Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blogging as a Virtual Leadership Tool

As more and more organizations focus on collaboration they also find themselves working in virtual environments. It is critical, therefore, for managers and/or group leaders to make use of blogs to establish strong and effective teams built for high-performance. Using an actual case study I will exhibit how blogging could have enhanced virtual team performance.
Working in a virtual environment I have experienced many of the challenges that are often associated with such collaboration. It’s such a new world for organizations where leaders and members of the team have no choice but to utilize a trial and error process that often leads to frustration for team members and poor performance of the team. In a course I am taking on Leading in a Virtual Environment we are discussing a case study that I have outlined in the next paragraph. Although the consensus is that this team was mostly successful, I believe that their performance would have been greatly enhanced had they created a group blog as the central component for communication and documentation.
Case Study Overview
“Teams who quickly can define the expertise of the team members, define work practices, and demonstrate adherence to team norms can build a trusting environment that overcomes the lack of past history and lack of face-to-face interactions” (French, 2009, p. 45). This statement supports the model promoted in the chapter of our textbook (Peters, 2008, p. 107) which precedes the case study I want to discuss – a model that emphasizes what is needed in order to ensure high performance for their virtual team: trust, shared understanding, and depth of relationship. My goal is to emphasize how creating and managing a team blog will help meet these requirements, but first an overview of the case study itself. This nine-member team was organized to determine which technological improvements would increase the effectiveness of the sales team for this organization. The team never met face-to-face and few of the members had every met previously. The work was demanding and required everyone’s participation. In preparation for the “kick-off” conference call, the project sponsors and co-leaders got together to discuss the project and create a detailed PowerPoint presentation where they would introduce each team member, review objectives, etc. The conference call itself was long and allowed time for all members to give input and ended with the assignment of tasks and due dates. The member who is quoted in the case study states that the team was successful and identifies “clear direction from the top” and “close collaboration between co-leaders and several team members” as the reason for the positive performance of the team. Email is mentioned as the form of communication between members and although this team member considers the team as having been successful I believe that utilizing a blog instead of email as the primary tool for communication would have been useful. Malhotra and Majchrzak (as cited in French, 2009) “warn against the use of email as the primary electronic media and recommend a full suite of technologies be made available to teams” (p. 47). Instead, French (2009) suggests organizations create a “virtual workspace” (p. 47) and continues to list some technologies that would be beneficial, “. . . expand upon the use of email and telephones to include video conferencing, electronic whiteboards, instant messaging, team calendars, document repositories with version control and comment records, and electronic routing of documents” (p. 47). By customizing a group project blog many of these items can be addressed in one virtual space!
Trust, Shared Understanding, and Depth of Relationship
The key ingredients to establishing the solid foundation as referenced in the textbook mentioned earlier are interdependent items: trust, shared understanding, and depth of relationship - with trust being the most critical for successful, high performing teams. The importance for members to develop personal relationships and to effectively communicate with one another poses a great challenge for virtual teams since there is no face-to-face or social interaction but in order to trust and collaborate it’s essential. French (2009) displayed a chart listing the challenges faced by virtual leaders and the top 4 items listed were: ability to gel as a team, people skills, communication, and trust (p. 97) supporting this conclusion. By using a group blog this situation could be greatly improved in a number of ways:
1.      Community – members will immediately feel like a part of the group and can view the other member’s profiles, which would list not only their professional bio, accomplishments, and expertise but also include some personal information including their photo. Not only will each member be able to appreciate other member’s role but they will have an idea of other’s perspectives based on their experience and lifestyle. Including a statement in each member’s profile from the organization referencing that member’s role and reason for selection ensures a clear understanding of roles
2.      Trust – cognitive and institutional trust is more immediate due to two factors: 1 – expertise and previous experience listed in each member’s profile; 2 – organization’s selection of each individual member
3.      Progress – Andrea Doucet states, “I blog not in addition to what I do, but as part of what I do” (2012). Members should do the same throughout the project, creating posts regarding steps in their part of the process as well as discussing issues, posting questions, updates regarding decisions, etc. The open forum structure of the blog enables members to dialogue and keeps a running record of the discussion. Managers or leaders who otherwise have no good way of checking in with members and / or viewing progress will be kept up to speed without disrupting the work flow with too many conference calls or meeting updates. As members engage with one another relationships will develop and a shared understanding is reaffirmed due to the virtual workspace shared by all members.
The case study mentions that one member of their team didn’t have a very good reputation as a team player and therefore had to earn the trust throughout the project … this type of monitoring would have been very difficult since the case study team (and thereby the co-leaders) used email as their primary form of communication. Had the organization used a blog, however, they would have instant access to the collaboration between this member and others on the team reducing stress for the co-leaders and ensuring that the team was collaborating successfully.
            As virtual collaboration becomes the new normal for organizations it is important to identify the challenges this new environment creates and identify the best processes to implement in order to improve the performance and success of virtual teams. It wasn’t long ago that email was the preferred method of communication but it just makes more sense to utilize a more cohesive tool like a blog instead. In a discussion of blogging in reference to student collaboration, Halic, et al (2010) references “collaborative constuctivism” and states:
Collaborative constructivism moves sense of belonging into online and blended environments. Garrison and Akyol (as cited in Halic, et al, 2010) pointed out that collaboration through use of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, “goes beyond simple interaction in the sense that it is clearly focuses on a problem or dilemma where students are deeply engaged in purposeful discourse to construct meaning and collaboratively share meaning and validate understanding”. (p23)
Although the above is in reference to students collaborating in a virtual environment, the same applies to organizations and supports my conclusion that utilizing a blog would be useful and improve the collaborative efforts of any virtual team.


Doucet, Andrea. (2012). Scholarly Reflections on Blogging: Once a Tortoise, Never a Hare –
Advice. The Chronicle of Higher Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept.
< on/130191/>.     
French, P. A. (2009). Virtual organizations: A grounded theory model to
be used in the development and implementation of virtual teams. Argosy
University/Washington DC). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Retrieved from (892741908).
Halic, Olivia, Lee, Debra, Paulus, Trena, & Spence, Marsha (2010). To blog or not to blog:
Student perceptions of blog effectiveness for learning in a college-level course. The
Internet and Higher Education. 206-218.
Peters, Linda M.L., and Manz, Charles C. (2008)."Getting Virtual Teams Right the First Time."
The handbook of high-performance virtual teams: a toolkit for collaborating across
boundaries. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 105-129. Print.


  1. Outstanding ! Very comprehensive and models the use.

  2. Great blog, Kathleen. You have a knack for this. I also enjoyed reading your bio information. We share similar experiences.

  3. Thanks Vicki!
    I plan on keeping up with the blog and posting about the topics in my courses and see how it goes. I think it will provide a great library where I can catalog my work at the very least. I love to write but have found recently that I also enjoy research so this is a good tool for me :)

  4. Virtual leadership is a new term for new circumstances. Companies that is responsible for the myth that virtual teaming is business as usual, just on a distributed scale.Nice blog. Thanks for the post!!!