Hello from the other side

Week 5

eiffeltowerI won’t be breaking out the champagne just yet, but we delivered our document to our French colleagues on time last Monday, 20 February. Part one of the assignment, tick. The French team acknowledged receipt of the document and all has been quiet since then. This week’s EL6052 lecture on virtual teams was timely. Having now experienced working in a virtual team, it was informative and reassuring to have my opinions about the challenges of working in these types of teams confirmed.

What were those challenges?

Communication

Our team has never really became a well-functioning unit. Although The UL group were quick to initiate a conversation and to suggest methods of communication, there was never a full complement of people collaborating. Getting everyone to engage was a struggle and as our lecturer, Dr Darina Slattery, pointed out, text communication can be ambiguous. There can be delays in response times which might be attributed to certain team members being uninterested, but it may also be caused by time zone issues. In an online technology medium, it is difficult to make the distinction. This delay, coupled with lacklustre or abrupt feedback, can cause annoyance. This was my experience during parts of this collaboration. Constantly checking various media, in case others had responded to queries was also time-consuming.

Technology

Not having used Facebook as a collaborative tool before, I was a little suspicious about its effectiveness. However, it served our purpose well enough. In hindsight, I think I should have pushed more to get the group to use Sulis. There were a couple of issues with different versions of our Word document being uploaded and amended. On one occasion, an old version of our document was updated in error. Again, this came down to the poor communication within the group. This brings me to:-

Management

Because I didn’t particularly want to assume a managerial role, I waited to let the group get to know each other and let a leader emerge. This went completely out the window by week two, when myself and Nicola had to take control. I found that taking action was more empowering than passively waiting for the whole group to come together and make decisions. Once we had chosen the topic, Nicola assigned roles and I was quite comfortable with being given certain tasks. Each team needs a project manager:-

  • Who can take the initiative.
  • Who can bring the team together.
  • Who can communicate effectively.
  • Who can command the respect of the group.

worldphone

Also, in this week’s EL6052 lecture, Dr Slattery referred to socio-emotional communication, or the ability to develop a relationship, within a virtual team. We still have not really established a good working relationship within our team. Our communication on Facebook is perfunctory. We simply pass on information about the stage our project is at currently. Perhaps if the group had been in more frequent contact, especially at the beginning of this project, we may have established better social interactions. However, because contact was minimal, and non-existent in some cases, I think there was a feeling that the main message (getting the document finished) was the most important one to drive home. This is consistent with the findings of Flammia et al., whose 2010 study of virtual teams found that in teams where there was a lack of socio-emotional communication team members:

  • Felt less satisfied with the overall project.
  • Were disappointed that there hadn’t been more interaction.

This study also found that where teams had good socio-emotional communication, team members shared a sense of trust and belonging. However, they also noted that it was important that socio-emotional communication develop at the beginning of any project, or else it was unlikely to develop at all.

There are still a few weeks of collaboration left and perhaps, armed with this information, I can try to forge better communication for the remainder of the project.

References:

Flammia, Madelyn, Cleary, Yvonne & Slattery, Darina M, 2010. Leadership roles, socioemotional communication strategies, and technology use of Irish and US students in virtual teams.

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