The Leading Virtually Digest, January 24, 2009

connected

What:  CNN.com numbers about how people connected to the inauguration of President Obama.
Posts to which it is related:  What President Obama Teaches Us for Leading Virtually
Bottom line:  The numbers are staggering, and that’s a good sign by my reckoning.  There are two things that I took away from this article. First, not only are massive number of people all over the world taking an interest (and an optimistic outlook) in Obama’s presidency, but they are also using newer technologies to stay connected.   Considering these numbers, it probably is crucial that President Obama is showing signs of being a connected President.  He changed the way campaigns are being run by effectively using technologies that connect people, and I’m hopeful he will do the same to conduct his Presidential work.  If his mantra is that we are all responsible for the work that the United States needs to do, it’s important that we can connect and collaborate.  This represents an important change from a hierarchical and need-to-know approach to government, moving towards a system that is flatter and more like a grassroots movement (like community organizing??).  All the lessons of a virtual team apply to this new form of governance. The second thing I took away from this article is our ability to quickly learn about what people are up to or what is happening to them by looking up Internet statistics (see Google Flu Trends as a related example). This can be an extremely important source of information for a leader who wants to keep her/his finger on the pulse of those being led from a distance.

What:  LA Times opinion piece by John Podesta about WHY President Obama wants to keep his Blackberry.
Post to which it is related: Improving Virtual Team Leadership Using Technology
Bottom line:  Podesta was a co-chair of Obama’s transition team, and he points out how important it is for Obama to keep in touch not only with his inner circle, but also with old friends and colleagues, or even the average American.  In organizational behavior, there is a theory that says leaders have an in-group and an out-group, and that relationships between leader and team member are much richer for the in-group than for the out-group.  In theory, outcomes for the in-group are better too, probably because they are given more resources (attention, time, guidance) from the leader.  It seems like an important message from one of Obama’s top transition team members to say that the new President is keeping his Blackberry – he is using technology to expand his in-group and keep it as inclusive as possible.  That should be good not only for the well-being of Americans, but also for the tasks that the President and his staff work on.

What:  NYTimes short piece on President Obama getting to keep his Blackberry.
Post to which it is related: Improving Virtual Team Leadership Using Technology
Bottom line:
  This piece focuses a bit more on what created an issue around this Blackberry, and this raises a good point.  The new President wanted to keep this technology because he is accustomed to it and finds it an effective way to stay in touch with important advisors or contacts, but also to get information as quickly as possible.  Those who opposed his use of a Blackberry apparently did so because of security reasons.  Of interest to virtual team leaders is the issue of a paper trail.  This short article mentions that the US President’s correspondences become part of an official record, which can be reviewed in case of problems.  Perhaps this is also an issue for virtual teams – the flexible technologies that connect people and enable collaboration make it difficult to keep a record.  I believe this is why many companies block the use of IM or chatting windows at their companies – if there is anything at stake, it may be necessary to keep a record of decisions and conversations.  Keep this in mind when planning your team’s use of technology – leaders must consider not only the way technology connects people, but also what kind of paper trail or record might be necessary.

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