Sunday, February 20, 2011

Teams of Strangers

It didn't really hit me until I read a recent article about entrepreneurs that many [most?] virtual teams these days are teams of strangers.

And, my own experience mirrors much of what I read: my recent team-based projects have been virtual, asynchronous, and with strangers. Not only strangers, but in some cases I have not even talked with them on the phone--not that the phone call is particularly in vogue right now when there are convenient information sharing systems.

So, what does team of strangers mean?  Can you actually form a team with strangers, or is it just a group>  Is it important to know?

I actually don't know.  My collaborations were successful, but the teams were small, fewer than a half-dozen people.  Could this scale?  Perhaps.

We certainly did not develop a team culture, or inherit a work ethic from each other, other than we were perfunctory: we got the job done, each to their own.  Maybe that's a culture in and of itself.

What if these virtual teams are 'permanent' employees of a company?--putting aside that permanence is an obsolescing idea.  How do you create a company of strangers with shared values and commitments?  Well, it's doable and being done, more often than some might think.  There's no brick and mortar anchor in most cases, just a logo, a product, and a paycheck!

What's the career path in a situation like this?  Is there a human resources component to such a company?  In the article I cited, the company executive said of 24 employees, she had never met 15 of the them! 

Can you aspire to the virtual corner office?  Maybe, but more likely the entrepreneurs will spin off and the work-day folks don't really have that aspiration anyway.

So, more questions than answers.  Perhaps answers will develop as we go along.

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