Thursday, January 15, 2009

Making Expertise Visible and Potent

Happy 2009!

It's a fact of the human condition that we relate to one another as partial selves (I'll call it the Partial Self Axiom). Can you ever know another person completely? We would often like to, but in reality we can't. I think I know some people very well, but they can never be totally accessible or predictable to me no matter how long I have known them or how intimate the relationship has been.

But let me come down from the lofty heights of the 'human condition'to thinking about capabilities on virtual teams.

It's often the case that virtual team members have little knowledge of one another. If we are working together on a virtual team, we are unlikely to be anonymous, but we are likely to each have a high degree of partiality. We certainly don't need an intimate knowledge of each other to collaborate effectively, but we should - to maximize team strengths and potential - have a rounded picture of each other's individual capabilities and expertise. If we don't, we are likely to be quilty of waste and neglect.

Even if it is as simple as posting team member CVs on a team intranet or taking time to share work and educational experiences in a virtual meeting, find a way to conduct a Capability Audit (although that sounds rather grand). Here are a few simple, but important questions:

Team Expertise (Knowledge, Skills, and Experience)

Who on the team has what expertise?
How can we share and make best use of this expertise?
What expertise gaps do we have in relation to our goals?
Who can fill our expertise gaps and how?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Interior Design: Virtually Speaking

I'm sitting at my desk in Attic World. In front of me is a large computer screen, speakers, wireless keyboard, lamp, some reference books, and a clutter of papers. On a desk extension to my left is the rest of my desktop, and a combined fax/copier/scanner. The room is full of books, more piles of papers, and filing cabinets (the piles of papers should be in the filing cabinets, but they're not). This - you could say - is my virtual workplace; the place in which I work virtually with others around the world. It's not too bad as far as Attic Worlds go, although a coat of paint and an intense cleaning wouldn't hurt.

The fact is, however, this room isn't really my virtual workplace at all. Actually, I rarely use the term 'workplace' any more prefering instead to talk about my virtual 'workspace'. That workspace only comes into existence when I interact with colleagues via the technologies available to me. It is constructed everytime I interact with them collectively or individually, and is deconstructed when the interaction ends - although, very importantly, the spirit of that space can linger and even influence future virtual workspaces.

Here's one way to think about our virtual workspaces - mindsets are the rooms we work in and move between, communications are the windows, and behaviors are the furnishings.

Ideally, the rooms will be light and well-ventilated, and stimulating to the senses. The windows should be crystal clear,and enable you to see what you want and need to see. And the furnishings should be both comfortable and flexible. Something to think about when you next interact with your virtual colleagues. We are all designers of our virtual workspaces.