In my last blog, I talked about how we can communicate effectively in a Virtual Team. But I realized that I didn’t answer the most basic questions of virtual team management – how can we better manage Virtual Teams? Where should we start? What do we need to know to be successful?
There are many blog posts which addresses this issue, but none of them explicitly say what I am going to say now. I personally think that 80% of your problems comes up in a virtual team are due to people problems, and only 20% of problems concern with utilization of technology. Thus, I will address people issues first. In my past experiences, I had an opportunity to work with remote teams on various occasions. Trust me, it was very challenging at first. Time zones and languages were only few barriers that I had to face. But somehow, I figured a way out to manage remote teams efficiently. I will share those experiences through this blog post.
One of the most important thing that you want to do is to set up your communication plan. This can be an outline for what needs to be communicated, how it will be communicated, who needs the information, when do they need it, and what happens if communication breaks down. This sounds very easy at first. One would say – you can just use e-mails. But trust me, without a communication plan, you will be lost. If you don’t have this plan defined properly, it will take more than 2-3 days just to find out what are you going to accomplish this week. And before you know, there comes a weekend. Thus, this plan is the “key piece” for managing virtual teams. The communication plan should also outline meeting structure, such as – when are they needed, what will be their purpose, in what format will they be held (chat, video conference, teleconference, etc), who will be in control of the meeting, who will be responsible for taking the notes and publishing the outcome.
Second most important thing that can help you is to have an outline of the decision making process. How, as a group, will you make decisions? What is your back up plan to make a decision? What escalation processes do you have to resolve issues, if team doesn’t agree on one idea? Also, having conflict resolution strategies help a lot. We used to talk to each other personally (on video chat), and that was our conflict resolution strategy. But you can use whatever strategy fits for your team. After you have defined and documented these information, you want to distribute your goals, roles and responsibilities equally – by taking buy-ins from each and every member in the team. So, there is no confusion at the end. If you want to go further then you can also ensure fair work distribution and define different leadership levels. We used to use an arrangement where we would rotate the roles of meeting facilitator and meeting leaders. That gave me the opportunity to empower other team members. But again, you can use your own style for defining different leadership roles.
I hope this information have helped you. Let me know your feedback regarding my idea. Thanks for reading my blog. Bhavin Gandhi