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Developing Engaged and Productive Virtual Teams
1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Thu Feb 6, 2020
Champions I (Classroom - Max Capacity: 35)

Description

ABSTRACT

In this breakout session, we build on our experiences and lessons learned after the “Team of Teams” and “Fostering a Culture of Passion and Productivity in ECP Teams” break out sessions presented at past ECP Annual Meetings to present strategies and interactive activities centered around developing engaged and productive virtual teams. We explore how meeting ECP technical challenges depend critically on meeting social and cultural challenges as well.  We will explore these social and cultural development techniques including, informal "tea-time", virtual scrums, human-centered design, empathy building and listening games, and exercises. In addition, we will show how these techniques enable scaling to meet the additional challenges associated with managing a team-of-teams project, with a focus on virtual teams. We will also delve into effective virtual meetings and brainstorming sessions, managing personalities and team dynamics, the role of the liaison and contrarian, and the diffusion of ideas within a team of teams.  This session will be broken into two 90 minute segments.  Each segment will have roughly 60 minutes of guided small group exercises, followed by roughly 30 minutes of discussion with the panel. In particular, we are developing a panel comprised of successful ECP small team project leads who have experience in fostering a culture that promotes engaged and productive virtual teams.

 

DESCRIPTION

The ECP core mission is to develop a capable exascale computing ecosystem that accelerates scientific discovery and supports addressing critical challenges in energy and national security.  The very nature of this mission has drawn a wide range of talented and successful scientists with diverse backgrounds to work together in new ways to push beyond the status-quo toward this goal. Many of these scientists achieved success through efficient and agile collaborations with a (very) small trusted team that could rapidly innovate, prototype and deliver. However, in this context delivery was often focused on scientific understanding and journal publications, and placed lower expectations on deploying the corresponding capability as a well-documented component or library for other teams to use and integrate. Yet, for the ECP software ecosystem to succeed and truly accelerate scientific discovery, small teams must meet both of these deliverables, while meeting additional challenges as they embrace a new role within their larger ECP project.

 

In this breakout session, we build on our experiences and lessons learned after the “Team of Teams” and “Fostering a Culture of Passion and Productivity in ECP Teams” breakout sessions presented at past ECP Annual Meetings to present strategies and interactive activities centered around developing engaged and productive virtual teams. We explore how meeting ECP technical challenges depend critically on meeting social and cultural challenges as well. Specifically, many important cultural aspects of very small teams evolve naturally on a positive path because the team was formed by friendly collaborators with common interests and goals. It is relatively straightforward to maintain an aligning narrative that captures the team’s goals, approach and accepted practices because everyone is immersed in it. But as the team grows it faces new challenges, including fragmented time commitments, physically distributed developers, and growing numbers of customers or stakeholders. These challenges make it significantly harder to maintain an aligning narrative and healthy team culture, and although agile methodologies and modern software tools can help developers manage these challenges, these processes alone are insufficient. Thus, a growing number of teams are combining these development methodologies with techniques that support an engaged, prodictive, and collaborative culture.

 

We will explore these social and cultural development techniques including, informal "tea-time", virtual scrums, human-centered design, empathy building and listening games, and exercises. In addition, we will show how these techniques enable scaling to meet the additional challenges associated with managing a team-of-teams project, with a focus on virtual teams. We will also delve into effective virtual meetings and brainstorming sessions, managing personalities and team dynamics, the role of the liaison and contrarian, and the diffusion of ideas within a team of teams. Pointers to the research behind these activities will be provided.

 

This session will be broken into two 90-minute segments. Each segment will have roughly 60 minutes of guided small group exercises, followed by roughly 30 minutes of discussion with the panel. In particular, we are developing a panel comprised of successful ECP small team project leads who have experience in fostering a culture that promotes engaged and productive virtual teams. The panel members will serve as facilitators for the small group exercises, which include building trust, effective communication and brainstorming, and exploring and managing personality impacts on team dynamics. The discussion with the panel will recap lessons learned from the exercises, and explore how these critical aspects of culture affect the performance of the small teams, as well as its effectiveness in the increasingly common interdisciplinary team-of-teams setting. Participants will take away an appreciation for the vital role that culture plays in overall productivity, and strategies they can use to foster an engaged and productive team.

Author
David Moulton Deputy Group Leader, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Elaine SNL
Todd Munson Senior Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory

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