May 18, 2009 Program Summary

Cooperative Collaboration:
The Virtual Team Approach

Speaker Michael Lujan
At this focused event, a cross-section of local entrepreneurs, contractors, and student collaborators came together to explore the common components for a virtual team approach.

As speaker Michael Lujan emphasized, virtual working arrangements are here to stay. Furthermore, they will continue to increase as commuting challenges rise and the supporting technologies improve.

But this event was not just about working remotely. It covered many of the protocols and considerations for successfully working on virtual project teams, regardless of whether you and your clients or colleagues are in the same building or community, or halfway around the globe from one another.

Regardless of your career status, your ability to work successfully with future clients and businesses hinges on developing a better understanding of the philosophies, best practices, tools, and techniques for engaging with virtual project collaborators — which goes far beyond "telecommuting."

Michael’s synopsis included ideas and tips for developing a blueprint — not only to build virtual teams, but to ensure that the teams remain on track. He addressed professionals who are preparing to work on a virtual team as well as company representatives working with a virtual team.

Michael's presentation:

  • Provided a readiness self-assessment (are you, your clients, or team mates "virtual team material"?)
  • Explained how to assess the skills of team members
  • Explained the core "blueprint" elements for building or participating on a virtual team
  • Offered important tips for project planning and team communication
  • Suggested ways to approach and work with prospective clients
  • Discussed some of the critical project management components
  • Highlighted the technologies that support virtual collaboration
  • Summarized what it means to work together apart

He offered a strategy for developing successful virtual team communication along with practical ideas for implementing each element of communication. Creating successful virtual team communication is paramount to the success of the entire team. These elements include:

  • Garnering support from the organization and team members
  • Becoming acquainted with team members
  • Building effective communication plans
  • Building trust
  • Using effective strategies for becoming organized, and
  • Ensuring that the organizational factors remain intact

Successful virtual teams rely on internal support, which encompasses providing encouragement, information, and resources to the team. Especially for team leaders, it includes:

  • Responding promptly to team requests
  • Providing direction to the team
  • Acting as an arbitrator, and
  • Backing the decisions of everyone on the team

The familiarity that individual members develop within their teams helps them recognize how to work together more effectively and match their strengths and interests to both individual and collective responsibilities and tasks. Related to strengthening internal support is learning as much as possible about each team member. This includes exchanging information relating to skill sets, goals, past accomplishments, values, assumptions, and opinions.

A virtual team won't succeed unless there is a solid, well-structured organization to the framework. Becoming organized means:
  • Developing clear goals and priorities, which are all associated with team efficiency. 
  • Developing a project plan.
  • With regular frequency, using status reports to help guide your efforts, identify problems or deficiencies, and note dependencies.

This process will help the team confirm its mission, goals, objectives, and accomplishments.

Further, becoming organized encompasses:

  • Selecting a team leader
  • Recognizing and rewarding team accomplishments
  • Facilitating team meetings
  • Developing team norms
  • Instituting workflow procedures
  • Creating time lines, and
  • Selecting the appropriate technology and method for team interactions

Finally, the virtual team members must continue to build a rapport, increase trust, improve communications, and maintain their organization so that all members can realize their team goals. The ultimate aim of this strategy is to help teams practice skills that will make their team experiences more successful and personally satisfying.

Productivity and meaningful results are the primary factors for making the virtual team approach successful. These factors will be successful only when all virtual team members contribute creative techniques to develop relationships and build trust, especially when working with a geographically dispersed team.

(See below for Michael's bio information)

Downloads & Resources:

For best results, please use the following tips when downloading files:

  • Windows Internet Explorer: Right-click on the link and select Save Target As... You will be prompted to save the file to a specific location on your hard drive.

  • Other platforms or browsers: Right-click on the link (click and hold on the Mac) and select Download link to disk, Save Link As... or a similar command. You will be prompted to save the file to a specific location on your hard drive.

Here are links to the handouts:

Questions? Please contact Michael:

  • Phone: (805) 627-1495

“Cooperative Collaboration:
The Virtual Team Approach”
Date: Monday evening, May 18, 2009

Michael Lujan, owner of On The Same Page Technical Writing Services (WriteOnThePage.com).

With over 20 years of accomplishments as a contractor, consultant, and staff specialist for numerous high-tech companies, Michael has helped startups to Fortune 500 companies reach, and often exceed, their business-to-business and consumer product documentation goals. By incorporating practical, well-founded business objectives, practices, and "lessons learned," he provides companies with direction not only for achieving their documentation goals, but also for improving project planning and communication strategies within their own business models. Michael has implemented very successful business approaches that enable him to integrate exceptionally well with project teams and to complete deliverables on time and within budget -- often exceeding client expectations the first time.

Additionally, Michael's outreach in the business community and in academia includes a long-standing association with San Luis Obispo STC, including board membership; Guest Lecturer and Student Liaison/Mentor for the Technical Communications Certification Program at Cal Poly; and past Technical Communications Program Advisory Board Member at De Anza College, Cupertino, CA

Disclaimer, credits, copyrightGet Acrobat ReaderSome articles or linked resources may be in Portable Document Format (PDF). To download the free Acrobat Reader, click the icon at right. To install the Reader, double-click the downloaded file.

Disclaimer and credits