November 3

The Security Catalyst Podcast – Why Virtual Teams Fail (and how to avoid it)


This podcast explores how and why virtual teams fail, based on new research from a group of graduate students at Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business.

My belief is that in order to protect information, we have to support the individual – and make it easier for them to do their job. By learning more about how virtual teams fail, we can learn how to avoid mistakes and build stronger and more effective collaboration opportunities – where people can do their jobs while taking responsibility for protecting information. By absorbing this research, you may also learn how to work more effectively on your own virtual teams.

After our interview, I share the top five things that I learned about nurturing and protecting virtual teams. I invite you to sit back, listen, learn and contribute. I’m happy to keep the conversation going in the security catalyst community.

Background: Bring new knowledge to the field of work team behavior
A group of five graduate students (Robert Darling, Cari Endicott, Lisa Fratino, Matsuno Inoue, and Ellen Snydman) from the Carey Business School of Johns Hopkins University participating in a team building course under the leadership of Dr. Robert Pernick were charged with bringing new knowledge to the field of teaming.

This group elected to research the world of virtual teaming, and in doing so, found that here is a great body of literature on what makes virtual teams successful, but little written about what causes them to fail or become sub-optimized.  The team’s first research effort was to conduct structured interviews with a group of virtual teaming experts.

The experts interviews generally agreed that the success of virtual teams were threatened by:
•    Concerns regarding the ability to protect sensitive information
•    Lack of a single platform that provides all the tools necessary to optimize
•    The struggles of virtual communication
•    Poorly or under-trained users
•    The challenge of building trust  without the use of face-to-face communication

Overall, the experts agreed that all of these obstacles can be overcome and unless combined into the “perfect storm” are not likely to cause catastrophic failure. The experts felt very good about the work that is be done virtually and believe that the use of virtual teams will become even more prevalent into today’s global society.

The second phase of research involved the distribution of a short, online survey about virtual work.  The results of the survey are still be collected, but at this point there seems to be a great deal of overlap with the findings from the subject matter experts.  The podcast you are listening to will explore both elements of the research and will introduce yet another subject matter expert, Stu Snydman, the Manager of Digital Production at the Stanford University Libraries.

This podcast was created and hosted by Michael Santarcangelo and expertly engineered by Steve Witt. Thank, Steve!


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