The Challenge of Working Virtually
ecision-making is more complex andalignment harder to achieve when people no longer run into each other inthe hall or work side by side in a conferenceroom. It is easy for team members who live andwork in different locations to become isolatedand cut off from each other and from the shared purpose of the group.We believe dispersed teams need four things toeffectively harness the power of the group mind:
1. a virtual workplace that bridgesdistance, time and culture2.equal access to information3.the opportunity to have rich,qualitative conversations4. an established set of toolsand best practices
1. A Virtual Workplace that BridgesDistance, Time, and Culture
The first thing a dispersed team needs is aversatile, process-oriented workplace in whichthey can work together. Such a workplacerequires three things: access to the Internet, anintegrated toolset that works at every stage of thecollaborative decision-making process, andskilled facilitators who can design the virtualspace and teach people how to use it.It is our belief that the Web is the best place toestablish this kind of flexible, shared work environment. Conference calls, video conferenc-ing, and e-mail can create temporary bridges, butfor an interface to truly eliminate boundaries of distance, time, and culture, it must supportasynchronous work. Companies need acomprehensive, easy-to-use, well-organizedonline environment that puts everyone,regardless of location, time zone or work designation, on the same page.When teams make the leap to Web-basedcollaboration, they gain 24-hour-a-day access toa shared workplace they can reachinstantaneously from anywhere in the world, at atime that is convenient for them. This enablesthem to give input when they have the time andthe ability to focus, yet their responses—and theresponses of all other team members—are heldin a shared environment that is accessible to all.Team members have continuous access to data, project updates, individual accountabilities, andstatements of need—as well as the capacity tocomment on all of the above.When teams have access to this kind of shareddata, in an environment equipped with built-indecision-making tools, it becomes possible for them to do substantive work with people inoffices across the state or on the other side of theworld. Because people can enter the virtualworkspace whenever they want to, a salesmanager in Taiwan, a manufacturer inSingapore, and a sales force based in Germanycan be active, contributing members of adispersed cross-disciplinary team withouthaving to change locations or leave their primarywork responsibilities.