Friday, September 30, 2011

Five Virtual Team Guidelines

I'm not the leading expert on virtual collaboration, but I did complete my Undergrad and am completing my Masters degree virtually. In that time I've worked on numerous virtual teams. Here are a few guidelines I've learned on how to form successful virtual teams.

Guideline 1 - Pick your teammates wisely!

If you have the option to choose your teammates, try to find people that communicate the same ways you do. I typically try to find teammates that like to communicate via some kind of instant messenger. This gives us the ability to have synchronous conversations.

Also, find teammates that have the same work collaboration style. Some people like to work solo and then bring their work to the group. Others like to work collaboratively. It's really hard to mix the two without running into conflict at some point.

Guideline 2 - Immediately create a team charter!

A good team charter will set the standards for your team. They describe communication strategies; they set critical success factors; they describe what you will do as a team if you face conflict; among other things.

Guideline 3 - Determine what software you will use to communicate!

I have yet to find a software tool that does everything. It's important that virtual teams are operating on the same software to avoid duplicating work. I like to use Yahoo IM for chat, Google Docs for virtual collaboration (within a document), bubbl for mind mapping, email for asynchronous updates, getting everyone on the same page, and sending out meeting minutes, and skype for conference calls. It might also be important to have some kind of screen sharing software.

Guideline 4 - Someone needs to be in charge (Project Manager)!

Usually someone will step up, but when no one takes charge, meetings tend to be less productive.

Guideline 5 - Stay in constant contact!

Once the team has begun work, staying in constant contact will help the team go through the standard team forming phases (forming, storming, norming) faster. It also helps with brainstorming and improves collaboration.

I'm sure there are many more guidelines out there on the subject, but I always try to follow these guidelines when I begin, or join a virtual team.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What do training departments really do?

     What is the role of training and development? Many training departments exist to ensure that employees memorize a certain amount of knowledge and information required to operate functionally within their organization. I see the training and development as being responsible for improving organizational (not just employee) performance.

     Why expand to "organizational?" Because as Training and Development professionals, organizational issues come to us regularly in the form of requests for training. We are equipped with the tools necessary to make performance improvement recommendations. As we complete our Performance Analysis, we identify the root cause of the organizational issue. If it's a Knowledge and Skills issue, we are equipped to develop an intervention. However, many times the root cause has nothing to do with training. In that case, we can point the owner of the performance issue to the proper intervention. In this way we really serve as a strategic business partner within our organizations. Our efforts can lead to organizational performance improvement regardless of the issue or the cause of the problem.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I am a Performance Improvement Specialist!

Over the past seven months I've been through quite a bit professionally. I've learned about SCORM and even how to develop some in Flash. I took a course on Needs Assessment and am currently taking one on Evaluation Methodology. All this while continuing to work as a one-stop trainer. I've realized more and more that my job is really about improving performance. Whether my career takes me through HR or Training, I want to be a part of organizational performance improvement on a Macro scale. While I do enjoy training, I've really enjoyed analyzing situations and determining the best solutions. It's not just about performance analysis. I enjoy being a part of those solutions from start to finish.

I've been asked several times over the past few months "What are you going to do once you finish your Masters Degree?"

Well, one thing I've learned is that the learning never stops. If I stay in Training, a CPLP would be nice. If I end up in HR, maybe a PHR.

Here's what I can plan on for both:

(1) Change Management
(2) Project Management

Either way, Performance Improvement is in my future.