Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps on Building High Performance Teams

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Executive Interviews: Interview with Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps on Building High Performance Teams
May 2009 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps
Jessica Lipnack, CEO, and Jeffrey Stamps, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, are co-founders of NetAge.

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  • What kind of organizational structure, organizational culture and leadership do you think are required to achieve the desired results from virtual teams?
    Virtual teams operate within and between networked hierarchies. Visible and shared information is essential for teams to make good decisions that serve the larger organization. Leadership is shared as needed. Virtual teams need more, not fewer, leaders than traditional face-toface teams. Cultures must be conducive to and reward collaboration, not just individual work.

  • For what kind of industries/ companies, do you suggest virtual teams, instead of, face-to-face teams? Is there any verifiable evidence in this regard?
    Except for those organizations that are manufacturing tangible stuff that truly requires hands-on expertise (not to be too flip, but brain surgery, cooking dal, raising chickens), all industries can benefit from virtual working. However, even brain surgeons can be observed and aided by true experts from afar! Even dal-cookers can learn fromchefs at a distance! Even farmers can and do share best practices online!

  • In your article, you have highlighted three principles/rules that guided the virtual teams of your research? Can you please elaborate on these three rules highlighting the efficacy of each of the rule?
    Exploiting diversity is most evident by the increase in innovation that is possible when people can work together without being collocated, which always limits who can be involved. Technology is used to simulate reality, like conference calls, which support communication at a distance, but the real benefit comes with the use of persisting, “asynchronous” tools, such as team rooms and wikis that support shared memory. Hold the team together by a constant stream of communication using multiple media, not just one collaboration tool of choice.

  • Do you think the current economic times have necessitated more of virtual teams?
    Yes. The times require less travel to do more work with fewer people. We believe this may be the watershed point when virtual teams become the mainstream way to work.

  • The world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis created by a few greedy investment bankers. The effects of this crisis are quite pronouncing.What is the importance of team work and high performance in such troubled times?
    Teamwork is critical and this is a real, immediate, compelling opportunity for us to perfect our virtual working skills. It underscores the trust that is so vital to launching and sustaining virtual teams, a quality sorelymissing in conventional organizations, especially those most responsible for the crisis. And, it reinforces the need for transparency, not only for building trust but also for sharing the information required for distributed teams to make smart, informed decisions.

  • What according you are high performance teams? What are their unique characteristics? Can you give examples of a few companies that have created and nurtured high performance teams?
    The US Army is an unlikely exemplar of high-performing teams. These teams have the qualities of shared vision, trust, competence, and confidence – the emphasis here is on the “shared” part. What propels these teams beyond the conventional bounds is the use of information technology and knowledge management while practicing the shared qualities of high performance. Our own experience of working closely with ProdEx, a software development company with a teamof engineers in Chennai, on a complex project without a single conference call points to how important virtual working is for small companies as well as large ones.

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