principles (as virtual workers don’t have as much opportunity to pick these up compared to traditional, office workers). This book also addresses the nuts and bolts of effective communication and feedback and explains how to use tools for creative problem solving (Force Field Analysis; Weighted Criteria Analysis; Stop, Start Continue Exercise; Brainstorming; Creative Brainstorming; Reverse Brainstorming; and Brainwriting). The authors conclude with chapters on effective performance management which includes procedures for goal-setting, effective decision making using the consensus method in particular, exercises for team building, and tips for maintaining work-life balance.