- First, look at the central quintile. Highly productive team members communicated with one another 54% more often than did less-productive teams. They communicated about task specifics 150% more often, and disagreed 50% more often than their less-productive counterparts. They also discussed team process and relationship more often. These are hugely important points to remember. HOW we use virtual collaboration tools may be much more important than the tools themselves.
- Second, it was remarkable to me that only in one quadrant—the lower right Different time/Different place—did the highly productive teams focus primarily on task-related issues. When the highly productive team members in the study communicated with one another at the same time (the top two quadrants) or in the same place (lower left quadrant), they focused primarily on the human element of their collaboration—creating bonds, gauging emotions, building commitment, understanding disagreement, and agreeing on team processes.
If you explore details of the study, you will see that the less-productive teams most decidedly did not differentiate how they communicated what and where as the highly productive teams did. This was a small study of 56 people in 12 teams, but all teams participated over a nine-month period. Interestingly, though I published this study back in 1996, I am disappointed to say that I have seen very few (if any) research projects since that have tried to link team behaviors with productivity in virtual teams. If you know of some, please let me know.
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