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Go (Dispersed) Team, Go!

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Another plenary session of that first day of the conference got equally rave reviews as the first from the audience members I spoke with at lunch. Dr. Martin Hoegl, a well-known expert in teaming, talked about optimum team size and how well remote teams do versus localized teams.

Did you know someone did a teaming study using tug-of-war? It turns out in this sport, and in project teams, less is more. After a tug-of-war team gets more than four members, the amount of effort put out by each team member goes down. "It's just human nature," Dr. Hoegl said. "People think there are lots of others on the team, so they can work less."

And stairs make a difference. Dr. Hoegl's research has shown that teams on the same floor do better than those with members separated by even one story in a building!

Dr. Hoegl's study showed dispersed teams have better outcomes (higher quality and more efficiency) than local teams if their quality of teamwork is high, but dispersed teams do much worse than co-located teams if their teamwork quality is low.

The take-aways from this research for organizations: Office layout matters (keep teams on the same floor); and for virutal team members, recruit and develop those who have good intercultural skills, great self-leadership skills, and consistent skills with other team members to enable shared leadership. And try to foster a global culture.

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