Teams have long been the fundamental organizing unit for getting work done. Teams come in many forms and sizes, but all teams consist of people working together to achieve a common goal. Team members typically meet frequently, both in scheduled meetings and informal social and work sessions. Members of effective teams come to trust each other, and to know each other’s skills, habits, and preferences well. They usually collaborate and coordinate with each other rather effortlessly. While conflicts arise, they lead to frank discussion, negotiation, and resolution.
Many of the characteristics that make teams effective — trust, knowing each other’s skills and personalities, accountability to each other — have their origins in frequent interactions among team members. What happens when team members are split across two or more locations, and perhaps many time zones? They may be physically proximate rarely or not at all. Can they develop the knowledge, familiarity, and “team spirit” so important for team effectiveness? If so, how? How best to work and to manage in such an environment?
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