DSS News
                    D. J. Power, Editor
            February 26, 2006 -- Vol. 7, No. 5

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* Ask Dan! - What skills do team leaders need for conducting
effective virtual decision-making meetings?
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Ask Dan!

Dan Power
Editor, DSSResources.COM

What skills do team leaders need for conducting effective virtual
decision-making meetings?

In general, team leaders need planning, organizing, staffing,
directing and controlling skills (cf., Huber, 1980), but the
technology setting of virtual decision-making meetings creates a need
for new and more sophisticated behaviors in each of these skill areas.
This Ask Dan! question is motivated by both a personal "need-to-know"
(see Power, 2/14/2006) and by the increasing importance and use of
communications-driven DSS for conducting meetings. A virtual
decision-making meeting is conducted by means of information
technologies. The term "virtual" distinguishes a conceptual,
technology supported meeting from a physical, face-to-face meeting.
Virtual meetings may be conducted using teleconferencing, online
collaboration tools, web conferencing and/or videoconferencing.

Each of these technology solutions creates challenges for team
leaders. Teleconferencing is a phone call connection where many
different calls are joined into a single conversation. Online
collaboration tools include e-mail and private Web sites that allow
file and document sharing and the use of message boards. Web
conferencing is teleconferencing with the addition of Web
capabilities for interactive presentations, using PowerPoint, Excel
or other documents. Audio can be transmitted by telephone or the
Internet. Videoconferencing is the interactive use of video,
computing and communication technologies to allow people in two or
more locations to meet. Videoconferencing often includes integrated
web conferencing tools. None of these communications-driven decision
support solutions has the richness and capabilities inherent in a
face-to-face meeting.

In a recent article at Microsoft-UK, James Rieley notes "In this
virtual world, many organisations are conducting meetings with
attendees from all parts of the world. That is the good news. The bad
news is that in many cases, one of the unintended consequences of this
form of decision-making is that the meetings are less-than-effective,
and the outcomes of the meetings are not making their way down
through the organisations as well as they need to. ... The problem
lies in the fact that participants in virtual meetings don't seem to
have any structure for conducting virtual decision-making." Rieley
then offers three suggestions related to avoiding multi-tasking,
using a facilitator and keeping an action log.

According to Jim Davis of Development Dimensions International, "All
meetings, virtual or face-to-face, require preparation, a clear
purpose and effective leadership. When you lead a virtual meeting,
you still must do all of the things you did for an effective
traditional meeting. But a virtual meeting requires excellent
preparation, leadership and follow-up because participants might be
in different time zones, speaking different languages and using
various technologies." Jim noted some problems in virtual meetings:
it can be "difficult to keep track of who is speaking and who might
be joining or leaving a meeting", it is difficult to "judge reactions
or read body language," and equipment failure can occur bringing a
meeting to a halt. Jim and DDI ( offer 25 tips for
leading and participating in virtual meetings.

George Huber argued in his 1980 book on Managerial Decision Making
that "the performance and satisfaction of a decision group are
determined to a great extent by the quality of its leadership (p.
176)." In 1986, I worked on a skills book with 3 colleagues and Dave
Schweiger was our expert on team skills. In Chapter 6 we discussed
"Developing Strategic Management Teams" and concluded that effective
top management teams can foster the acceptance of and commitment of
executives to strategic decisions. Since the mid-1980s technology has
expanded what team leaders need to know about leading and managing
decision groups and teams, but much of the advice from Huber (1980)
and Power et al. (1986) however, remains useful. The remainder of
this column will update and expand upon conventional wisdom about
conducting decision-making meetings. Learning the following fifteen
skills seems especially important for conducting effective virtual
decision-making meetings. Based on Davis, Huber, Power et al., and

1. Establishing a meeting time. When scheduling a virtual meeting, be
aware of time zones and be fair and flexible in choosing a time for
the meeting. A regular meeting time helps in scheduling other member

2. Inviting participants. Make sure that those who will be affected
by a decision have an opportunity to participate. A number of sources
indicate a maximum of 12 people is appropriate for a virtual meeting,
but DDI recommends "no more than eight participants".

3. Developing a meeting agenda. Identify issues relevant to the
group, important deadlines, and group tasks. Written agendas give
members clear expectations of a meeting's purpose and when possible
should be emailed to members 2-3 days prior to a meeting. The agenda
should be updated as a virtual meeting progresses.

4. Creating a communications list. DDI suggests creating and
distributing a list that includes all of the participants' telephone,
cellular phone and fax numbers, e-mail addresses and office locations.
Also include an emergency phone number for participants to call if
technology problems arise.

5. Building a cohesive team. A team leader should arrive at least 10
minutes early for a virtual meeting and should encourage social time
prior to the start of a virtual meeting. In general, a team leader
should encourage members to engage in cooperative behaviors.

6. Setting the rules for a meeting. Establish rules for participation
and follow them! Determine who talks when? Determine how members can show
if they agree or disagree? Determine if there are speaking time limits?

7. Conducting a team meeting. A team leader must be willing and able
to assert control and yet be sensitive to group norms and member
needs. More specifically:

7.a. Make the meeting brief, focused and well-structured. Usually a
meeting should be scheduled for approximately 1 hour.

7.b. Help new participants feel connected by making introductions.
Make sure everyone knows why everyone else is attending the meeting.

7.c. At the beginning of each meeting, review the progress made to
date and establish the task of the individual meeting.

7.d. Early in a meeting get a report from each member with a
pre-assigned task.

7.e. At the end of each meeting, summarize what was accomplished,
where this puts the group on its schedule, and what will be the group
task at the next meeting.

7.f. At the end of each meeting, review action items for members to
complete by the next meeting.

8. Managing the decision-making process by dividing the task into two
steps idea generation and idea evaluation.

9. Managing the discussion to insure equitable participation. When
appropriate prompt people to participate.

10. Using information displays. If you have the technology use it,
and use it effectively.

11. Frequently checking for understanding of issues and alternatives.

12. If necessary, sanctioning members who seem to be distracted by
multi-tasking, chat, or non-meeting activities.

13. Establishing expectations. A team leader needs to follow up after
a meeting by email, phone and other means. Team members assigned
projects need to understand the expectation is they will complete
projects on time and at a high quality level. A team leader should
constructively critique performance on projects and insure that
assigned responsibilities are completed. In general, team members
responsible for presenting specific analyses or information should do
so in writing.

14. Evaluating the need for specialized computer supported group
techniques like brainstorming. A team leader should be familiar with
decision and planning structuring software from companies like and Facilitate.COM.

15. Providing follow up. Make sure that all participants receive a
summary of the meeting and whiteboard notes.

As always, your comments and suggestions are appreciated.



Huber, G. P., Managerial Decision Making, Glenview, IL: Scott,
Foresman, and Company, 1980.

Power, D., "How does the use of a Communications-Driven DSS impact a
decision-making meeting?" DSS News, Vol. 7, No. 4, February 12, 2006.

Power, D.J., M. J. Gannon, M.A. McGinnis and D. M. Schweiger,
Strategic Management Skills, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing
Co, 1986.

Rieley, J. B., "Living in a Virtual World," Microsoft-UK, August
2005, .

Robson, M. and C. Kestel, "Tips for Managing a Successful Virtual
Meeting," Ingenia Training,'sTips.pdf

"Turbulent Times Bring Increase in Virtual Meetings," Business
Journal of Youngstown, Ohio, 12/31/2001,


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DSS Conferences 

1. Crystal Ball User Conference, May 1-3, 2006 at the
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4. CIDMDS 2006, International Conference on Creativity and
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6. ICDSS 2007, 9th International Conference on DSS, Jan. 2-4, 2007, 
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02/14/2006 TI CEO envisions making mobile phones affordable for total
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