Though, for some teams it is not feasible in terms of time, money or geographical distance to bring everyone together for their event. They might have very limited funds, or might be spread throughout different continents across the globe. But just because they cannot all come together at the same location it does not mean that the team does not need a team building event.
So for these teams, especially the virtual teams, the management group needs to come up with an alternative option to the team events where they need to be physically located together. And one of the ways is for the group to take part in a virtual team event. This is an activity, which can be delivered completely online, and that everyone can take part in no matter where they are based in the world.
The idea for this is simple - bringing team building to the team, rather than bring the team to the team building. And this is where online based team options allow virtual teams to experience the same benefit as non-virtual teams. Generally, these options will be lower cost then a facilitated session as well, so they are also good for those groups with a restricted budget.
Using the Internet allows teams, that otherwise would not be able to participate in team events, to experience it. And virtual teams benefit from it just as non-virtual teams do. A collection of individuals is not a team. They need to learn how to work together, to understand their different individual and team strengths and weaknesses - whether they are a virtual or non-virtual team.
It is up to the groups to arrange themselves and decide how best to tackle the situation. To maximise the learning potential using online team building options it is best for them to use whatever methods of communication they normally do. This will help the everyone relate and maximise the learning back to their work place.
There are not many professionally delivered online team building events that are suitable for all groups. So when you find one that is right, you should make the most of it.
The company that Nicola Hunt works for, Sandstone Limited, specialise in delivering unique and innovative team building activities, which are only available directly through themselves or through one of their appointed international partners.
If you’re looking to shave a few percentage points off the cost of a project, then opting for a virtual approach can be attractive. Rather than spending oodles of the budget on flights, hotels and expenses, why not cut out all the expensive travel and conduct all the interactions across electronic channels?
The problem with this approach is that it comes with a hidden cost - by eliminating the face-to-face contact, you’re just reduced the chances of building trust between the members of your team. And there’s a substantial body of evidence to suggest that trust between members is a key feature of successful teams.
A recent paper from Dr Niki Panteli from Bath University’s School of Management looked at ways of developing trust within virtual teams, and it’s worth a read if you’re in the throes of building this sort of organisation. The three main characteristics that are identified are shared goals, the dynamics of power within the team, and communication. And it’s this last one for which technology can play a major part.
Part of the communication process that’s highlighted is social interaction, and this is one of the elements that’s removed by a virtual environment - there’s no watercooler around which to congregate. One technique that we’ve used quite successfully is to ensure that there’s at least one physical face-to-face meeting between team members during the course of the project, even if the rest of the work is carried out entirely virtually. By being able to visualise someone as a result of meeting them can help break through the impersonal nature of email, video conferening and phone calls.
A second trick is to put together a ‘biography page’ somewhere on the project intranet. Each team member contributes a mugshot and a potted biography, so that you’ve got a little bit of background context about the people that you’re interacting with. And it also helps to include some social detail as well as the standard work-style resume - try including a paragraph on ‘three things noone knows about me’ in the bio.
And if you’ve provided that sort of background detail in the team bios, you can build on this by the way that the project team communicates. Project documentation can be highly impersonal and dry - while they’re important, status reports and risk logs don’t help to project the individual, and it’s relationships with individuals that will be important when crises strike. Using a project blog as a means of communicating between team members can allow an individual’s personal style to come through - it has a more “3D” effect than formally-dry reports.