Crisis What Crisis?
Crisis What Crisis?
Keeping a Business Flying when the Sky Is Falling
Is your business capable of surviving an economic crisis? Will you be able to manage your staff to not only weather the storm but to effectively return to “business as usual”? Hurricane Katrina gave us a “wakeup” call and taught some valuable lessons. Now, with the state of the economy hanging over us like the sword of Damocles, the time to start thinking about things we’d rather not think about is, unfortunately, now.
How an economic nosedive will affect individual businesses varies. However, the potential hiring freeze, layoffs and restricted travel could certainly lead to kneecapped communications systems and a fragmented international work force; a devastating reality for many businesses.
Yet, with some foresight and careful planning, the worst storm can be weathered. “Virtual teams” offer a compelling way to offset potential risks.
How Virtual Teams Can Help
While virtual teams can’t function without people, these teams are in a unique position to get a business up and rolling when the lights do come back on. Since travel presents no issues or obstacles for virtual teams, all that is needed to reconnect the business is the technology and the virtual team skills.
The role played by managers is crucial and it goes without saying that they must have the highest level of training and expertise.
Claire Sookman specializes in the growing field of virtual team building, consultation and support. She has spoken to many virtual team leaders who admit they lacked any real training prior to the last crisis and are currently “winging it.” According to a recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity 77 per cent of the respondents said that offering virtual leadership development is important to very important yet a full 25 per cent of these organizations don’t offer any training and development opportunities to improve their virtual leadership skills. The study goes on to say that a mere eight per cent of the respondents felt their communication was very good.
Sookman has found that communication has the greatest impact on the success of virtual teams and that leaders of virtual teams are justifiably concerned about the impact of unclear communication on productivity, efficiency and the bottom line.
Virtually The Same
Many argue that virtual teams are not as effective or as efficient as collocated teams. To them, face-to-face contact is important. However, according to Sookman, what many fail to realize is that the benefits typically associated with face-to-face teams can be achieved more conveniently and at a fraction of the cost by using virtual teams. The delivery may differ, but the results are the same.
Sookman has found that the return on investment resulting from their virtual team training is in excess of 250%. The savings were generated from reduced travel costs and significantly improved communications causing projects to be completed more efficiently and economically,
Tradition and Technology: the foundations of the Virtual Team
To be successful, virtual teams need to grasp the importance of frequent, open communication. For instance, virtual teams must establish explicit communication protocols to help guard against making assumptions. If protocols are not clearly identified, articulated and established the repercussions to the team can be significant. Tasks will fall through the cracks, deadlines will be missed and ultimately, productivity will be lost. Clarity and good initial communication between team members will prevent such scenarios..
Obviously, companies like our Alliance Partner are becoming increasingly in demand and was established to guide corporations beyond just “team building” in the traditional sense. Trying to duplicate the workings of a collocated team in a virtual environment was proving to be both frustrating and unproductive for many companies trying to make the leap. “Truth is,” Sookman notes, “is that traditional teams and virtual teams face many of the same challenges. However, small problems that would pose a mere inconvenience to traditional teams can prove to be major hurdles for virtual teams.” Understanding the “new dynamic” of the virtual world takes more than a bit of getting used to.
By Claire Sookman