Let’s say it. Executing projects with virtual teams has many advantages but, in spite of the many tools that are currently available to improve the communication between team members when they are not co-located, working with virtual teams has an added level of difficulty. Is it possible to take advantage of the benefits without die trying?
I have been managing some virtual teams in the last year and also following the way other project managers in our PMO were doing it. With these experiences and some documentation from experts that I have read recently I have gathered 7 recommendations to have chances of success when you have to manage a virtual team.
- Be available and keep frequent formal and informal conversations with the team.
- Provide the appropiate channels and encourage your team to share their feelings and chat informally whenever they can. It should be a kind of water cooler, using separate chat channels, for instance.
- This has not been my case but if there are cultural differences between your team members it is crucial to promote cultural training for all members. For instance, Mediterranean workers are used to take more time for lunch than their northern team mates. It is important that the team understands and respects it whenever it is possible.
- Use video calls preferably over chat and email. And, if possible, it is good to have a regular structured video call with the whole team.
- Schedule a periodical in-person meeting from time to time. It is better if you can do it early on the beginning of the project.
- Provide a rhythm to the team. Stablish regular meetings (same days and time each week) and use best practices of meeting governance.
- Introduce the practice of sending a status email at the end of the day to recap the status of on-going tasks and to inform the team members on updates from the customer or other stakeholders.
The key is to treat your far team members the same as your team members who work in your immediate vincinity. Respect them, listem to them, feel their needs and stay in personal and emotional communication constantly.