From the book Virtual Teams Across Cultures: Create Successful Teams Around the World.
By Theresa Sigillito Hollema
Virtual Team Configuration – ‘Taco Sauce Test’
Team configuration, the location of the team members of a virtual team, can have an impact on the collaboration of the team. The Taco Sauce Test helps team leaders reflect on the added complexity due to the configuration. With this information, the team can organize the work and build personal connections to address the configuration challenges. For more information, check out the book Virtual Teams Across Cultures by Theresa Sigillito Hollema.
Download for free the section Configuration of Virtual Teams Across Cultures
Here is a brief example
Isolates: The core of the team is in one location and one or more persons are each in their own locations. Anyone who has ever been an isolate knows how hard it is to get the attention of the core, or to be included in decisions, especially those made by the core during lunch or at the coffee machine. There are, however, two instances when this configuration benefits the team, and this is when the isolate is either a team leader or someone critical to the success of the team. The need to involve these key people propels the team to develop an inclusive process for communication and documentation. Also, these critical isolates can be a counterweight to any groupthink that may be forming.
The Isolate Team Leader
Sometimes what may seem like a disadvantage of a team configuration can turn into an advantage. Over the years, I have followed the career of Tony, Head of E-Commerce at a major Nordic bank, a company that introduced virtual work years ago and now consider it part of their normal way of working. Tony, who is located in Denmark, was either a member or a leader of a hybrid virtual team until he was promoted to lead a team where everyone except Tony was located in Poland. Tony reflected on his experience as an isolate leader.
“For me, the challenge was how can I be close to the team even though I am not sitting there together with them. In the beginning, I had some concerns about this setup. I was afraid that I would be left out. I noticed that the team does not always include me in everything. They solve a lot of issues themselves. If the issues are brought to me, it is because they are facing some challenges they want to discuss, or they have made a decision amongst themselves and they would like to tell me.”
Tony continued his description of the team dynamic, including how well this type of configuration can function: “If they can solve the operational issues, and they discuss it between themselves, they typically don’t inform me. And I am fine with that because it means that they are taking ownership and responsibility. They also told me that they like this trust from my side, to solve issues by themselves first. In the beginning, I was wondering if I am losing something by not being involved, but now I do not have that feeling. Now when they come up with a question, they want to discuss it with me so that I can give them some direction. Based on my knowledge and experience, I can guide them or challenge their thinking. They have told me that they like that and appreciate it. I don’t feel like I am left out.” Tony’s story shows how a team configuration has advantages when compared to co-location, specifically the development and empowerment of the team members in the absence of the leader’s physical presence. His supportive leadership style built the trust and connections for the team to thrive.