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Leading Virtual Teams in the Age of Complexity

The American Management Association (AMA) is producing some great – and free! – webcasts these days.

Today’s webcast was valuable to me for my life outside work. When I am not at the day job that puts bread on the table and provides fun challenges for a technical communicator, I am the “SIG Advocate” for the leaders of all the special interest groups (SIG) in STC. We are spread across 9 time zones and have different areas of focus. All our activities are volunteer – no one gets paid. So how do we manage ourselves and each other and get the job done?

When I saw that today’s topic was “Leading Virtual Teams: Managing When People are at a Distance”, I had to sign up to pick up some tips. We are all intelligent and independent adults, and we all lead busy lives and have diverse interests. How can we best share our knowledge and experiences as SIG managers to benefit the members of our SIGs and encourage more technical communicators to join STC (and our SIGs) to discover the benefits that we can offer? That does take coordination. It also takes time and care.

The topic was presented by Jessica Lipnack of NetAge, Inc. If you are interested in virtual teams, networks, and collaboration, I encourage you to hop over to that site and start poking around. The site contains material that was in today’s presentation. Go look at the methods, or learn the four common network principles (the Why, When, How, and Who).

Best of all, the second edition of Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps’ book, Virtual Teams, is available for download for those eager to dive into this topic. This is complements my other book on the same topic: Managing Virtual Teams: Getting the Most from Wikis, Blogs, and Other Collaborative Tools by by M. Katherine Brown, Brenda Huettner, and Char James-Tanny.

There is a lot of input from the webcast that needs to settle in my brain. I picked up lots of ideas that I can apply to our monthly conference calls, use of email, and the use of our wiki. I can’t say what those ideas are exactly right now. Lipnack presented ideas, which I sense are worth investigating and discussing with the SIG leaders. The title of this blog entry comes partly from the title of the topic, partly from something mentioned in the webcast. We are moving into, or are already immersed in, an age of complexity. To cope with whatever challenges this new age brings us, we need new behaviors for the groups that we formed and reformed for various purposes during the last 10,000 years or so. Antiquated structures and behaviors for our teams or networks won’t cut it anymore.

I encourage you to visit the AMA site and find out whether there are upcoming webcasts that cover your interests and needs. I learned about them in early September in time to catch tips about distraction and how to find focus in a hyperkinetic world. I’ve been hooked ever since! Today’s webcast will be available in about 3 days in an audio file on the AMA site.

And now for some dinner…