6 Best Practices For Managing A Virtual Team
Every business’s foundation rests upon the quality and effectiveness of its teams. These teams combine people with a variety of skill sets to complete projects more effectively. The more efficiently teams work, the more revenue is generated for the company. Traditional business etiquette dictates that teams should be co-located. If people are closer and can meet in person, they will work and communicate more efficiently, right? Wrong! In this modern age, team members can exist in completely different time zones and work just as, if not more, efficiently than their co-located counterparts. Here are 6 tips to ensure the success of virtual teams:
1. Clear Objectives
Ensuring people are working efficiently together is the largest challenge for any virtual team. In an extensive research article completed by BCG consultant Frank Siebdrat, and business management professors Martin Hoegl and Holger Ernst, the authors found that effective virtual teams can actually outperform their co-located counterparts. To achieve this level of efficiency, the authors suggest breaking the project down into understandable parts. If everyone understands which aspect of the project the other team members are working on, the chance for confusion is completely eliminated. It also helps the people within the group to feel like they accomplished something. Crossing off tasks from a checklist gives the each member a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
2. Awareness Of The Dispersed Situation
One of the most interesting hindrances to virtual collaboration that Siebdrat, Hoegl and Ernst’s study found was that when team members understood that they were in a virtual team with special needs, their work changed accordingly. For example, teams in the same building but on different floors were less efficient than their counterparts who existed on the same floor because the former team was unaware of their situation. The team on separate floors acted as if they were in the same room when they essentially were a virtual team. Their unawareness of their situation cost them efficiency and collaboration.
3. Make A Routine
It is easy for team members to get lost in their work or distracted since everyone is working from remote locations. It’s important that team members remember that even though they can work at home in their underwear, they still have to work hard and report in to management. Get a team routine going. As soon as one of them begins work, make them check in. Every time they have completed something, make them check in. If they have questions or comments, make sure they feel compelled to check in. Always encourage a routine of collaboration! It is easy for people who are working in isolation to attempt to find answers in isolation. They must remember they are apart of a team.
4. Cultural Sensitivity
This is a simple one. Since your team may be multinational, it’s important to note any strong cultural differences between the team members and that everyone is aware and sensitive. For example, a situation arose at Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. where the communications between Americans and Israelis were strained because the Americans used formalities such as “thank you in advance” while the Israelis had never heard of such expressions and thought the Americans were being “wishy-washy”. On the flip side, the Americans thought the Israelis emails were blunt and rude. Make sure your virtual team members understand that the other team members may come from different cultural backgrounds and that interactions may seem unfamiliar. Team members must not react negatively to these interactions. Understand that things work differently in different cultures and that big problems can come from miscommunication. If they have a problem with the way international collaboration is working, bring it up with a manager first because it may simply be a cultural thing rather than an intentional one.
5. Right Technology
Using the correct collaboration tools to integrate and share information with one another is key to any virtual team’s success. Google Docs and other collaboration utilities like our own Manymoon™ software, allow virtual team members to share calendars, emails, files and communicate in real-time which is vital to virtual team success. Make sure each of your team members understands the ins-and-outs of the pieces of technology you are using. As mentioned before, make sure they have a routine. Every time they are traveling or working on a new project, make sure they get used to putting that information on the cloud. Everyone should be able to see and understand what everyone else is doing.
6. Friendly Social Interaction
Lastly, make sure your team is a family! Get your virtual team to know each other through a shared blog, email list or other virtual community. These people are not just automatons working for a buck, they are human beings and they need social interaction. One innovative solution to this problem that the company Live2Sell Family™ employs is Second Life™ which is a video game-like universe where users make virtual avatars of themselves and interact in a completely user-created world. Live2Sell Family uses Second Life for social meetings to get to know each other and mess around in a virtual environment without the pretext of work binding them together.
What have you found to be a best practice when managing virtual teams?
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