Sometime in the mid-1980s, the type of project team that our group had become used to quietly disappeared. It was replaced by a new form of team that has become the norm for most of the business and IT project teams that we now work with: the virtual team.
The project team in which I learned about teams was formed in 1972. The key members of the team stayed together as a team from 1972 to 1979. We undertook numerous projects and we learned together from each project. We also shared many workshops on building better interpersonal and team processes, as well as the usual technical skill education.
We learned, through a combination of often bitter experience and external facilitation, how to accept the weaknesses of each team member and how to best use each person's strengths. It was a difficult and long journey, but finally we had a real team where the whole was more than the sum of the parts.
Our team was built on the "soft glue" of:
- Loyalty to the team,
- Trust among team members,
- Friendship among team members,
- Shared experience,
- Shared vision, and
- Shared belief systems.
Most important, our team became more effective and efficient as we learned how to become a team. It was a traditional team or whole-of-life team.
As discussed in Chapter 1, "The New Project Environment," the very nature of organizations has changed and teams have changed with them. The typical project team today includes team members drawn from various expert and stakeholder groups. Team members will often be consultants or contractors who work for external organizations. In addition, many team members will have either part-time or ad-hoc commitment to the team and the project. In most cases, the only "normal" (in the sense of full-time and fully committed) member of the team is the project manager.
As a result, the interpersonal process that we believe is essential for building the traditional team is completely absent. In most virtual teams that we have worked with or observed, there is:
- Little or no loyalty to the team,
- Trust among team members that is limited to professional skills,
- No friendship among team members,
- Little shared experience,
- Little shared vision, and
- Varied belief systems.
This is a virtual team, and the management of this type of team is very different from the management of a whole-of-life team. We discuss virtual teams in more detail on our Web site.