A Managers Guide to Virtual Teams

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Virtual Teams - Definition Management Benefits Improvement

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After completing your transaction, you can access your course using the section url supplied by your instructor. Skip to main content x Sign In. Therefore, this initial virtual team kick-off meeting is essential to getting the team moving in the right direction fairly quickly. Spending time as part of your initial team meeting get together to understand and appreciate each other's diversity is essential to successfully working together in a virtual environment. As with any team, however, individuals want the team to succeed as a whole and need to be provided the tools and support in order to find their place on the virtual project team.

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Not only should your virtual team leave this initial team kick-off meeting with a thorough understanding of the project and its deliverables, but also with a clear understanding of how the team will function as a whole, supporting each other to accomplish the goals of the project in a virtual environment. A challenge for virtual team leaders is managing the day-to-day activities of the team. Use the portal to upload and share status reports, ask questions, and provide support to each other in solving problems. Also essential in effectively managing the day-to-day activities of the team is preparing for and facilitating virtual team meetings.

To ensure virtual team meetings are effective, you must spend a significant amount of time preparing for the meeting and using your leadership and facilitation skills to ensure that you accomplish the objectives of the meeting, every team member participates, and decisions can be made.

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As a best practice, alternate times for team meetings to accommodate vast differences in time zones and consider audio recordings for those who cannot attend. Conduct effective and efficient virtual team meetings by following a few simple best practices:. Remember — facilitation and processes and procedures around virtual team meetings are essential; it is harder to manage a team meeting when it is done remotely.

Collaboration is essential on virtual project teams. Determine an appropriate use of technology to more effectively communicate and collaborate among a diverse group of virtual team members. A variety of technologies may be considered, depending on the nature of collaboration required at specific points within the project. For example, email is effective for sharing information and getting questions answered but not for problem solving or decision making. The team would be better served by using a collaboration site or portal for such situations.

Use of simple templates such as individual team member status reports and communication plans that include details around needs of communicating, channels for communications and expected response times enable for more effective communication among virtual project team members. While communications are absolutely essential on any project team, they are even more essential for virtual project teams and require some planning on your part to ensure that communications meet the needs of the project and the project team.

Especially with global teams communications can be challenging and inconsistent. As a best practice, work with the virtual team members to determine communications most appropriate for them given their location and participation on the project. Considering communicating via a variety of channels — email, phone, instant messaging, virtual meetings, collaboration portals, social media — in order to support all team members and their communication needs.

As the team leader, regularly reach out to your virtual team members, one-on-one, to check in on progress and to ensure that team members continue to move in the right direction. It is essential to keep tabs on virtual team members, because issues that arise and are not handled immediately can derail a project very quickly. An understanding of the four stages of team development see Exhibit 2 below helps to guide your virtual team to a point where they are collaborating effectively, passing off work from one team member to another and problem solving and making decisions for the good of the project overall.

Let's briefly look at each stage and how the project manager would support the team through the four stages.

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  • Stage 1 — Forming : As the team leader, you should be providing direction and clarity to the team about the project, the objectives, and deliverables. In this stage, work with the virtual team to set roles and responsibilities and establish team norms. Processes and procedures for making decisions, resolving conflict and solving problems is essential.

    Global Virtual Teams: The best tips for virtual team members, collaborating with virtual colleagues

    In stage 1, the virtual team is dependent on the team leader to guide them. Stage 2 — Storming : All teams move through the storming stage and without guidance from the team leader, a team may never leave this stage and will be in constant conflict, unmotivated, disengaged, and failing to meet the objectives of the project.

    A Manager's Guide to Virtual Teams

    The team leader can help the team move past this stage by ensuring that team members are listening to each, sharing information, and participating in discussions. Stage 3 — Norming : In this stage, the team is working together more effectively. Each member has found his or her place on the team and they are following processes and procedures. They support each other and problem solve and resolve conflicts effectively, with guidance from the team leader as necessary, to ensure the project keeps moving in the right direction.

    Technology is used effectively and efficiently to help the virtual team stay connected. Stage 4 — Performing : A high performing virtual team sees limited, if any, difficulty with not being co-located. They are a cohesive team, supportive of each other's efforts, aware and sensitive to time zone differences, and embrace the various cultural identities of team members. Limited oversight of the team is required. To keep a virtual team motivated and engaged, be sure to celebrate successes and milestones regularly. In one successful multinational virtual team project I led, we started each Monday with a question to enable team members to continue to develop relationships through learning something new about each other on a regular basis.

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    • This information was shared through the company portal. Each team member selected a question to ask each week to learn more about his or her fellow team members. We found it kept the team engaged, especially when each team member needed to come up with a new question rather than asking the team leader to be the one who took the lead.

      Any of these methods, along with regular check-ins with your team, enables for continued engagement on the project, keeping virtual team members motivated to keep performing at their best, supporting their teammates to meet the objectives of the project. To effectively manage a virtual team's performance you must have processes and procedures around:.

      In virtual team environments, it is essential to have agreed upon processes and procedures to ensure effectiveness in resolving issues and reporting on the project to ensure the project keeps moving forward toward a successful conclusion. Let's look briefly at best practices in each of these areas. At the meeting:. Managing conflicts : Establish guidelines for how conflicts will be managed and resolved on the virtual team.

      Consider whether the conflict:. In such situations, the conflict must be resolved by the team as a whole. Take these best practice steps to ensure effective collaboration to resolve conflicts in virtual team environments:. Status reporting : Consistency around how virtual team members will report on the status of their tasks is essential to keeping the project moving toward a successful conclusion. Keep reporting simple by asking individual team members to complete a status report for discussion at virtual team meetings.

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      As a best practice, ask each team member to report on:. This information can be used by you to report on status to the sponsor and other key stakeholders. Additionally, it is essential to provide regular feedback on the performance of your virtual team members. As a best practice, provide your virtual team members feedback on good and questionable performance. When performance is lacking, be specific so that you can get the team member back on track. If you spent time with the team, helping them to build strong relationships, you may find that you can get the support from another team member.

      When performance is good, highlight the successes to the rest of the team! You can only provide feedback on performance when you have an understanding of the capabilities of your individual team members and of the team as a whole. Checking in regularly during the early stages of the project enables you to ensure you have the right team members in the right roles to meet the goals of the project.

      Even if a project is moving along well and the virtual team is functioning effectively, do not stop checking in! Regular performance review meetings are essential to the continued engagement and motivation of virtual project teams. Highlight the successes! At the end of the project, as a last virtual team meeting, capture lessons learned from the team.

      Focus on the virtual team environment and how work was accomplished when team members were not co-located. Review the technology used to facilitate the project work. What worked effectively? What technologies did not meet requirements? Were the right tools email, videoconference, teleconference used at the right time to share information, resolve problems, brainstorm, and so forth?

      Review the initial virtual team kick-off meeting. Was sufficient time spent on discussing the project goals and objectives overall and in getting to know other team members and was that time spent wisely? On a future project, what might be done to most effectively kick off a virtual project team?


      Certainly we want to measure whether the project delivered what it was intended to, on budget and within scope and on time; but don't forget the inner workings of the virtual project team and how that contributed to the success or shortcomings of the project. Managing virtual, remote teams — whether global, regional or just across town from each other — has a number of challenges that co-located teams do not have. Once you add in individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds, you add to your challenges in leading such teams. Your best approach in leading such teams is to be proactive!

      Prepare ahead of time before you get the team together whether in person or virtually for the first meeting. Certainly you'll want to cover the objectives of the project during your initial team meeting, but even more importantly here, enable the team to get to know each other. Spend some time prior to the initial meeting to learn about the team members who will be working with you on this initiative.