Virtual work is almost the norm nowadays. It has become rare that a team will be collocated into its own space for a project. How can anyone set up a virtual team for success?
We have over the last ten or so years moved into shorter project work cycles all the while trying to maximize our resources; which can literally be located globally and definitely not in the same office building. It has been with this strategy of leveraging key global talent that a lot of organizations have managed to stay on top of their growing project portfolios.
It is so easy to say, let’s work virtually, but it is quite another thing to make it work effectively. It is not rare in companies that have not put some thought into this to have less than favorable outcomes. It actually takes a strategy to get developed in a way that will support your virtual work efforts.
What should one focus on to ensure success?
There are quite a number of items that need to be addressed, but in my experience with virtual teams, there are at least six key elements that will contribute to a virtual teams success. Let’s discuss these components so that the next time you want to set up a virtual team or improve one’s performance, you can have a checklist to focus on.
1. Team dynamics: Not you’re same old, same old
When it comes to team dynamics, the change from a face-to-face working team to a virtual one can be dramatic. Not everyone can and will transfer seamlessly into a virtual work environment.
Things become just a bit more complicated and often require extra work to get things done. The best solution to this is to establish regular work patterns to what people would do together. For example, status meetings are held on Thursdays at 1 p.m. By having established patterns to support some processes, it helps bring people together – then there are fewer chances of getting lost.
2. Defined roles and responsibilities
When time is of the essence, which happens daily on some projects, the last thing you want is a virtual team dispersed all over the globe not knowing who’s doing what. People at all times need to clearly be able to link who is doing what on the project so that it helps in pinpointing help or support faster.
One of the first orders of business in setting up a proper virtual team is to define each person’s role and responsibilities clearly. This will need to be communicated to the whole team to speed up the process when queries or issues come up. A good leader will establish a team directory with roles clearly defined as well as contact information for each team member. A small hint here: if you have time zones involved put down some markers for people to understand the timing differences they might face when trying to reach someone.
3. Effective leadership: Be an involved leader
As a leader of a virtual team, you cannot merely stand on the sidelines, give out orders, and let it all happen. Your team will need your guidance more than ever. You will need to be the glue to support and link them all. You will have to pull out all of your skills towards supporting, paving the way and making roadblocks disappear. Being an involved and effective leader will also be really rewarding to you as the PM.
4. Trust factor: Establish an environment built on a strong trust foundation
Linked to having the need for a leader is the need to have a strong foundation based on trust. Each team member needs to believe, for this to work, that they can trust you as their leader, that you trust them to do the work and that they trust each other as a team to bring it all together.
Sylvie Edwards, PMP, MCPM, STDC, CMP, FPMAC has 25 years of project management experience spanning various industries and is the owner of SRE Solutions, catering to clients in need of project management course development, education, project risk management, PMO setup/evaluation or recovery services. She has worked with one of the top five consulting firm, where she led projects in the information technology, banking, government, and securities sectors as well as being a manager in the risk management practice. Sylvie writes about risk management, communication, and PMO.