Saturday, June 12, 2010

Virtual Collaboration

Here are some thoughts from our Grant Coach, MaryEllen Bergh, on Virtual Collaboration:

Collaboration is a process of participation through which people, groups and organizations work together to achieve desired results. Starting or sustaining a collaborative journey is exciting, sometimes stressful, and even new for many. Successful collaboration requires focus on the goals of the team and on the development of trusting relationships. These relationships allow people to overcome problems that might arise through the collaborative process. While most of our collaborative tasks are still done in face-to-face meetings, technology has enabled us to collaborate from afar. It has given us the ability to be members of a professional learning community that may include people from around the globe.

Is collaboration on virtual teams as effective as collaborative teams that meet face to face? Dr. Jaclyn Kostner (author of Bridge the Distance) found that virtual teams tended to keep their focus on priorities better than face-to-face teams and, in fact, virtual meetings were frequently shorter; however, the virtual collaborative teams failed more often. One of the reasons for this higher rate of failure, according to Dr. Kostner, is that virtual teams did not develop the relationships that allowed them to work as a team to overcome problems – they did not collaborate in any meaningful way. As organizations move toward using technology to facilitate collaboration among teams that are split by distance what are some ways that teams can collaborate better at a distance? Here are a few tips:
  1. Don’t multi-task at virtual meetings. Close your email, turn off your alerts and pay attention. The only time an entire virtual team can collaborate is when they are meeting. If you want your team to collaborate and be a team make sure that everyone pays attention and participates in team meetings.
  2. Meet face to face as often as possible. While the technology tools that enable us to communicate virtually save time and money, there is no better way to develop relationships than face to face. This may not be a possibility for teams that are at long distances apart. Make sure that you do allow some virtual time to get to know your team.
  3. Create office hours when team members can be reached. Collaboration among team members is an important way to create relationships and overcome the barrier of distance. Because it is so difficult to get anyone live these days, set up hours for each team member when they agree to be available, answer their phones, and take the time to work with the other team member.
Dr. Kostner was the spokesperson for a study conducted by Frost and Sullivan (Meetings around the World) sponsored by Microsoft and Verizon. The basic conclusion from this study was “The more collaborative organizations are, the better they perform. Conversely, the less collaborative they are, the worse they perform.” So if virtual teaming is in your plan, pay attention to creating a virtual team that collaborates well.

Would you like more of MaryEllen's insight?  Become a member of and visit the Coach's Corner.

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.