Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Trust in Virtual Teams
Finally, we met. After nine months of successful and rich virtual collaboration, the team of Radical Inclusion met face to face. Not that we needed that meeting for issues of team building. But we all had the urge to look into each others faces, to hear the voices without delays and distorsions, and to have a couple of drinks together. So, it was good to come together as a team. But the trust was there, before. Most people who haven’t worked in virtual teams believe that a precondition for trust in teams is an initial face-to-face meeting. I don’t believe so anymore, rather do I believe that people use this argument because it helps them to maintain their bias against virtuality.
Let us think about people how build trust. A common way is to be influenced by the first visual expression we have, plus the additional information we get from our other senses (tone of voice, smell, etc.). Some of us are good at that and some of us are regularly fooled by their hormones or their presumptions (I am definitely one of those). That is what my colleague Jouke Kruijer who has done some research on the issue calls affect-based trust.
A second possibility to build trust is to analyse the information we have about this person plus his behavior and come to a more rational verdict (coginition-based trust).
And a third possibility is to observe team members’ behavior while working on joint projects. This is what Jouke calls swift trust. Are they reliable? Do they walk their talk? Do they take resposibility? How do they deal with conflicts, problems and shortfalls? All these questions can be answered in virtual teams as in face-to-face teams.
What brought us together was the Real Time Virtual Collaboration workshop on May 9, 2009. This was a workshop in which we were able to test and develop our collaboration patters. After the project was concluded successfully we knew that we wanted to continue as a team. We found new projects, and step by step we strengthened our relationships. We tested hundred of collaboration tools until we found the right mix (I will write a blog post about these next week, as a continuation of this post). We did not define any rules of collaboration but we worked on trust base.
Finally, it was time to meet and it was as if we had known for a long time…
(reposted from Radical Inclusion)