Nurturing And Motivating Virtual Teams In Uncertain Environments

The world is currently facing new challenges and the impacts of potential global pandemics are shaking fundamental working paradigms that contributed to and engineered economic success in the past. Companies are being forced to look at ways to support their workers through virtual technologies that foster remote working and collaborative project engagements in distributed, non physical environments. The problem is that the future of work is not easily comprehensible or transmissible amidst the ranks of leadership teams and identifying how an organisations productivity, employee engagement, cultural diversity and unity is improved in virtual settings forms part of the resistance against moving to a complete virtual team model - despite its benefits. With the Bioteaming manifesto now reaching fifteen years since conception, it is now relevant to revisit what fundamental elements makes virtual communities and distributed teams sustainable and committed to cohesion and success.

virtual team connectivity

Firstly though, a bit of a refresher about the foundations of Bioteaming. Bioteaming is about creating effective teams and supporting work practices that are based on the simple principals of biological teams and which are appropriated and transplanted in the organisational context. Here, organisations are not strictly commercial enterprise teams per se but also communities of interest and practice, voluntary membership networks, task force. Bioteaming principal lead to the creation of high performing teams as it promotes shared leadership, distributed and collective intelligence as well as establishing cohesive human communication and interaction viewpoints. Ultimately this leads to effective team communication etiquettes in virtual settings, more of which can be read here.

Every enterprise improvement initiative focuses on three dimensions that are people, process and technology. Virtual teams operate at the intersection of all of these and in order to support the adoption and effective incubation of a virtual team, it is important to identify three critical dialogues. These create trust and nurture collaborative intent whilst maintaining a fluid sense of belonging even though team participate may be physically distributed and working across regions. Think about the gym environment where you are there for a purpose but its also a unifying common cause venue and encouraging to being slightly social and meeting new people.

The first dialogue paradigm is taking care of business followed by grooming and emoting. Factoring all three will ensure the crucial foundational stages of the virtual team remain strong and well supported whilst creating context for the team to thrive and become sustainable for purpose. Taking care of business is all about getting things done for example whereas grooming is about nurturing strong relationships through trivia and small talk. Emoting on the other hand is about sharing how we feel, the good and the bad.

With the explosion of unified communication platforms and team collaboration portals such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, Confluence, Skype, WhatsApp business and others; the need to leverage the mentioned three dimensions of communication is paramount. These paradigms will drive emotional sentiments that is the nexus of human communication and traverse the full spectrum of one to one, one to many and many to many communications in groups.

Altogether, this will work towards alleviating the concerns of some leadership teams that are trepidatious against moving to a complete remote working model and using virtual tools to support and focus organisational teams. Whilst a mindset change is required here, the importance of implementing ground rules and team karma is also key in driving effective virtual working practices. This creates focus, prevents mission drift and drives competitive sentiments that are actually conducive to collaboration (more about that can be read here). Organisations globally can all learn and appreciate the fact that China recently experimented with nation wide deployment of working from home remotely, a fundamental paradigm in the future of work itself that will be inveitable!

About Max Bhanabhai

Max Bhanabhai is a bioteaming practitioner, author, strategic innovation and change management consultant. Max collaborates on Bioteams with Ken Thompson (The Bumble Bee). For more information on this important topic checkout Ken's book - "A Systematic Guide to High Performing Teams (HPTs)"

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The coming shape of organizations and teams

The coming shape of organizations and teams

Belbin sees Bioteams as the next step. Dr R Meredith Belbin, regarded as the father of "team-role" theory and one of the worlds foremost experts on teams predicts that we will evolve into bioteam forms. In his book "The Coming Shape of Organisation" Belbin picks out five observations human teams need to learn from "a diminutive masterclass" of social insects such as bees, ants and termites.

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