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A framework for Managing Successful Distributed Collaborative Teams

In this presentation we will share our experiences and learnings from creating high performing cross-institutional collaborative teams. The authors of this paper have both had significant experience in creating and leading highly successful collaborative teams made up of members from multiple institutions, such is the nature of programs of work they’ve been involved with. In this talk we will discuss methods and strategies for building a culture of success, and advice for achieving best possible project outcomes.

There is increasing evidence of the benefits of distributed and collaborative teams(1)(2). Benefits include access to diverse talent, skills sharing, decreased staffing costs, improved productivity and better employee satisfaction. The ability to utilise distributed teams has become easier due to modern technologies that enable and equip these teams(3).

Increasingly, within the higher education sector diverse teams are required to deliver services over disparate campuses and across institutions. These teams are often multidisciplinary and have specialised skill sets (such as marketing, development and change management). Furthermore, these teams may not reside under a traditional single line management structure or within the same institution.

These challenges require a collaborative culture to achieve success outside of the traditional project management structure. These include establishing shared ownership of success and failures, providing clear direction, goal setting and allowing sharing of knowledge and outputs in a distributed environment. Whilst the development of collaborative environments has been made easier with the use of technology it still requires leadership in setting the culture.

This presentation will present a framework that details the functions required in developing a collaborative culture. In particular it will look at approaches such as investment in physical meetings, open and transparent planning and decision making, collaboration technologies and recognising effort and their role in achieving success. The framework will be set in a practical context with examples provided from the presenters’ experience of developing and successfully implementing multiple national cross institutional projects in the fields of users support and ecoscience application development.

(1) L. Plotnick, S. R. Hiltz and R. Privman, “Ingroup Dynamics and Perceived Effectiveness of Partially Distributed Teams,” in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, vol. 59, no. 3, pp. 203-229, Sept. 2016.
doi: 10.1109/TPC.2016.2583258

(2) Håkonsson, D. D., Obel, B., Eskildsen, J. K., & Burton, R. M. (2016). On Cooperative Behavior in Distributed Teams: The Influence of Organizational Design, Media Richness, Social Interaction, and Interaction Adaptation. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 692.

(3) Bell, B.S., Kozlowski, S.W.J. A typology of virtual teams: Implications for effective leadership
(2002) Group and Organization Management, 27 (1), pp. 14-49.
DOI: 10.1177/1059601102027001003