But did I? I just finished reading Terence Brake’s book, “Where in the World is my Team?”. I was intrigued by the reviews saying it was not a regular business book, and of course the topic of virtual teams, so I decided to pick it up.
If you are not familiar with this book, indeed, it is not like usual business books in that there are actually points in it that will make anyone laugh. At the beginning, we are introduced to Will Williams, the new assistant to the CEO at a gaming company, The Fun House. He is working in London, but there is a whole host of characters all over the world, with whom Will interacts. Will is tasked by his CEO, to put together a Briefing Report on the new workplace, working virtually, technologies that aid the new workplace, etc., for her upcoming TV appearance. The readers “learn” along with Will, as he wades in to the new workplace.
The set up having to go through Will’s introduction in to working with virtual teams is a bit much, having to go through each of his meetings, and his personal feelings on meeting with his ex-girlfriend or the “interesting” analyst, whose work Will never bothered to read, dealing with his parents, his new love, etc. But you really can’t skip any part of the book. The dialogue of a relevant conference call talking about ways to improve communication in virtual teams may be between a few paragraphs about the crazy analyst or Will’s colleague in the next cubicle. You can certainly skim those parts though. By doing it in real world fashion though, every reader, who has worked in global virtual teams will recognize similar mistakes they have made as they have learned to work with virtual teams.
Many of the points made in the book, building virtual trust, communication, etc., have been stated in other books, but I do like the diagrams that are used to show the different points. For example the Collaboration Controller is good. I also like the diagram on pg. 25 on virtual trust and its different aspects.
Some of my favorite points include:
– Being in a virtual team, and especially leading one, means communicating when you don’t have to – not just when you want something from someone. Only when you want something makes it very shallow relationship. Do you know anything else about them?
– Also under process I like the emphasis on the transition from establishing a relationship to going in to the task. The delicate balance between these two processes – of course I did not see in the book any details about how to actually do this transition.
– Working in isolation, means less communication which builds paranoia, people get anxious. Which I have talked about many times.
– The confusion caused by vague communication, lack of transparency, etc.
* I like the example given – an American to a Brit – “I created a “straw man” agenda for the upcoming meeting, and I have a “hard stop”, at 3:00pm”. What does that mean? Writing something like, “I created a preliminary agenda for the upcoming meeting and I have a deadline of 3:00pm, can you provide feedback until then”, would do. Why do we write in the first way? I think a lot of Americans can relate to this example, we tend to use a lot of buzz words and are almost judged on our use of them.
* I also like a lot of the comments in the book, such as why do we waste time being vague…..as there is enough distance between people!!! It just leads to a lot of second guessing…..and the need to communicate a lot more in the future….
– With virtual teams, problems can easily be blown out of proportion! – so true!!!
– I like the emphasis on understanding the purpose – the book puts it out on the “purpose” of the team, or the “why” the team is doing what it is doing. I have always liked the emphasis on the “why” as to “why” the users need to work the way they do, why the system needs to work in a certain way, but I like the emphasis on “why” the team has formed.
– Team members tend to side with those who are located closest to them
– I like the list of 10 Behavioral Rules for The Fun House – 10 rules I think are great for any team!
About halfway through the main portion of the book (and one too many paragraphs about Spinks – read the book if you want to know who this is), I decided to skip to the Briefing Report located in the appendix, to see if something could be learned from reading that portion of the book only.
There are some points that I think could stand on their own if a reader was looking for a quick reference.
– The Collaboration controller chart on pg. 187, I like the outlining of the challenges and how to counteract them.
– In general good parts on the 6 items that make a team work well
– Section 3 on Cooperation is good – similar to other books though, especially on giving and getting trust.
– The general pointers part of Section 3 is good – pointers for building cooperation, although also ones you can see in other books. But at least something you can read quickly and get some ideas.
– Good questions for testing your readiness for managing the team and for testing the preparedness of the team members
– I like the cultural intelligence section, section 8. The Worldprism™ model
“Where in the World is my Team”, is certainly not an ordinary business book and it is not dry, so it is something new. One of the negatives I have often found with many of these books is the lack of real life examples. “Where in the world is my Team?”, provides those real world examples (of course changing the names to protect the innocent!). The bad part is that you can’t skip significant sections of it or easily hone in on sections that may be relevant to your situation. The information comes to you in bits and pieces through reading the dialogue of conference calls, or reading email exchanges that Will has engaged in. It is an easy read and, and I hate to say it, but I found myself wondering what was going to happen to Will’s father, but at the same time I was often frustrated with all of the “filler” stories and was skipping ahead when I could. However, if you are new to working with global teams and with virtual teams, this is a great first book to pick up. Why pick up a regular business book, when you can have a “story” to go along with it! If you are more experienced, you can still pick up new points, you will just have to wade through a lot of “story” to get to them.