Out of nowhere, my colleague, Diane Gayeski, who serves as Associate Dean and Professor of Communication at Ithaca College, found this little gem in her files. I got to know Diane well when we both worked on American Management Association's "Leading Virtual and Remote Teams" course, Diane as course designer, and I as subject matter expert.
What follows is a transcript of "Virtual Teams," an online author interview that Jeff Stamps and I did on CompuServe in 1997, the same year that our book by that name came out. Someone named "Anne" was moderator (where are you now, Anne?), along with a few participants who spoke, er, typed up. I'm still in touch with Alistair Bruce - yay, Alistair!
Enjoy, then, how people talked about this topic a dozen years ago. I particularly like the instructions as the whole thing was conducted via text: "If you have a question for our guests, please type a single ?" And how avant garde things seemed back then - when the future, as per this, was barely even imagined yet. Comments most welcome!
September 13, 1997
Virtual Teams with Jessica Lipnack & Jeffrey Stamps
CompuServe's Intranet Forum <GO INTRANET>
Anne/Moderator: Welcome to the Intranet Forum <GO INTRANET>!
Today's guests are Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, authors of "Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time and Organizations with Technology" (Wiley). In their book, the authors help define "virtual teams" and explain how to use communication tools to transcend the traditional, physical boundaries of yesterday's workplace.
They also discuss the pros and cons of creating virtual teams and offer solid examples of successful teams which were more efficient and cost-effective to their organizations.
Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps are the founders of The Networking Institute (TNI) and have co-authored four other books relating to technology and the workplace.
If you have a question for our guests, please type a single ? and we'll take your questions in order. When you're done typing, please type <ga> so we know to "go ahead."
Jessica, Jeff, do you have anything you'd like to add?
Jessica Lipnack: Well, thanks, Anne for the intro. It's quite an experience for us to be online doing this forum. We first came online in 1979 and this is the first time in all those years that we've done an author forum.
Jeff Stamps: We would also like to hear from guests if they currently work in virtual teams
Anne/Moderator: Are you guys ready to take questions?
Jessica Lipnack: ready and able
William Theuer: I currently maintain a secure connection to the
Jeff Stamps: Yes, with flying fingers
William Theuer: ?
Anne/Moderator: Go ahead, William!
William Theuer: Sorry, I currently maintain a secure connection to the American Red Cross and can send messages over the MARS system thru another public service site. I have enjoyed the public service activity but have had no success in commercial activity. What do you suggest?
Jessica Lipnack: Are you asking a technical question? Or is this a marketing quest?
William Theuer: ITs both, I would suggest
Jessica Lipnack: Are looking for more customers than ARC?
William Theuer: ARC is a volunteer activity. The MARS messagesystem is also volunteer activity. I have exchanged many messages with folks around the world attempting to serve as a local liaison in Alaska but no tangible work so far has developed.
Jessica Lipnack: Let's talk about how you might create a network for a particular purpose.
Jeff Stamps: Do you have a passion you are looking to further?
Jessica Lipnack: If, for example, you were offering people updated info on what's happening with ARC on a regular basis, they might be interested. It's sometimes very slow going to offer a networking service without offering it *for a purpose.*
Jeff Stamps: Boy, we know that one, since we have been promoting network organizations for almost 20 years
William Theuer: That is the purpose of the ARCOnline Network. It is a secure lntranet from the NHQ.
Jessica Lipnack: Meanwhile, William, in our book, VIRTUAL TEAMS, there is a lot of info on how to develop clear purpose
Alistair Bruce: ?
Jessica Lipnack: go ahead
Anne/Moderator: Go ahead, Alistair!
Alistair Bruce: Thanks. I am working with many geographically dispersed workgroups in my firm. Many of them are teams which have existed for a number of years. The challenge now is bind them together in ways never before possible..using for example Lotus Notes db's, email, video and voice conferencing. Very exciting. I want to ask about one particular barrier we face. The junior and middle managers on the teams (age range 21 to 32) tend to be very enthusiastic. But the partners and older team members who really need to show leadership and use of the tools lag behind. The virtual teamrooms we are using will never be effective without their sponsorship. How can we convince them that, "there is something in it for them?" ga
Jessica Lipnack: ah, the generation gap...
Alistair Bruce: yup.
Jessica Lipnack: first, please know that your firm is not alone in this problem
Jeff Stamps: Do they at least type, or surf the web?
Alistair Bruce: Interest and skill levels are mixed
Jessica Lipnack: we find ourselves in CEO offices, senior execs, etc., without machines...or machines that aren't turned on
Alistair Bruce: Typing and web awareness is not a given. I think we are ahead of what we describe...
Jessica Lipnack: So...here's one idea (I knew what your response to Jeff's question would be)
Alistair Bruce: the challenge is getting them to participate in the virtual team spaces.
Jeff Stamps: And is there at least one senior person who "gets it" who could act as a general sponsor of virtual teams within the firm
Jessica Lipnack: Yes, you are ahead but here's another idea
Alistair Bruce: We have a few of those and we are using them. Progress is painfully slow.
Jessica Lipnack: do you know the old technique of pairing a senior person with a junior person for sponsorship of a project?
Alistair Bruce: Can you expand?
Jessica Lipnack: Oh, Jeff was just typing that idea? I'm suggesting that you reverse it. Pair a junior tech-savvy person with a senior person. Each technophobe gets a mate. I'm trying to think of a good term for this.
Jessica Lipnack: It will come as we think about it but the idea is that very discretely, each
techno-slow gets a techno-quick to help them
Jeff Stamps: There is also a more high-risk approach looking for a senior-level team that could particularly benefit from a virtual approach
Alistair Bruce: Upward cyber-coaching? Interesting.
Jessica Lipnack: This way, their natural reluctance, which I think is primarily fear, can be minimized. yes, exactly, reverse coaching. i first became aware of the power of this idea when i interviewed Marshall Smith, founder of CyberSmith.
Alistair Bruce: I like your thoughts. I believe that trust is a major critical success factor. You are right in saying that "fear" is the underlying issue.
Jessica Lipnack: Marshall is in his 60s and his son is, say, 30. Marshall didn't know how to type, let | alone surf the web. So Marshall decided to create safe places for people like himself to learn -- presto, CyberSmith cafe!
Alistair Bruce; Can a share a neat example of age generation breakthrough..it is quick.
Jessica Lipnack; please...
Jeff Stamps; go ahead
Alistair Bruce; One 59 year old partner in our firm was a technophobe.Then he discovered that his 22 year old daughter whom he adores...could use email to stay in touch with him from South America... He now receives two emails a day on his office email from her...and he sends his fatherly love.
Jim Casey: PMJI. If Alistair is in Britain, I suspect the resistance of older managers to leave familiar ground is stronger than in the U.S.
Jessica Lipnack: waaaay cool, dude. the partner gets a 'tude.
Alistair Bruce: He is a man who places a premium on family relationships. I am in NYC USA!
Jim Casey: Sorry.
Alistair Bruce: Now he is sees how technology can empower his family.
Jessica Lipnack: i've heard this story over and over. finally, people realize that kids have the answers!
Alistair Bruce: He is now a virtual team champion. At our firm we say you must answer the "what is in it for me" question?
Jeff Stamps: That story reminds me of the oldest trick of making online work--is to put information there that is only accessible via the net
Alistair Bruce: ga.
Jessica Lipnack: So we have one convert already. This is the beginning of diffusing the innovation through a mix of email from kids in college and younger cyber coaches.
Alistair Bruce: Jessica - you are right on.
Jessica Lipnack: Jeff, expand on the "only accessible via the net" idea
Daniel Sutton: ?
Alistair Bruce: Trying to cause change by forcing the business case will fail. I will shut up now.
Jessica Lipnack: Thanks, Alistair...great question. ga, daniel
Daniel Sutton: I have heard a lot about "interactive services" on the 'Net. Even CompuServe has changed its name to CSI, CompuServe Interactive. What does this mean for us netizens?
Jessica Lipnack: Daniel, are you asking about what compuserve means by "interactive?"
Jeff Stamps: We are just at the beginning of the interactive age
Daniel Sutton: AOL has used the term "interactive services" fo a while what do they mean by that? aren't the services already interactive?
Jessica Lipnack: Jeff, this q's for you! Jeff has been tracking the difference between analog and digital services... As we move deeper into the Information Age, there will be interactive services available that we haven't even dreamed of.
Jeff Stamps: Most previous technologies have been one way, so we are just learning how to use the incredible power of computers to facilitate two-way experiences
Daniel Sutton: what are two-way experiences?
Jessica Lipnack: While we do not know what CompuServe means from a marketing perspective, hold on to your hat when it comes to interactivity!
Daniel Sutton: kind of like Worlds Away, here on C'Serve?
Jeff Stamps: Even most of what happens now on the web is really publishing, but we are rapidly moving to actually working online in a regular manner
Jessica Lipnack: Again, we don't know what CSI will be offering but let your imagination run and | then wait to have your mouth drop open in the next few years
Daniel Sutton: will AOL kill CompuServe's forums, and business areas?
Jeff Stamps: Two-way in this medium is also both synchronous (like this) and async like threaded conversations and topics
Daniel Sutton; I want CompuServe to remain the way it is now
Jessica Lipnack: Even for those of us who have been online since the days of having to use acoustic couplers to connect, today's interactivity is stunning. Why do you want it to stay the same?
Jeff Stamps: Very little online stays the way it is very long
Daniel Sutton: i mean, I want public forums, and business info communities and the like
Jessica Lipnack: Also, bear in the mind that just because new things are available, the old doesn't go away.
Daniel Sutton: what CompuServe has become known as
Jessica Lipnack: For example, this method of communicating, line by line interaction from around the world
Daniel Sutton: "the grand daddy of online services"
Jessica Lipnack: We first experienced this in 1980 on EIES... It would be market-foolish for providers like CompuServe to abandon text-based communication There are huge populations around the globe that barely have access to telephones, never mind broadband services
Jeff Stamps: On the other hand, text-based services have been forced to upgrade their look because of the pressure of the web
Jessica Lipnack: India, China (that's two billions right there) and most of the rest of Asia, the real growth markets have to go through the text phase. True, Jeff...but it's also the case that starting with text is the likely beginning for most nations. Another question, Daniel, or someone else?
Daniel Sutton: that's ok. thank you. I'll pass the token to someone else <ga>
Anne/Moderator: Jessica/Jeff, to me, the advantages of virtual teams are obvioushow do you sell management on it in your organization?
Jessica Lipnack: Good question, Anne. Selling anyone is very difficult for all the reasons that Alistair has brought up.
Jeff Stamps: First look for the low hanging fruit--examples of where it is already working the in the organization but perhaps not using that terminology
Jessica Lipnack: However, within most orgs, there is someone who "gets it." Meanwhile, it's very important to help people understand that they *are* working in virtual teams right now. Good point. Here's some data: If people are working more than 50 feet apart, guess what? The likelihood of them working together more than once a week is less than 10%. That means that almost everyone is working in a virtual team.
Jeff Stamps: Typical cost justifications include travel, practical considerations like people being unable or unwilling to move
Jessica Lipnack: Anne, you're working in a virtual team, right?
Jeff Stamps: A bigger sell, harder to justify, may be smarter teams using more disciplined processes that are naturally capturing their learning
Alistair Bruce: That is a tough one.
Anne/Moderator: Well, I guess in a sense I am, since we do have people all over the world working together :)
Jeff Stamps: Most innovations start with replacing older (modes of working) and only
Daniel Sutton: we are in a virtual team right now
Anne/Moderator: Guess I hadn't defined it as a "virtual team"
Daniel Sutton: we are miles apart, but answering to each others needs
Jeff Stamps: after they are established will completely new possibilities be explored
Jessica Lipnack: Right, Daniel, right Anne...
Jeff Stamps: and appreciated
Jessica Lipnack: And this is very typical. Multiple threads of communication, short-term tasks, side conversations. We've come together for an hour to explore this topic. We're a short-lived virtual team
Jeff Stamps: Do you folks in Glenbrook plan online?
Jessica Lipnack: Every time you run a forum, your group forms a temporary virtual team.
Alistair Bruce: ?
Anne/Moderator: The majority of our business is conducted online, however the management lives a short distance apart and we meet IRL too
Jessica Lipnack: go ahead, please..
Alistair Bruce: During a meeting with a "virgin" team this week...
Anne/Moderator: well, except for one member of management who is in Vancouver <G>
Jessica Lipnack: Anne, we'll come back to your situation, ok and pls continue, alistair
Alistair Bruce: one person raised an issue from an academic study he had read. He said that someone had found that it is more difficult for the human brain, to assimilate, remember and analyse text and data presented on a computer, than it is in print form. Is this correct? If so how do we overcome it without ruining the rain forest? ga
Jeff Stamps: Poor human brain was trained in the oral tradition
Jessica Lipnack: Veddy interesting. I would like to see the study and the population studied
Alistair Bruce: So would I...I will ask him
Jessica Lipnack: And I'd also like to consider it in the context of "cognitive styles."
Alistair Bruce: Worrying thing is. He is a real power user. Can you explain?
Jessica Lipnack: Let's take Jeff and me as an example of cognitive styles. Well, here we go to a museum. Picasso show, say.
Jeff Stamps: it may be that in print is it easier to gain a view of the whole because you can "skim" and hold it
Jessica Lipnack: Jeff is busy looking at the paintings.
Jeff Stamps: I wonder if the "context-setting" and linking capabilities of the web will change this equation
Jessica Lipnack: Me, I'm madly reading the little plaques describing when and where it was done. And, I might add, talking about different things :-) viz. right now
Jeff Stamps: And here we are talking over one another
Jessica Lipnack: Anyway, I am relatively good at talking over
Alistair Bruce: Keep going...this is interesting.
Anne/Moderator: Why don't you guys tell us how we can get a copy of your book?
Jessica Lipnack: I meant to say that I am relatively good at remembering where things are online - GREAT QUESTION, ANNE!!!!!! Jeff, can't they order right through our very own website?
Alistair Bruce: Is Anne on commission?
Anne/Moderator: now *there* is a thought <G>
Jeff Stamps: Indeed they can, through our very own partnership with Amazon.com
Jessica Lipnack: No, but that's a good idea, too. Anne, we'll cut you in on any sales of 10K or more, OK? :-))
Alistair Bruce: Only joking..to anyone who has not read vt - buy it now
Jessica Lipnack: Alistair *is* on commission -- jusssst kidding
Alistair Bruce: Can you recommend any good conferences to attend on this subject?
Jessica Lipnack: Anyway, I also remember things I am told. Perfect example: Anne sent us instrux for getting online I glazed over. Finally at 3:30 this afternoon our time, Jeff *told* me what to do.
Jeff Stamps: We are doing a satillte broadcast w/Chuck Snow of Penn State
Jessica Lipnack: However, if I had to retrace my steps to get here now, I would recall it completely.
Jeff Stamps: on October 9 through PBS Business Network
Jessica Lipnack: And having read the forum, I would remember that William is in Alaska with a secure server for ARC
Alistair Bruce: Where can I find out about PBS Business Network?
Jeff Stamps: Go to the netage.com website and follow the links on the home page
Alistair Bruce: It is already bookmarked!
William Theuer: that is not exactly correct, I maintain a website connected the ARCOnline as a volunteer. Its a client not a server.
Jeff Stamps: Great example of using multiple technologies simultaneously
Jessica Lipnack: This is a satellite *interactive* (Daniel) conference that can be downloaded. Sorry, William!
Jeff Stamps: Jessica and I are occasionally talking through our intercom
Anne/Moderator: Also, the book can be purchased at our online bookstore temporarily
located at ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/apapina/books.htm ... you'll also find information about other book author chats and a link to Jessica & Jeff's web site
William Theuer: ?
Anne/Moderator: Go ahead, Wiliam!
Jessica Lipnack: Right, I just saw the time....once again time melts in cyberspace.
William Theuer: Where do folks here find cues to explore online? GA
Jessica Lipnack: William, you can find dozens of sites related to networking and virtual work by going to our site. Then by following those links, you'll find dozens of others and dozens and dozens and....
Jeff Stamps: Particular on the Virtual Resources that has links to knowledge, products, and services
Jessica Lipnack: Personally, I also use search engines a lot. These have taken me on some fantastic journeys
Jeff Stamps: And some wasted time
Alistair Bruce: I am really sad...I have a virtual family. Me and 2 of my brothers met in a
CIS forum recently. They are in the UK, I am in the UK.
William Theuer: I find cues, everywhere, all around me, everyday! GA
Jessica Lipnack: Now, now, Jeff, I *never* waste time. I only enjoy it frivolously. :-)
Alistair Bruce: I am in the US sorry.
Jessica Lipnack: Alistair, my brother is in Philadelphia and we communicate by e-mail almost daily. I think we have more contact than we would otherwise.
Alistair Bruce: ? When can we do this again? Thanks so much for taking the time. ga
Anne/Moderator: How do you keep virtual teams focused and motivated? Or rather what are some tips for doing that :)
Jessica Lipnack: Yes, this is great. Perhaps we can just use an internet "talk" to continue? Or have your firm sponsor such a thing?
William Theuer: Thank you for sharing your info and time today.
Jessica Lipnack: Great q's, Anne, and I'm sure Jeff is typing furiously too. The principal way to keep VTs focused and motivated is by building trust and continuously clarifying the purpose of the team.
Alistair Bruce: Take care I am off to FTF with flesh and blood. Take care all. Jeff / Jessica
- I will be in touch about a meeting in NYC. bye.
Jeff Stamps: And don't forget to mix in face-to-face when you can
Jeff Stamps: I enjoyed this and look forward to the next time
Jessica Lipnack: You're welcome, William. And I'd be glad to do another forum. Adios, amigos...have fun
William Theuer: Thank you all
Jessica Lipnack: And thanks, Anne...
Anne/Moderator: Thank you both for your time today! Do you have any last words of advice
Jessica Lipnack: "Decide to Network" and never stop.....
Jeff Stamps: Take time whenever you can
Jessica Lipnack: Great service, Anne, and thanks so very much.
Daniel Sutton: thank you all very much
Jessica Lipnack: Until we meet again....
Daniel Sutton: this is one of the few times i have been in a forum conference
Jeff Stamps: Thanks for all your help, Anne
Anne/Moderator: Hope to have you back again soon! :) bye
Daniel Sutton: i really like the "virtual team" concept
Jessica Lipnack: Hope you enjoyed it, Daniel, and be sure to read the book!
Daniel Sutton: sure will do! bye now <G>
Jessica Lipnack: bye bye...
Jeff Stamps: bye too
End of transcript.
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