Virtual team is an inseparable part of the organization culture in modern times. When work locations are spread across different places (and it may be different continents), teams are also virtual. People from different work locations work together on a specific project. They connect remotely and make effective use of technology for getting the work done.
Have you come across such scenario? If yes, then you can very well imagine that it is possible to achieve great results by working in virtual teams. If you didn’t have a chance of working in a virtual team so far, then you need to learn a few skills before you become part of it.
• Well-defined communication charter is the first step:
When managers make a structured communication charter, it gives precision and clarity about the communication. The charter should define the meeting norms, the frequency of meeting and details of disciplinary action if people skip the meetings. People should be aware of the mode of communication and response time. Virtual teams make the perfect use of modern tools and techniques. Video and audio conferencing, web meetings, virtual meeting points, are some examples of it. Chairperson should create an informal yet serious environment during the meetings, take attendance at the beginning and circulate MOM immediately after the meeting.
• Even if it is a virtual team, have a one-to-one interaction:
Make use of the modern technology to interact people one-to-one. Audio and video conferencing sessions build rapport amongst team members. The interaction shouldn’t be limited to the induction meeting only, but it should be a regular practice. The meetings should be interactive and participative where people share their ideas, visions, and perspectives. It builds good understanding
• Nurturing collective leadership:
In a virtual team, you have situational leaders. Hence, the culture of defining deliverables should be well-defined. You should track the commitment properly so that people remain focused on the task. The best practices should be shared among the team members. Experts should train others to increase the team skills. When people are encouraged to take part in virtual team-building exercises, you achieve great benefits.
• It is very much crucial to track individual and group commitments:
Well, virtual teams are possible when you make the best use of technology. Hence, the same can be used to track personal and team commitments as well. Make everyone accountable for using project management systems. Managers, supervisors and team members can track everything in the system. Status meetings, dashboards, and project planners are a few useful tools. However, managers should refrain from giving a feel of micro-management. It is an irritating factor.
• Nothing can beat the individual performance:
Just like conventional teams, individual performance is equally important in a virtual team. Team leaders should give timely feedback to the team members about it so that they take necessary measures to improve it wherever needed. The biggest risk in a virtual team is; people lose the global perspective because teams don’t have a physical presence in one place. Hence, individual performance sometimes gets precedence over team performance.
When you work with virtual teams, achieving collaboration is a big ticket item
Can you recall the time when teams used to work in the same premises? People used to talk to each other, meet in person to resolve interpersonal issues and grudges. There were no issues of collaboration and cooperation.
Times have changed now. Technology has made it possible to formulate teams that are spread across geographies. You may not meet a team member in person during the whole lifecycle of the project. Won’t you think it is a tough task to collaborate with people in such a situation?
In a virtual team where people belong to different offices, cost centers, geographic locations or companies; it is quite difficult to build high levels of trust amongst people. However, a few techniques may help in achieving reasonable collaboration. By the end of this article, you will be able to find out a few critical ways to have a grip on the subject.
Limit the team size
It goes without saying that it is an uncontrollable parameter. Team size always depends on the project requirement. However, you can try to keep it as limited as possible. When you have a concise and compact team, it can work in a better collaborative and coordinated manner than an outsized size team. A concept of three-tiered fluid structure is quite common amongst project managers. There you have three layers of people. The inner one is called ‘the core’. It is predominantly responsible for formulating strategies and taking decisions. The second layer is the operational layer where people take care of operations. They have a great emphasis on process efficiency. The third layer consists of ad-hoc team members who come and go intermittently as per project requirement.
Train people to collaborate
When you have a diversified team, don’t expect that everyone possesses collaborative skills. Some people have it by default, and some require training for it. Experts suggest that organizing a training program to inculcate collaborative skills before you start the project is a good idea. The training program works on the fundamental traits such as teamwork, networking, and development of emotional intelligence. Since you have virtual teams spread across different locations, the training program should also be a virtual training program (using video conferencing and webinars).
Define the roles and responsibilities precisely
When you have virtual team, role clarity becomes incredibly critical. Once it is done, virtual teams can work better than conventional teams. Research programs and studies confirm that when virtual teams brainstorm and discuss the issues, they perform better than the traditional teams.
When you work with virtual teams, psychological barriers need to be removed proactively. You need same efforts of team building whether it is a virtual team or conventional. Virtual teams can also come off with flying colors if they get the right environment. Since the virtual team is the reality of new working style, it is critical to refine it further for maximum output.