Case Study: Peace Builders Construct Improved Virtual Team Communications

When your team is spread all over the world, in four different time zones, how do you get them working better together? This case study provides one example.

World PeaceInterpeace is an independent, international peacebuilding organisation. A strategic partner of the United Nations, it supports locally-led peacebuilding initiatives in more than 21 countries in Central America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Interpeace’s 15-person finance and administration team is spread around the world, with members in Bosnia, Guatemala and Nairobi as well as at its headquarters in Geneva.

Objectives

  • To get the team working more closely together, despite the physical distance between them.
  • Ensure that internal requests for help or information are dealt with promptly.
  • Encourage team members to take full ownership of issues, making sure they are resolved.

Solution

Seven team members joined a series of six one-hour video conference training sessions, facilitated by Judy, spread over three months.

Team members were helped to:

  • develop the key collaboration skills of: inquiry, listening and advocacy
  • give effective, actionable feedback
  • tackle tensions and conflicts within the group.

In the process, they learned a great deal about each other and the differences in their working styles; they found ways to support each other’s day-to-day work; and gained a sense of agency and empowerment.

Results

The team reported excellent results, even before the end of the programme. Learning and Development Lead Carolina Sanchez explained that in particular, meetings had become more productive and purposeful: team members arrived more prepared, and were more willing to speak up and ask questions. In the weeks after the programme ended, she noticed that she was relying on email less, preferring to make a more personal connection to other team members which also improved communication.

Chief Financial Officer Mike Pejcic said: “The impact was immediate: there were a number of very concrete benefits. The biggest change is in proactivity. People are more effective, and clear about their priorities. We are all better at asking more thoughtful, better, productive questions that lead to clarity and to concrete actions. And ultimately, we’re happier, because things are managed in a coordinated way and get done.

People are more effective, and clear about their priorities. Click To Tweet

“We are all better at asking more thoughtful, better, productive questions that lead to clarity and to concrete actions. It was a journey that helped us see things differently, to look at familiar things through a new pair of glasses. At the beginning of the process, I thought we were already productive and proactive. At the end, I realized that we actually improved significantly.

“In life, it’s the small things that actually make a big difference. It’s the small frustrations that you resolve and that actually make a big impact. This process confirmed to me that small things and small progress can actually build to a lot over time.”

Bosnia-based accountant Azra Trakic said: “Everyone has different thoughts and views on different things, but this training helped me to understand my colleagues better and have a chance to talk to them. And now I feel more comfortable to ask them what they think about things and to talk to them – it was really useful for me.”

What Happens Next?

The team have continued to use their tools and techniques to improve their communication and collaboration. They have identified further training needs within the wider organisation and hope to budget for this in the new financial year.

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