Virtual teams are part of the workforce. While there are great benefits to working virtually, like flexibility for the worker, increased diversity, accessing the best talent, making virtual teams rock requires skills and a strategy.
Most of us recognize that trust is the foundation for any relationship and when working in the same office, you can quickly establish a connection. Working virtually requires more of an effort. Trust is possible when team members feel they are acknowledged, appreciated and contribute to the overall project.
1. Begin with a Project Charter or Operating Procedures.
Spend the time up front and define what the project is going to accomplish, how much time will be spent on what, and who is responsible. Include a plan for what happens when this is not met. This will prevent conflict in the future. I like to use the A3, lean sigma tool that is concise and brings everyone together. Review this and get agreement from everyone. They can all sign the document.
2. Make sure the equipment works and continues to work.
Having a virtual meeting, and then losing the connection or having an audio problem can kill motivation. Identify someone to take charge of this piece to ensure the equipment is working.
3. Hold everyone accountable.
This is set up in the Project Charter and should not be compromised. It can be easy to compromise deadlines or quality because of "demands" and yet, this will only snowball and compromise all your work. The Charter needs to spell out how to prioritize new work coming in and how to handle the "que" of work that needs to be done.
4. Get to know the members of your team.
You are probably working with people scattered across the globe with different cultures, time zones and lifestyles. Allow time in the meetings and interactions for team members to learn about each other.
5. Overlap hours for better access.
Since people are located in a variety of time zones, make sure team member hours overlap so every has access to a team member when they are working. This is extremely helpful to handle questions and issues that come up.
Virtual teams present challenges and when you address them head on you can power up super teams that will accomplish great things for your department.
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