4 Best Practices To Manage A Virtual Team
To be able to help you manage your virtual team, here are the 4 best practices for managing a virtual team.
1. Clarify tasks and processes, not just goals and roles
All new leaders need to align their team on goals, roles and responsibilities in the first 90 days. With virtual teams, however, coordination is inherently more of a challenge because people are not co-located. So it’s important to focus more attention on the details of task design and the processes that will be used to complete them. Simplify the work to the greatest extent possible, ideally so tasks are assigned to sub-groups of two or three team members. And make sure that there is clarity about work process, with specifics about who does what and when. Then periodically do “after-action reviews” to evaluate how things are going and identify process adjustments and training needs.
2. Compensate for the fact that you are not bumping into each other
One of the biggest reasons why virtual teams fail is because they don’t compensate the fact that team members are not bumping into each other. They kind of forget about the other team members, live in their own world and do not communicate or collaborate as much as they need to.
In a virtual environment, you need to create opportunities for team members to just “chat” both formally and informally. Some effective options are online chat rooms (like Skype), project management software (like Basecamp), and video conferencing (free on Google+ Hangout).
3. Schedule regular meetings
Scheduling briefings at the same time on the same weekday contributes to creating a routine. Routines provide the team with something they are used to and familiar with. That in return puts the team at ease and reduces stress. Video calls are one of the best ways to maximize efficiency because they recreate the routine office feeling remote teams are missing out on.
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4. You must build trust differently
Trust takes on a whole new meaning in virtual teams. When you meet your workmates by the water cooler or photocopier every day, you know instinctively who you can and cannot trust. In a geographically distributed team, trust is measured almost exclusively in terms of reliability.
Cristina Escallon, another faculty member in our new Managing Global Virtual Teams program, teaches that leaders of virtual teams need to concentrate on creating a highly defined process where team members deliver specific results in a repeated sequence. Reliability, aka trust, is thus firmly established after two or three cycles. Because of that, face-to face meetings can be limited to once a year or so.