March 21, 2012
A Harvard Business Review blog by Keith Ferrazzi , Virtual Teams Can Outperform Traditional Teams, got me thinking. When reviewing the management of field-based service teams and the use of laptops for accessing health records and facilitating e-health consultations, most of my recent discussions with management teams have been about how to “compensate” for the use of technology. The operative assumption being that using technology will result in poor performance – and poor service to consumers.
The piece by Mr. Ferrazzi challenges that assumption with a very different premise – that virtual team operations can actually outperform their traditional team operations. His rationale (based on earlier research on virtual technology teams) is interesting – that the technology facilitates access to better and broader expertise – and faster response – than geographically co-located teams.
When I think about it, the premise makes sense in the context of health and human service delivery. Most management teams would say that their ability to attract and retain top clinical talent for work in particular locations (child psychiatrists, for example) is uneven. By creating virtual teams that are connected by technology, consumer access to expertise is expanded. And, because virtual teams are not limited to a particular time zone, access to expertise is not limited by location or time.
The concept of the virtual service teams is not as far out as you may think. And, we’ve covered the developments of these virtual teams over the past few years – and these resources give a better picture of the virtual team concept:
Expanding Our Thinking About Virtual Care all members
There is, however, a qualifier to Mr. Ferrazzi’s optimism about virtual teams. And, that qualifier isn’t the technology – it’s the skill of managers in this new virtual environment. He identifies three management essentials for managers of virtual teams – new processes specific to virtual teams, appropriate rules for communication between and among virtual team members, and conflict management approaches specific to the virtual environment. As the field moves to more home and community-based service, more use of telehealth, and larger organizations with services spanning greater geography, managers will need to develop these new skills (see Making Remote Supervision Work for Your Workforce: Managers With an Increasingly Community-Based Staff Need New Skill Set ).
Are you ready to lead in the era of virtual teams? To answer that question, imagine this game changer – all your direct reports are located somewhere else.
Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS
For another free resource, see: Just Like Algebra, Management is Truly a Useful Skill all members
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