Global Risk Report 2014–10 Suggestions for Improving Risk Response


Introduction

The first two parts of the Global Risk Report 2014 deal with processes that are analogous to some of the planning processes of Risk Management used in project management: Plan Risk Management, Identify Risks, and Perform Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis. Part Three of the Global Risk Report 2014 deals with the next process, which is Plan Risk Responses.

The last post dealt with some of the specifics of risk responses for managing catastrophic, global risks.   This post discusses 10 suggestions the Global Risk Report 2014 makes for improving risk responses.

1.  Have firms nominate Chief Risk Officers (CROs)

To show that the formulation of risk responses is a top priority of firms or even national governments, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recommends the establishment of C-level risk officers of CROs to change the short-term focus on quarterly profits into long-term focus on sustainable growth with preparedness for setbacks caused by global risks.

2. Have governments nominate cabinet-level national risk officers

The equivalent to CROs in firms would be a cabinet-level national risk officer, a Secretary of Risk to use the parlance of the US Government.   Financing of risk-financing practices would be done in cooperation with the Secretary of the Treasury, and wargame-type simulations would be done in cooperation with the Secretary of Defense.

3.  Change executive remuneration to contingency bonuses

To change the thinking of executives for a company, rather than rewarding C-level executives for better quarterly performance, have the bonuses be awarded on a more long-term contingency basis.    Will the policies the executives initiate now still be profitable to the company, say, 5 years from now?    This would force them to think beyond their “term of office”, so to speak.

4.   Spread risk-response costs over time

Since the more catastrophic risks are those that will continue to persist for some time, it makes sense to amortize the investments in measures that enhance resilience to those risks over time as well.    This will make the upfront payment for those measures more palatable for senior management.

5.  Negotiate longer-term insurance contracts

In parallel with the technique mentioned in paragraph #4 above, which is predicated on the assumption of risk and the contingency measures to handle them, transferring risk to a third party through insurance can also be used as a risk strategy.   In this case, a firm could negotiate longer-term insurance contracts that have lower premiums to reflect investment in protective measures.   As it says on p. 47 of the Global Risk Report 2014, “If the premium savings exceed the annual costs of a long-term loan to finance the investment, the mitigation measures will be cost-effective and financially attractive to undertake.”

6.  Offer longer-term loans to cover investments in risk resilience

If you are trying to help countries take steps to reduce risks from adverse events, offering longer-term loans to cover investments in resilience to those events would help foster longer-term thinking.    These measures of resilience would include such things as improving building codes to cope with floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

7.  Have risk officers dramatize risk events

Risk officers should learn to communicate not just with abstract statistics, but with methods of communication that relate to people who have other preferences for getting information.   An example in California was the Great California Shakeout held on October 28, 2012, an event which dramatized what might occur doing a major earthquake.   It offered an opportunity for ordinary citizens as well as emergency responders to consider improving their preparedness for a potentially damaging earthquake.

8.  Have risk officers help avoid “risk perception” errors

Most people overemphasize the future probability of occurrence of risks that have recently happened, or those which have great impact on human life and have been extensively covered in the news.    The problem with the latter, for example, is that there is that there is a concomitant underemphasis on risks that are more likely to occur, although they have lesser impact.    Everyone worries about being hurt by buildings or highways that collapse in an earthquake.   But out of those people, how many have emergency water or food rations stored in their house or apartment?   Running out of food and water is a statistically much more likely event to occur than having one’s house fall on you, and yet it is a contingency for which too few people prepare.

9.  Have risk officers use discussion of risks to empower employees

One of the reasons why companies do risk response strategies is so that the management can have peace of mind knowing that there is something that can be done in case a risk occurs.   The same psychology holds true with individuals, so risk officers should take advantage of this and use this as an aid to starting the conversation with all members of a firm about how to take an active part in the mitigation of risk.

10.  Have risk officers use checklists to help firms brainstorm about risks

Identification of risks is as fundamental to the success of a project as identification of the technical requirements of that project’s final product.   And in a similar way, the process of gathering these risks should be parallel to that of gathering requirements:   in needs to be done with as many stakeholders as possible; not just those on the project itself, but by those affected by the project in some way.

Checklists can be a way of breaking down what is a conceptually difficult topic for people such as risk into a form that can cause them to break the topic down into concrete questions that are more easily answered.

These suggestions from the Global Risk Report 2014 are good for any organization that is dealing with global risk, be it a corporation, an academic institution, a non-profit organization, national government, or international organization.

CONCLUSION

This is my final post on the Global Risk Report 2014.   I have written posts about the 2012 and 2013 versions of this report, but this year I have spent three whole weeks on posts covering one end of the report to the other.   I did it for my education, because it is one of the most important documents to come out of the World Economic Forum each year.   I can only hope that some of the readers out there will be interested enough by reading these posts to look up the source document itself, which is at the following web address:

http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-risks-2014-report

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Global Risk Reports 2014–Managing Catastrophic Risks


1.   Introduction

The first two parts of the Global Risk Report 2014 deal with processes that are analogous to some of the planning processes of Risk Management used in project management:  Plan Risk Management, Identify Risks, and Perform Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis.   Part Three of the Global Risk Report 2014 deals with the next process, which is Plan Risk Responses.   In the last post, I talked about general risk response strategies.   A summary of this discussion is contained in the next section.

This post deals with the specifics of risk responses for managing catastrophic, global risks.   Because of the global scale of these risks, any attempt to effective manage such global risks will itself have to be global in scale.

2.  General Risk Strategies

There are four general strategies for dealing with risk, depending on whether they are negative risks (threats) or positive risks (opportunities).  Which strategy to use depends on two factors:  the probability of the risk occurring and the impact that it would have on the project if it were to occur.  For the sake of simplicity, let’s categorize both the probability and impact of a risk into high and low categories.  Then we have the following matrix for negative risks and positive risks:

Probability Impact Strategy (-) Strategy (+)
High High Avoid Exploit
Low High Transfer Share
High Low Mitigate Enhance
Low Low Accept Accept

Let’s take a look at the four general risk response strategies for negative risks avoid, transfer, mitigate, and accept, and discuss how applicable these strategies are for global risks.

3.  Strategies for negative risks or threats

Let’s first discuss the two risk strategies that are the least applicable to global risks.

a.  Avoid

If the probability of occurrence of a particular risk and its potential impact were it to occur are both high, you would normally want to avoid that risk.    Note that the global risks that were considered to be of highest concern in the Global Risk Report 2014, which are contained in the following list, are defined as those that have both the highest probability of occurrence and the highest potential impact if they occur.
# Global Risk Risk Category
1 Fiscal crises in key   economies Economic
2 Structurally high   unemployment/underemployment Economic
3 Water crises Environmental
4 Severe income disparity Economic
5 Failure of climate change   mitigation and adaptation Environmental
6 Greater incidence of   extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, fires) Environmental

If a company is contemplating a project with a risk that has high probability and impact, the avoid strategy may work by avoiding that  project altogether, or at least the portion of the project with that high risk.  For example, an automobile company that has expertise in normal manufacturing processes may outsource the production of a high-risk component, such as an airbag system, to a company that specializes in the manufacture of that type of component.

But when you have risk #6, the greater incidence of extreme weather events on a global scale, for example, how are you supposed to avoid that?   This is why the avoid strategy is impossible for global risks, because they are, by definition, global in scope.

b.  Transfer

Now if a risk is low in probability, but high in potential impact, a strategy that a firm can use is to transfer the risk, or a portion of it, to a third party that specializes in handling risk.   For example, the probability of my getting into a car accident is low (fortunately), but the potential impact to me if my car were to get into an accident could be great, even life-threatening.   Since it doesn’t happen that often, I can pay a certain amount, called a premium, to an insurance company.   The premiums are pooled together (and invested), and if there is an accident, the money to pay for car repair and/or medical bills for any injured people is taken out of this pool.    Insurance companies can even transfer risk to other insurance companies, called reinsurance companies.   For catastrophic risks, governments will have to pay money for the response to disasters, which then spreads the costs across all of the taxpayers.

The problem with a risk like #6 is that the impact may be greater than even reinsurance companies, or perhaps even governments, in the wake of recent fiscal crises, can bear.   So transfer of global risk is the second least desirable risk response strategy.

What then are the best two risk response strategies to take with regards to global, catastrophic risks?

c.  Mitigate

A fourth strategy occurs when either the impact or the probability is high, and that is to mitigate the risk by lowering the probability of it occurring, or reducing the impact on the project if it occurs.   This can be done with the threat of climate change, by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases, for example, which would lower the probability, or the avoidance of giving permits for building projects that come within a certain distance of coastal waters, which would lower the impact of flooding if it were to occur as a consequence of climate change.

This is the best long-term strategy, but because the effects are long-term, persuading governments to forego a portion of short-term economic growth to invest in the reduction of longer-term risk may take persistent, multidirectional dialogue with those governments.

d.   Accept

A shorter-term strategy is to accept the risk, in the sense of accepting the necessity for creating contingency plans for that risk.   Now, these strategies are not mutually exclusive.   You can develop contingency plans for risk, let’s say, of climate change, while at the same time you make efforts to reduce the probability of its occurrence.

In my opinion, to accept and mitigate are the most effective and efficient portfolio of strategies to take regarding global, catastrophic risks.

4.   Public-Private Partnerships for Managing Catastrophic Risks

Any strategy for managing global catastrophic risks will also have to be global in scale, but it will also have to include buy-in from multiple stakeholders:  from the private sector, from non-profit organizations, and from governments in order for it to succeed.

These public-private partnerships will have each sector bring something unique to the table, as is shown in the chart below, with research and development, however, being something to which both sides can contribute.

Public Sector

Private Sector

Disaster management organizational framework Community engagement
Legal protections Innovative business processes
Personnel and training Products and supplies
Research and development Research and development

Like any project, successful public-private partnerships can

  • identify and agree to outcomes and objectives,
  • establish roles and responsibilities,
  • leverage environmental factors that support such partnerships, and
  • mitigate any environmental barriers to the successful implementation of such partnerships.

As it says on p. 45 of the report, “The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Catastrophic Risks works to codify and articulate such leading practices about how public-private partnerships can work.

A cultural shift is under way, out of necessity, towards the creation of public-private partnerships to address catastrophic risks.  Analyzing the establishment and operations of these partnerships, as well as the effective use of the partners’ collective capabilities, is a vital step towards strengthening communal security and resilience.”

5.  Conclusion

Managing global, catastrophic risks may seem a daunting task, and people may think, “well, I’m just a drop in a limitless ocean of humanity, what can I do?”  To quote from the movie Cloud Atlas, “yes, but what is the ocean but a multitude of drops?”

There really is no alternative to facing these risks.   As the final words of the protagonist in the 1936 movie “Things to Come” says while pointing to the stars, “for man, there is no rest and no ending.  He must go on—conquest beyond conquest. . . If we’re no more than animals—we must snatch at our little scraps of happiness and live and suffer and pass, mattering no more… All the universe—or nothingness… Which shall it be?”

If we refuse to manage these risks, particularly the threat of global climate change, our children and grandchildren may be facing the specter of nothingness.    The choice is clear.

Global Risk Report 2014–Risk Response Strategies


1.   Introduction

The first two parts of the Global Risk Report 2014 deal with processes that are analogous to some of the planning processes of Risk Management used in project management:  Plan Risk Management, Identify Risks, and Perform Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis.   Part Three of the Global Risk Report 2014 deals with the next process, which is Plan Risk Responses.

2.  General Risk Strategies

There are four general strategies for dealing with risk, depending on whether they are negative risks (threats) or positive risks (opportunities).  Which strategy to use depends on two factors:  the probability of the risk occurring and the impact that it would have on the project if it were to occur.  For the sake of simplicity, let’s categorize both the probability and impact of a risk into high and low categories.  Then we have the following matrix for negative risks and positive risks:

Probability Impact Strategy (-) Strategy (+)
High High Avoid Exploit
Low High Transfer Share
High Low Mitigate Enhance
Low Low Accept Accept

3.  Strategies for negative risks or threats

a.  Accept

As can be seen, if the risk is low in terms of probability and impact, you can simply accept it.   Accepting a risk does not mean ignoring it:  risks in these categories that are accepted are put in a watch list.   During the course of the project, this watch list should be reviewed to see if the probability and/or impact of the risk has increased.

b.  Avoid

On the opposite end of the scale, if the probability and impact are high, you should so all you can to avoid that risk.    Some ways of avoiding risk are by clarifying requirements so that the potentially high-risk portions of the scope are excluded, or if the risk is to the schedule, by extending the schedule.

c.  Transfer

Now, if the impact is high and the probability is low, you may want to transfer  the risk to a third party.    Examples in the case of manufacturing would include the purchasing of product liability insurance or, if the risk has to do with a certain component, outsourcing the manufacturing of that component to a company that is better equipped to handle it.

d.  Mitigate

A fourth strategy occurs when either the impact or the probability is high, and that is to mitigate the risk by lowering the probability of it occurring, or reducing the impact on the project if it occurs.

4.   Additional Risk Strategies

Besides the basic four strategies listed above, there are more specific strategies that are mentioned in the Global Risk Report.    Most of these are for the reduction of the potential impact of a risk if it were to occur, so they can be considered specific examples of the general “mitigate” strategy listed above.

Risk Strategy Explanation
Accountability Measures Finding ways to incentivize individual employees   not to cut corners in ways that would normally be undetectable but would   increase a firm’s vulnerability in a crisis, such as failing to maintain   back-ups. Some firms hire external consultants to assess how effectively they   are mitigating risks identified as priorities.
Supply-chain Diversification Sourcing supplies and raw materials from   multiple providers in different locations to minimize disruption if one link   in the supply chain is broken. Another hedge against sudden unavailability of   inputs is to maintain an excess inventory of finished products.
Early-Warming Systems Some firms employ their own teams to scan for   specific risks that may be brewing, from political crises, for example, to   storms off the coast of Africa that may become hurricanes in the US in the   next fortnight.
Simulations and tabletop exercises Many firms simulate crisis situations; for   example, by making critical staff unexpectedly unavailable and assessing how   other employees cope. Such exercises can capture lessons to be integrated   into the risk-management strategy.
Back-up sites Many firms are set up so that if one or more   factory or office becomes unusable, others are quickly able to assume the   same functions.

5.  CONCLUSION

This gives an example of the kind of risk response thinking that firms use in project management and in enterprise-level risk management.   These principles must be adapted to global risks, and the next post will give examples of risk response strategies discussed in the Global Risk Report 2014.

 

Happy 60th Birthday, Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club!


In February 1954, a new chapter of the Toastmasters International Club called the Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club became club #1451.   This club in the south suburbs of Chicago is now 60 years old, and our club is celebrating tonight at an Open House!

The club is undergoing a renaissance, as we have increased our membership from 18 members to 22 members, and we are regularly sending representatives to the Area Speech Contests held once in the Spring and once in the Fall.

Our membership is not at present what you might call a “seasoned club” in that have no Distinguished Toastmasters, although I hope to have that distinction at the end of the next Toastmasters Club year.

What makes the event poignant is that earlier today, I attended a meeting of another club, the Richton Park Toastmasters Club, that had its first “demonstration” meeting.   I am a sponsor of that club, and the response we got was so enthusiastic that we may end up chartering it as a new club within a month.   So seeing a new club be born on the same day that we celebrate the “ripe old age” of my home club is a really momentous occasion.

I hope to add additional new clubs in the course of my Toastmasters career, and to contribute beyond my individual home club.   I plan to become Area Governor, and eventually get involved at the Division, District level and beyond!

I celebrate the two things that the Toastmasters International organization has given me:   the gift of being able to communicate and being able to lead.  It’s the best professional development club for the price, and I will never get tired of promoting it to others!

 

Global Risk Report 2014–Risks and Trends to Watch


1.  Introduction

As mentioned in an earlier post, the list of global risks that were used as the basis for the survey of respondents has undergone changes in the past few versions of the Global Risk Report conducted by the World Economic Forum.

At first, 25 risks were used, but this was expanded to 50 risks in 2012 and 2013.   In 2014, this list was pared down to 31 global risks in five categories:  economic, societal, geopolitical, environmental, and technological.

However, when the respondents were given the list of 31 global risks, they were asked to contribute risks which they felt needed to be paid attention to but which had not been included on the list.   These are risks which need to be watched because they are gaining in probability due to recent trends.   In previous editions of the report, these were called “X factors”, which I always liked because it reminded me of the old TV show of similar name.   But they’ve dropped that title in the 2014 edition and have just labeled them “Risks and Trends to Watch.”

Forgetting about what you call them for a moment, the important thing is to give these “runner-ups” a brief look.   I recognize some of these risks from recent science fiction novels I have read that explore the impact of these potential risks.   That would be worth a post in itself to list the science fiction novels that go with each risk.   But for now, I will just present the risk.

2.  Risks and Trends to Watch

Category Risks to Watch
Economic Volatility in asset prices

Rising government debt

Rise of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies

Societal Burden of an aging population

Unmanaged migrations flows

Decline of trust in institutions

Persistent gender inequalities

Ideological polarization (religious, political)

Civil wars

Youth unemployment and lack of access to education

Obesity epidemic

Environmental Plastic waste pollution

Endocrine disruptors in the environment

Environmental impact of fracking

Technological Data mismanagement

Loss of privacy/Increase in surveillance

Toxicity of nanomaterials

Impact of 3-D printing

Widespread use of drones

Accidents involving synthetic biology

A couple things to note.   First of all, the list of economic risks are all related to the idea that interest rates may rise as a consequence of the fiscal crises many governments have been undergoing.

Also, the one category of risks that were not included were geopolitical risks, so the respondents thought at least that category was well-represented by the existing 31 global risks listed in the Global Risk Report 2014.

Now that we have covered all of the 31 global risks, analyzed them both qualitatively and quantitatively, and created a “watch list” of risks that are not at the top list of risks of greatest concern, but may be in the future, it is time to turn our attention in the next post to a real important question:  How do we craft risk responses to these global risks?

Integral Life Practice–Chapter 5: The Mind Module


The purpose of the Mind Module is to introduce you to practices which expand your capability to take different perspectives, and to provide a mental framework to organize them.

Let’s start with the mental framework of Integral Theory, which is summarized in the shortened acronym AQAL, which stands for:

  • all quadrants
  • all levels
  • all lines
  • all states
  • all types

Let’s go through each of these five elements of AQAL.

1.  All Quadrants

There are two simple distinctions you can make when dividing experiences up into different types of phenomena:

Interiors (thoughts, feelings, meanings, meditative experiences) vs.

Exteriors (atoms, brains, bodies, and behaviors)

AND

Individuals (each with its own distinct form and experience) vs.

Collectives (which interact together to form groups and/or systems)

When you combine these two distinctions, you end up with four dimensions which are summarized in the four quadrants below:

Interior-Individual

“I” Space

Intentions

Exterior-Individual

“WE” Space

Behaviors

Interior-Collective

“IT” Space

Cultures

Exterior-Collective

“ITS” Space

Social Structures

Let’s take an example of how you can look at any problem from any or all of these four perspectives.   Suppose you want to discuss the problem of obesity in America, to come up with a solution.  You could point to the problem that people need to have greater will power when it comes to eating snacks, etc., that cause their obesity.   That would be a problem of “intentions”, something from the Upper Left quadrant.

Now someone could say that the problem is with behaviors that contribute to obesity, such as eating after 9 PM.   That would be a problem from the Upper Right quadrant.

A third person could say that the problem is with our culture that promotes obesity by emphasizing quantity over quality when it comes to portions at restaurants.   That would be a problem from the Lower Left quadrant.

Finally, a fourth person could say the problem is with our government that subsidizes companies that produce junk foods.   This is a problem with our social structures, and is a problem from the Lower Right quadrant.

ALL of these are problems, of course, and recognizing that they each stem from a different perspective is an important mental capacity to have if you are going to attempt to solve a multi-faceted problem like this.

2.  All Levels or All Stages

For any line of development, there are various levels or stages that represent the “altitude of consciousness”, if you will, along that line.

Let’s take an example of moral development.   The four stages are

 

Developmental  Stage

Focus of Concern
1. Pre-conventional Egocentric Self
2. Conventional Ethnocentric Clan, tribe, or nation
3. Post-conventional Worldcentric All people
4. Global Kosmocentric All sentient beings

One starts out as an infant in the pre-conventional or egocentric stage caring about only oneself and one’s immediate needs.   Later on, the infant begins to care about others in his or her own family, and then larger and larger groups in the conventional or ethnocentric stage.   In this conventional moral stage, compassion is reserved only for those in one’s own ethnic group, and enmity is reserved for those outside of one’s group.   The post-conventional or worldcentric stage has one eventually including all human beings in the circle of one’s concern, and the final stage includes all sentient beings, i.e., all life on the planet.   Here are some principles behind evolution from one stage to the next:

  • It takes time to go from one stage or level to the next.
  • It takes effort to go from one stage or level to the next; progress is not automatic, and some do not evolve beyond a certain level and remain stuck at that level.
  • Stages or levels are attained in order; no stage or level is skipped.

In communicating to people, you need to determine what stage or level they are at in order to tailor your communication to be effective.   If I am trying to convince you of the necessity to take measures against global warming, I will get nowhere by trying to evoke your sympathy for the increasing lack of biodiversity (due to various species dying off) if you are at the conventional stage of morality.   I will get nowhere by trying to evoke your sympathy for the suffering to be borne by generations to come if you are at the egocentric stage of morality.

3.  All Lines

Each human being goes through several lines of development.   There is the obvious physical development as one goes from being an infant to an adult.  But there is cognitive development, moral development, emotional development, etc.   One of the more popular comedy shows on television is The Big Bang Theory.   In this comedy, a genius-level physicist named Sheldon is extremely highly developed cognitively, but he remains emotionally and morally on the level of a child.   He and his physicist roommate Leonard interact with their neighbor Penny, who is cognitively on an average level, but who is very savvy when it comes to emotional and interpersonal development.   This mismatch between lines of development is what forms the basis for a lot of the comedy on the show.

4.  All States

States are temporary, changing levels of consciousness.   Sometimes people can receive “heightened” states of awareness that may shock them out of their complacency, but any permanent change in consciousness requires one to go through the slow, steady development mentioned in the paragraph above on “All Levels or All Stages”.   This is why when people go on retreats for weekends to seminars or workshops on spiritual topics, then can sometimes experience temporary states of heightened awareness, but can also be disappointed afterwards when they return to their normal lives and that state disappears.   They have left that state of consciousness, and are back at the same stage of consciousness they were in before the weekend retreat started.

However, these heightened states can motivate and inspire people to put in the effort and work required to go to the next stage or level in their development, so they are beneficial from that standpoint.

5.  All Types

Within each line of development, there are horizontal differences, that is, differences within each line, that divide people into different types.   The most common type experienced by all people is the difference between men and women.   Another more complicated typology that divides people into 16 groups is the Myers-Briggs typology, a combination of 4 dimensions.

The 4 Dimensions of

Myers-Briggs

Extraversion (E)

(I) Introversion

Sensing (S)

(N) Intuition

Thinking (T)

(F) Feeling

Judging (J)

(P) Perception

Understanding your own typology in Myers-Briggs (mine is INTJ, for example), and those on your team, is important for becoming an effective leader.

6.  CONCLUSION

Knowing these five elements of Integral Theory is important because it is essentially a map of consciousness which can be used to understand how to communicate to others who are in different places than you are on that map.

 

 

 

Conducting Effective Meetings for Virtual Teams


This is a webinar that was presented by Project Insight on February 12th, 2014.

1. Introduction—PM Fundamentals Series
Project Insight is bringing a series of webinars on various topics of interest to project managers. The goal of this PM Fundamentals series is to:
• Deepen your understanding of fundamental project management concepts
• Identify tools and techniques that can be implemented in order to manage projects more effectively
• Discover practical applications for the concepts presented in the series
The series is introduced by Janelle Abaoag from Project Insight. She presents some of the webinars in the series, but today’s presentation was presented by Dr. Patty Malone, Ph.D. For more information about Project Insight, contact Janelle at Janelle.Abaoag@projectinsight.net. For information about Dr. Patty Malone, go to her website at http://www.drpattymalone.com.

2. Obstacles in Creating Effective Virtual Meetings
The biggest obstacle to creating virtual teams is failing to build team relationships. Some of the symptoms of the lack of team-building that show up in virtual meetings are the following.
• Participants are multi-tasking or zoning out
• Topics discussed are not on the agenda
• Different cultures and languages create misunderstandings
• Attendees don’t understand why they are attending
Regarding the last point, this is a fundamental problem. Does everyone need to be there? People often complain that there are so many meetings, and they are so long, that they can’t get any of their regular work done. Could the entire meeting, or portions of it, be replaced with an e-mail. Rather than having a round-robin, “tell me about the status of your work on the project” type of meeting, couldn’t this be circulated before the meeting, so that the meeting can focus instead on solving problems? Every time person A tells about their status, it DOESN’T INVOLVE ANYBODY ELSE. The others have to just sit there and listen, which is why people get bored and start checking their e-mail, sports scores, etc. However, with the focus on solving problems and getting everyone’s input towards the solution, EVERYONE is involved.

3. Effective Meetings
What are the elements of an effective face-to-face meeting in general?
• Develop ground rules or guidelines (post them on website for company). During a meeting, make sure cellphone is off, return messages afterwards, not during meeting
• Clear agenda—this keeps the meeting on topic and on time
• Outcome driven—should be stated at the outset of the meeting
• Use good interpersonal communication skills to bring the meeting back on topic or to table discussion if it off topic
• Address issues, not personalities
• Don’t bring conflict into a meeting; deal with personality issues OUTSIDE of meeting
• Watch out for non-verbals (e.g., rolling eyes, arms crossed over chest)
• Don’t get defensive—if someone says something criticizing your idea, don’t give in to the first impulse be to be defensive—listen to the other side thoroughly first
• Praise participants: recognize contributions since last meeting
• End meeting on a summary and a high note
• Review meeting afterwards: what worked well, what didn’t (create both “lessons learned” and “best practices” list)

4. Problems with Virtual Meetings …
Many of the same rules for effective meetings listed in paragraph 3 above also apply to Virtual Meetings. However, Virtual Meetings create their own problems.
Basically, any problems in communication that you might have with face-to-face (F2F) meetings are magnified in virtual meetings. Communication skills become more important, because there are increased chances for misinterpretation or misunderstanding.
Part of the problem with virtual meetings, is that there is lack of social infrastructure, the glue that holds the team together. Since virtual teams don’t get a chance to know each other, chances are increased that misunderstandings will occur during meetings.
Multi-tasking is another problem during virtual meetings. Here’s what people are doing:
• Side-conversations: 72%
• Checking e-mail: 64%
• Zoning-out: 54%
• Checking sports scores: 51%
• Leaving room (for remote members who are working from home): 41%

5. … and How to Solve Them!
How to increase engagement in meetings to prevent such multi-tasking? First of all, remember that attention span is 10 minutes AT MAXIMUM during virtual meetings. Break up any information dissemination or discussion into segments of 10 minutes. Have questions, brainstorming, polling, or other mini-activities that encourage collaboration and group participation. .
Ask for individual input from all members of a group may seem time-consuming, but it has good ROI, because it gives trust and buy-in from all members. Even if the group decides against their suggestion, at least their suggestion was heard and considered by the group.
NOTE: If you have training, a combined F2F and virtual TRAINING environment does not work out well, it’s best to split it into a completely virtual and a complete F2F environment.
Label emotions, say you are excited, puzzled, etc., so people can know what your reaction is without the benefit of seeing your face to read the emotions from your expression.
Explain pauses so people don’t think there is a technological problem: “so-and-so is pulling up the numbers, etc.”.
Acknowledge & show appreciation to those who participate.
Listening is more important than ever, and SHOWING you are listening by answering questions or repeating something for clarification is important, rather than just saying, “uh-huh” and nodding your head.
Be aware of dangers of misperceptions and miscommunication. Using slang expressions or telling jokes that depend on word play in a multicultural or multilingual setting can create misunderstandings.
Be responsible for your own engagement. If you are only virtually connected to people from main office, you take the initiative to get involved.

6. Building Virtual Relationships: A Matter of Trust
With telephones and computers as substitute for F2F, what is the driver for success in having virtual teams? One word: TRUST. It’s harder to BUILD trust with Virtual team members, and easier to BREAK.
What are behaviors associated with building trust and breaking virtual teams?
• Not following through—not completing by deadline or not completing at all
• Betraying confidence.
• Not responding to e-mails
• Not sharing enough information: a “need-to-know” policy does not build trust.
It starts with you as leader: GIVE TRUST TO GET TRUST. First, you need to give trust to your team members, by not being a micro-manager, and trust that people will get things done. Start by trusting YOURSELF, then trust your team members.
Lack of communication and interaction erodes trust. Keep people in the loop, having people get enough information as possible.
Be accessible and responsive. With virtual team members, it is important to respond quickly. Get back to virtual team members as soon as possible.
Replicate F2F communication as close as you can.
A lot of companies are using Skype or WebEx, or you can meet people one-on-one before the meeting.
NOTE: this system is called “nemawashi” in Japan and is very effective.
Eliminate blaming: give others benefit of doubt (somebody may be having a bad day)
Give credit & promote your team to others
Be honest & admit mistakes.
Follow through: do what you say, WHEN you say you are going to do it
Ask for team member’s opinions and incorporate them in decision-making process.
Even if you don’t think something is a good idea, express appreciation for the person expressing that, if you disagree, explain why.

7. Developing Leadership
Lead by example & be consistent, inconsistent communication is the biggest problem, when not everybody is involved and the leader is doing all of the communication.
Watch alienating language, people in home office saying “those people” or “the remotes”. Open information sharing, as much as possible to include everybody.
NOTE: When I was working in a Japanese company, the standard joke among American staff was that Japanese give information to the American staff on a “need-to-know” basis, meaning that if you’re an American, you don’t need to know.
Develop shared accountability system!! Who is accountable for each action item, and when is it due. This should be clarified in the meeting and memorialized, and circulated to all meeting participants.
Rotate leadership of meeting. This helps build camaraderie between leader and team members, and between team members. Have team members work together on little projects.
Hold regular one-on-one meetings with each team members. Determine preferences each person has for methods of communication. Some people prefer face-to-face, Skype, etc. create matrix for preferences.

8. Q&A
How do you get silent people to participate?
Call on them by name, ask them FIRST, ask them for information, not “YES/NO.” Have them give their opinion FIRST before the others. Likewise, if you have someone who overshares and loves the sound of their own voice, call on them LAST.

What are some ways of building virtual relationships outside of meetings?
There is a handout on Dr. Malone’s website on ideas for building virtual relationships–check it out on the website http://www.drpattymalone.com.
Some of these ideas are:
Virtual coffee hours, happy hours, parties. Fun activities, such as having people take picture of the work space and guess whose it is.

How to handle sidebar conversations?
Create “best practices” list for meetings. Make this one ground rule that facilitator will stop the meeting to stop sidebar conversations if necessary. No one wants to be the one to keep the meeting longer than it has to be.

What if virtual team members do not know each other?
Invest time to develop personal relationships. Build in time in meetings at beginning or end for things that build camaraderie. Have a happy hour or social virtual meetings once and a while, like the 5th Friday (happens 4 times a year). Use this to award cash prize for best idea, or contribution of the week/month. Create a virtual birthday party .
Develop a team website, with bios, personal information. Use social media S=such as Yammer. Use time for acknowledgements of team members.
What about language barriers on virtual teams?

You may need a translator, but ask people to repeat questions, speak slowly, and not use slang expressions.
NOTE: Give incentives to those who want to learn foreign languages or other participants through Rosetta Stone, etc.

How do you combat dealing with negative person on a virtual team?
One good approach is to have team member to have leader discuss the behavior outside of the meeting.
9. SUMMARY
Successful virtual teams do the following:
–Focus on building relationships and community
–Create climate of trust
–Communicate clearly and meaningfully with each other
–Internalize team/company mission
–Recognize interdependence to achieve objectives
–Create positive work environment
Just remember: Teamwork is the fuel which allows common people to achieve uncommon results!