The 5 Tips Essential To Managing Successful Virtual Teams

Have you ever been on a project where the team members are dispersed in different time zones? If yes, has there ever been a moment where the frustration of “they don’t get it” arises, especially during times when deliverables are (past) due? If you have answered yes to either one or both of the above questions, you are not alone. Many of us that work with virtual teams have questioned how to get these teams to understand and do what’s needed to accomplish the project’s objectives in a timely manner.

In my many years in working with virtual teams, I have learned and experienced that having a set of clear objectives, roles and responsibilities, and a sense of belonging to a team have helped alleviate those stressful and frustrating moments. And throughout the entire project, our team was able to effectively execute and deliver the quality work on-time while maintaining our team’s morale and good-spirit.

Here are five successful tips that can prevent your team members from feeling the “they don’t get it” factor.

1. Set Clear Objectives – Having a set of clear goals is always necessary for every project, whether you have a virtual team or co-located team. The important piece is ensuring that everyone understands how their deliverable contributes to achieving the overall project’s objectives. Furthermore, when you break down the project into understandable parts, and provide the team members an understanding of which project piece each team member is working on, this eliminates the chance for any confusion. Plus, this provides the team members a sense of accomplishment and motivation when the tasks are crossed off from the check list.

2. Develop and Utilize a Communications Plan – Having a communications plan outlines what communication needs to happen, who needs to be communicated with, how frequently to communicate, the communication medium to utilize, the purpose of the communication, etc. An important aspect of the communications plan that not many teams utilize is a team agreement. The team agreement is a living document that emphasizes how to work together daily to resolve issues, report status, set availability for meetings, and deal with holidays and conflict. For example, the team agreement can call for teams to alternate every quarter on the day and time for status meetings in order to provide the team members a work/life balance.

3. Select Appropriate Tools and Technologies – Having the appropriate tool is essential as technology is the communication medium for virtual teams. It is important to ensure that the basic resources for working productively in remote areas are provided. These resources can range from proper internet connectivity, training, collaboration sites, etc. For example, Visual Studio Team Foundation Server is a great tool that enables team to track project’s status, bugs, requirements, and code check-ins.

4. Respect Cultural Diversity ­ Having an understanding of each other’s cultural and diversity is important whether you have a virtual team or co-located team. It’s important to learn and embrace each other’s culture and diversity. Some key decisions and interactions are derived from a team member’s cultural background. Learning to acknowledge this will provide you with an open mind and potentially let you grasp something you’ve never thought you’d do or consider.

5. Create and Foster Team Collaboration Building trust is difficult, especially with virtual teams. This is why regular communication between your team members on non-business related matters is important. It will help build rapport between team members, and provide a sense of belonging for team members who may feel alone or isolated. Teams can leverage existing collaboration tools to share team photos from events or trainings in their region or even create virtual profiles to share interests, tips, advice, etc. Having fun can be achieved as long as the team members feel they have the trust and respect from one another.

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