Category Archives: Virtual Team

3 simple tips for empowering your virtual team

Wow! What a busy last month? With holiday season approaching, I wanted to make sure that I finish all of my work before people leave for their holiday break. Just a few months back, I worked with a company in India, where I worked as a liaison between the company and ERP consultants to implement a new inventory management module. This month, my biggest challenge was to train their personnel in using the new system with the help of those consultants. The road was full of obstacles with many challenges of virtual teams, but I somehow managed to do finish that task on time. And with this blog, I will discuss some of the methods that I used to make my virtual teams succeed.

Set clear expectations: To get your teams off to a running start, you must set clear expectations. Before coordinating the training effort, I had created a training plan, which was far more detailed than my current MBA classes. It clearly stated roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the training with the training schedule and a back up plan. This plan really helped me in reducing those redundant e-mails and other wasteful coordination efforts.

Pass on the torch: In real life, it is not a good idea to keep all your eggs in one basket; in virtual team environment, it is not a good idea to have only one contact person. Thus, my policy is not to allow team members to dominate a team by force of personality. I like to rotate team captains. In my team, every member will rotate leader and follower roles. This mechanism helps me to get to know each individual, and helps each team members to practice their leadership skills during the project.

Give tools to communicate: I believe that in a team project, team members should have as many tools as possible to communicate with each other. When I got the names of team members in my team, I distributed their e-mail addresses, skype id, and telephone numbers to everyone. I also establish team specific synchronous chat rooms in which conversations are automatically archived, giving all members a record of discussions. I also provided team with a private asynchronous message board. I would recommend you guys to use tools like Google Groups, Windows Live Space (Skydive), etc.

I hope my article was helpful, and I am eager to hear your feedback. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi


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Tips to Manage Teams of the Future

TeamOfTheFutureIn 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


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