In early 2012 I put my hand up to be part of the NLS6 organising committee.
My original reasons for getting involved were selfish, in that, I was interested for my own sake about how ALIA supported a New Grads event, and how it was focussed solely on “new librarians”. Also, I was hungry for a different kind of Professional Development opportunity to what was (not) being offered to me locally.
It was an amazing experience which opened my eyes in so many ways. This post will focus on what I have learnt from being part of the NLS6 committee.
- Virtual teams
The whole NLS6 committee operated virtually with team members from across Australia – Queensland, Tasmania, New South Wales, ACT, South Australia and Victoria. Initially I was the only NZ-based member of the organising committee, but another team member moved to NZ in late 2012.
Communication is the key to virtual teams. As well as trust, honesty and follow-through.
While I had learnt many of these things on a small scale with my involvement in Heroes Mingle, seeing it operate on a much larger virtual team scale was an eye-opener.
I’ve also confirmed that I personally really enjoy working as part of a successful virtual team.
My one reflection is that next time I would make more of an effort at the outset to get to know a larger proportion of the team. I don’t think I got to really know some of the team until I actually met them in Brisbane, and I wished I had developed more of a rapport with them prior to meeting face-to-face.
It’s made me learn about tools I’ve never used before. It’s taught me to evaluate the tools in different ways. Are they fit for purpose? Do people actively want to use them? Are they easy to use? I know which tools I liked, found intuitive and would use again & again. I also now know which tools I find frustrating and I would only use again if I didn’t have any other option available.
It also taught me that some tools which I always use on shared and/or virtual projects (e.g. I am a fan of wikis), other people find clunky and troublesome. This was the first virtual project which didn’t use a wiki. It was a learning curve for me to have to organise my work using other tools. On reflection, I found it quite difficult to not have one go-to place with all the information accessible. I did learn to work with other systems and tools, but I found it challenging. Perhaps next time I would create my own wiki to keep track.
We had clear goals of what we wanted to achieve for NLS6 to be a success, for speakers, delegates and committee. We knew clearly what we needed to achieve for ALIA to view this as a success. We also had some “it would be nice but it isn’t essential” milestones. Having a combination of targets kept us focussed, and gave us scope to successfully achieve our goals.
I also think having understandable & achievable goals is a critical element in the success of a virtual team. If the team doesn’t know what it is trying to achieve, and doesn’t have measures to check against, I can see how virtual teams could be chaotic & unworkable.
I can categorically say that being part of the NLS6 organising committee is a turning point in my career.