Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 16, Issue 34;   August 24, 2016: Virtual Teams Need Generous Travel Budgets

Virtual Teams Need Generous Travel Budgets

by

Although virtual team members who happen to be co-located do meet from time to time, meetings of people who reside at different sites are often severely restricted by tight or non-existent travel budgets. Such restrictions, intended to save money, can contribute to expensive delays and errors.
Airliner coach seating

Typically, virtual teams must meet their objectives with expense profiles that differ little from the profiles of co-located teams. They might receive some increment of resources in the form of access to remote communications facilities, and they might even be permitted a little more travel than co-located teams, but such minor advantages rarely meet the real need.

Teamwork, especially virtual teamwork, is only as effective as the strength and health of the relationships between team members can support. Building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships requires at least some face-to-face connection. By the standards of co-located teams, travel budgets that meet the needs of virtual teams can only be characterized as generous.

Rational travel strategy for virtual teams rests on four principles.

Relationship is the foundation of high performance
Teammates need not like each other, but they must share a desire for collaborative achievement, which requires the strong relationships that enable a forthright exchange of ideas. Building relationships from the beginning of an effort is the superior approach. With no history, and especially no past difficulty, members can focus on relationship building rather than relationship repair. Email, telephone, texting, and video do not suffice.
Virtual culture can bridge differences
Later in the effort, When at home, people tend to interpret
their experiences with each other
in terms of their home cultures
after people have returned home, they tend to interpret their ongoing experiences with each other in terms of their home cultures. What might be an innocent message in the sender's culture might be offensive in the recipient's culture, even when no offense is intended. But when the team has established its own virtual culture, and a strong relationship between sender and recipient is in place, such mistaken interpretations are less likely.
Problem solving under stress is best done face-to-face
Teams often solve difficult problems together under the stress of deadlines and budgets. Unfortunately, the challenges of the virtual environment can make solutions especially elusive. When the pressures are high enough, bringing people together face-to-face is the lowest cost path to a solution.
The value of travel is early delivery
If high performance teams are more productive, then their contributions to organizational objectives are greater and arrive sooner than would those of lower-performance teams. If travel contributes to performance, then we must evaluate travel costs in terms of early delivery of superior results. Yet, we rarely compare the cost of travel to the value of results. Instead, when we determine the travel budgets of projects staffed by virtual teams, we compare the cost of travel for virtual teams to the cost of travel for co-located teams, or what is worse, to zero.

Before people can care deeply about their shared achievements, their shared relationships must be strong. A generous travel budget might not guarantee strong relationships, but a miserly travel budget almost certainly guarantees weak ones. Go to top Top  Next issue: Contributions, Open and Closed  Next Issue

303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsIs your organization a participant in one or more global teams? Are you the owner/sponsor of a global team? Are you managing a global team? Is everything going well, or at least as well as any project goes? Probably not. Many of the troubles people encounter are traceable to the obstacles global teams face when building working professional relationships from afar. Read 303 Tips for Virtual and Global Teams to learn how to make your global and distributed teams sing. Order Now!

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More articles on Virtual and Global Teams:

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When geography divides a team, conflicts can erupt along the borders. "Us" and "them" becomes a way of seeing the world, and feelings about people at other sites can become hostile. Why does this happen and what can we do about it?
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When we have to terminate someone who works at a remote site, sometimes there's a temptation to avoid travel — to use email, phone, fax, or something else. They're all bad ideas. Terminating people in person is not only a gesture of respect. It's good business.
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Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
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Communication can be problematic for any team, especially under pressure. But virtual teams face challenges that are less common in face-to-face teams. Here's Part II of a little catalog with some recommendations.

See also Virtual and Global Teams and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The end of the line for a railroad trackComing May 30: Chronic Peer Interrupters: I
When making contributions to meeting discussions, we're sometimes interrupted. Often, the interruption is beneficial and saves time. But some people constantly interrupt their peers or near peers, disrespectfully, in a pattern that compromises meeting outcomes. How can we deal with chronic peer interrupters? Available here and by RSS on May 30.
Mohandas K. Ghandi, in the 1930sAnd on June 6: Chronic Peer Interrupters: II
People use a variety of tactics when they're interrupted while making contributions in meetings. Some tactics work well, while others carry risks of their own. Here's Part II of a little survey of those tactics. Available here and by RSS on June 6.

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