Virtual Operations Development
by Mark Sivy
Most of us probably haven’t thought much about being in an era where virtual organization operations play a major role in our daily work activities and we likely haven’t received any special development assisting us in being successful with it. But it does and we should.
A Perspective on Virtual Organization Operations
Virtual organization operations have existed since individuals have communicated and coordinated efforts when being at different locations. Prior to the advent of electronics, some of the earliest methods of contact have been through the use of mirrors (heliographs), smoke signals, drums, and flags (semaphore). As we moved into the 19th Century, organizations began using electronically-mediated services including the telegraph, fax machine, and telephone. Coming into the 20th Century, virtual operations were facilitated by the advent of radio, television, and eventually the Internet. Currently the use of Internet-based communication and collaboration tools for virtual operations is increasingly being integrated into work cultures and the use of these tools has become as much an art as it is a science.
Typically, a virtual work group represents a broad pool of shared skills, knowledge and experiences that are networked via digital communication and collaboration technologies to achieve a common outcome such as an event, service or product. The technologies involved address the barriers of time and distance, enabling an organization to leverage collective innovation, creativity, and synergy.
Virtual Organization Operations in Practice
So where does this leave us as practitioners of virtual organization operations? Well, this practice actually involves a huge range of activities from something as simple as two work colleagues in different parts of a country talking on the phone to plan a conference presentation to a corporation’s globally distributed team working together to develop a new product line. Since you’re reading this blog, I would say that it is very likely that within the past 24 hours you’ve engaged in some form of basic virtual operation whether you’ve placed an online order with Staples or Amazon for merchandise, collaborated on a work document on Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox, or used social media such as Twitter or Google+ to plan a social gathering.
So What’s the Challenge in Organization Talent Development?
With all of these common examples of how one might accomplish virtual operations with relative ease, you might be thinking this isn’t rocket science. In part that is correct. Some of the everyday tools that are used for many virtual tasks are linear or have been created for end-user simplicity. However, when it comes to mission critical, dynamic, and interactive virtual operations that involve interactions between diverse distributed team members, it becomes much more complex. Working in this type of networked environment requires specialized knowledge and skills that enable people to communicate effectively and function efficiently when separated by geographic distances.
The Challenge in a Nutshell
Most of us are unknowingly dependent on gaining much of our communicated information and understanding from in-person body language. In a seminal study, Mehrabian and Ferris (1967) discovered that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual words stated. So depending on the form of communication, as much as 93% of face-to-face communication content could be lost in communicating with others at-a-distance. We can only partially compensate for this, but it is important that we do, otherwise serious misunderstandings, mistakes, and failure can result. This is where unified talent development comes into play.
In future posts, this development topic will be explored in more depth using the concepts of presence, emotional intelligence, transactional distance theory, and social constructivism.
Reflection Point – The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. ~ Peter F. Drucker
MEHRABIAN, A., & FERRIS, S. R. (1967). INFERENCE OF ATTITUDES FROM NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IN TWO CHANNELS. Journal Of Consulting Psychology, 31(3), 248-252. doi:10.1037/h0024648