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Managing Virtual Teams

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Ten tips for best practices in managing virtual work teams using the web.

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Managing Virtual Teams

  1. 1. M A N A G I N G V I RT U A L T E A M S
  2. 2. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & Associates 11639 E. Wethersfield Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85259 USA marketing@docntrain.com www.docntrain.com Phone: 480-614-8440 Toll-free: 877-614-8440 Fax: 480-614-2775 Copyright © 2008 Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & Associates. All rights reserved.2Page
  3. 3. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMSTEN TIPS FOR BEST PRACTICES IN MANAGINGV I RT U A L W O R K T E A M S U S I N G T H E W E BGood team management is tested by having employees in remote or distant locations.Success depends on a little creative thought when adding exciting new tools that will assistyou with your good old-fashioned management skills. Choose tools that are gaining tractionand your virtual team management life will not only be productive, but it can be a lot of fun.1. Use solid management practicesYour overall management style should not differ between in-house and off-site teams. Asyou would with any project, assess company objectives and criteria for success. Assigntasks according to team member strengths, factoring in risks. Clearly express expectations,objectives, criteria and benchmarks. Insist on full and accurate formal status reporting.Follow up. Establish a known routine of maintenance, reporting, re-aligning andcommunicate an ‘exception’ handling process. 3 Page
  4. 4. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS 2. Select the right tools and technology There are thousands of tools available to keep your team in the loop. Of course the oldies but goodies should still play a big role: phone, instant message, email, web conferencing. Ready to add something new to the mix? Many online tools have free trials so you can make the most of new web applications with a rapid test run. Remember to have your IT support team look into any security issues or policies that may need to be addressed. 3. Seize opportunities for social interactions Find tools that foster communication and trust. It’s important to ensure all team members are on the same page about what’s happening in the organization as well on their dedicated projects. Social networking tools make it easy to keep the lines of communication open at all times, building deeper relationships and lessening isolation among geographically dispersed peers.4Page
  5. 5. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMSSustainable Virtual Team Communication ModelAs todays workforce becomes more geographically dispersed, more and more organizations are facing the struggles of virtual communication. Goodcommunications skills are the key to making the virtual team work. Adopting an effective model of communication will enhance the strength of your team.Experiment with a mix of both traditional and web-based collaboration tools, especially those aimed at geographical distribution, to find the right combination tomake your virtual team the most successful it can be. Hold an internal kickoff with all stakeholders for each project or Check on benchmarks as they relate to timeline and budget with assignment. Communicate logistics information, such as contact the use of web-based invoicing or time-tracking applications. info, system access, etc. and ‘single voice.’ Meet via Expect to review results in small chunks until processes are teleconference, web conference or tele-presence, established. Allow for frequent updates and status reporting if possible. Define and communicate objectives between benchmarks. Do NOT tolerate that and criteria for success with each ‘no news is good news.’ Hold frequent team member. Communicate meetings to establish and expand trust. priorities and ‘nice to haves’ clearly. Seize opportunities for social Emphasize individual contributions. Give interactions. Create an open team members control to brainstorm, environment for virtual teams share research and generate new to assist one another and ideas online. Monitor and maintain support a diversity of communication weekly for success. Expect backgrounds, talent and ideas. resolution if issues arise, accountability and Celebrate accomplishments throughout solid go-forward plans from all team members. the project life-cycle. Find creative ways to Use online resource management application to store acknowledge achievements as individuals and as a team. project materials and record knowledge in a central location. 5 Page
  6. 6. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS 4. Establish and express standards and processes The newness and social aspects of online tools can be exciting, however, it’s important to determine standards and protocols as to how and when your team will use social networking tools. Some tools, such as web-based invoicing or time-tracking applications, can assist in setting these standards. And online resource management applications can facilitate project processes and store all your knowledge-based information in one place. 5. Start simple Begin with one or two easy-to-use social networking tools. Choose ones that are well-established and match your industry, such as Del.icio.us or Linked-In. Find out which tools your staff is currently using and determine if any are appropriate for company-wide adoption. As the comfort level grows, so can your team’s participation in new tools.6Page
  7. 7. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS6. Consider team demographicsWhen selecting the right tools, ensure they meet the needs of the diverse individuals who will usethem. Do these tools assist in solving some of the typical challenges for virtual team members, suchas adjustments to differing time zones, cultures and languages? Ensure that older individuals arecomfortable with the newer technologies you select and that younger ones recognize the benefit ofusing tried-and-true tools.7. Foster creativity, sharing and co-creatingFor companies to grow, they must now rely on internet collaboration and emphasize individualcontributions. Give team members the control to brainstorm, share research and generate new ideasonline. Use social networking tools that capture personal observations, invite comments from otherteam members and distribute new knowledge. You’ll be surprised at the innovations that occur oncethoughts, groups, and connections converge.8. Enable learningCreate virtual learning environments online to record best practices, process improvements andlessons learned on all projects. Re-evaluate regularly the tools and technologies used to manageprojects to determine if they continue to meet project and team requirements. New tools or thecombination of tools (or mashups) arrive on the market by the hundreds weekly. Something that wasnot available six months ago may solve your project or business problem today. 7 Page
  8. 8. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS 9. Create transparent communities Open and clearly defined business communities provide opportunities for virtual teams to assist one another, collaborate and build trust. Tools that enhance transparency, such as instant messaging and online workspaces, allow team members to find out who is busy, in a meeting, out of the office, or available to talk at the moment. Face-to-face meetings, whether online or in person, do even more to strengthen bonds and facilitate communication. 10. Celebrate and publicize successes Mark personal and project milestones as occasions for celebration throughout the project life-cycle. Be creative in finding ways to acknowledge achievements as a whole team. Learn what motivates each person on the team or what type of reward would be appreciated. Sharing your success in and outside the organization will inevitably inspire your team to even greater accomplishments.8Page
  9. 9. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMSRemember, a little creative thought and the appropriate tools can assist you with your good old-fashioned management skills. The proper mix of theseelements will create an environment where your virtual team management life will not only be productive, but also a lot of fun.Not sure where to start? Drop us a line and well be glad to get you started. Michaels & Associates — we do the virtual thing for a living. marketing@docntrain.com www.docntrain.com toll-free: 877-614-8440 9 Page