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Increasing Virtual Teams Effectiveness

Increasing Virtual Teams Effectiveness. In today’s environment, personnel are scattered globally making virtual teams a fact of business life. Collaborative and communication technologies in the market place have exploded thus allowing people to work in their respective regions and be effective. Despite these advancements, there are still potential issues to consider, namely group cohesion, cultural differences, unclear objectives, accountability and inclusion. The responsibility of the Project Manager is to ensure all virtual resources feel included as a unison team.

What is a virtual team?

A virtual team is classified as work groups with core resources who interact predominantly via electronic means, engaged in interdependent tasks that lead to an output –i.e., they are truly a team and not a group of independent workers. For the most part, members are located in various parts of the world and don’t often co-locate.

Once all the initial and planning processes of a project are conducted with a resource mix incorporating overseas individuals, the PM should assess and align their teams within the first month to lay the foundation of a high performance and formed team.  The top five most effective principles that could make this happen are below:

Virtual Teams Key #1: Plan an effective kick-off / Introduction

virtual-teams-plan_effective_kick_off_ProjectManagers.orgIf possible, have the team members collocate in one common place early on. Face-to-face communication is better than virtual since it helps team members know each other better, personally and professionally. If for a number of reasons, in person meetings are not possible, video and voice conferences can be just as effective, but in conjunction with introductions and icebreakers, a presentation on shared visions/objectives and set of guiding principles on how the team will work.

Virtual Teams Key #2: Define roles, responsibilities and standard processes for work completion

virtual-teams-Define_Roles_Responsibilities_ProjectManagers.org_.jpgPMs need to define each team members reporting structure, task responsibilities, key milestone dates, workflow processes, i.e., dependencies, escalations and communication cadence. Focus on simplifying the work to the greatest extent possible so that tasks are assigned to sub-groups of 2-3 members. A periodic team status check allows the team to evaluate how things are going and identify process gaps, issues and training needs for conformance.

Virtual Teams Key #3: Utilize the collaboration / communication technologies that work best for your needs

virtual-teams-Collaboration_Communication_ProjectManagers.orgSelecting the best and most feature-laden technology isn’t always the best way to go – it takes considerable investment, functionality training and team member adoptability.  Understand what the key outcomes and features you need and gain support from the members.  Also take into consideration infrastructure (PCs, Internet, software) limitations each member may face, as many regions aren’t as technologically advanced as western nations. If the team struggles to get connected or wastes time trying to make elements of the tool work, it undermines the project and wastes resource time, who otherwise could be better utilized working on project tasks.

Virtual Teams Key #4: Schedule One-on-one’s

Virtual-Teams-Schedule_One-on-One_ProjectManagers.orgPerformance management and one-on-one discussions are very critical for making teams work. Continue to hone in the key messages on the shared vision, successes to date and opportunities where the team member can be further utilized in making the project successful. These discussions also allow the team members to ask direct questions and feel a part of the ‘team’.

Virtual Teams Key #5: Establish project and sub-team cadence calls

virtual-teams-subteam-cadence-calls_ProjectManagers.orgTeam meetings typically tend to be more tasks oriented and structured differently. By having bi weekly check-in calls, team members can share information to one another that may not be able to squeeze in a project team status meeting, or lost within email notes. Setting aside the start of meeting to a quick around the table discussion on what everyone’s doing, specific challenges being faced and things that are going well, can bring everyone on the same page, and also foster a community of helping each other out. In addition, many collaboration platforms are using shared workspaces that helps team members be more connected.

What is your best advice for increasing virtual teams effectiveness?

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