Tag: Socioemotional Communication

Postmortem Post

Postmortem Post

In trying to gauge our team’s performance I have looked at the best practice recommendations for participants in virtual teams provided by Flammia, Cleary & Slattery (2016). There are seven main guidelines:

  1. Identify leaders and define clear roles for team members.
  2. Create clear guidelines and goals.
  3. Create feelings of trust, respect and obligation.
  4. Participate in social- as well as task-oriented communication.
  5. Reward performance.
  6. Allocate adequate time.
  7. Use appropriate technology

There are some areas where we did well: The project manager was excellent at time management, and we always had enough time to do our work (6). The tone of everyone’s posts were always friendly and respectful (3).

In other areas our performance was mixed: We did identify a leader, however there were no clear roles provided for other team members (1). Very clear goals were set, but no guidelines for tasks and processes were established (2). Participants were praised and congratulated on completion of work (5), yet despite general feelings of goodwill, no real feelings of trust or obligation were created.

We did particularly poorly in our use of technology (7), and in social communication (4). While the technology used was ‘appropriate’ to the task, the whole point of this project was to participate in ‘virtual teamwork’, and we really did not leverage the best communication technology in order to create and sustain any kind of team atmosphere or identity. This was also apparent in our complete neglect of socioemotional communication.

In many ways we missed the broader point of the exercise and as a result we have also missed an opportunity: we created documentation but did not create a team.

(Image by Bakerstmd, Creative Commons)

Small talk and stolen wheelbarrows

Small talk and stolen wheelbarrows

Research indicates that socioemotional communication is an important factor in virtual teamwork: successful teams talk about more than just the task at hand, and team members feel more satisfied and appreciated as a result.

Our team has not engaged in any kind of extracurricular conversations, in fact our small talk is so small its barely there at all.  The ‘chat room’ remains empty and I cannot find a single post or email that is not directly concerned with the project. The only hints of socioemotional communication can be found in a few friendly sign-offs.

Initially this came as a relief to me – I do not visit chat rooms, I never use emoticons, and I have an almost pathological need for people to stick to the point. However, I do realize that the act of communication itself can be more important than the message or content involved. The philosopher Slavoj Zizek uses an old joke to illustrate this: A factory guard is sure that a worker is stealing, so everyday he searches the worker’s wheelbarrow thoroughly. Of course the punchline is that the worker is stealing wheelbarrows.

Sometimes the vehicle is more important than the contents, and the act of communication can be more important than what is actually said. Small talk can make us better talkers in general, and straying off the point can help us gain new perspectives. I cannot help but think that if we had talked more, we would have worked better.

(Image by fabuloufabs: Creative Commons)