Managing Virtual Teams

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Ten tips for best practices in managing virtual work teams using the web. Good 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 assist you with your good old-fashioned management skills. Choose tools that are gaining traction and your virtual team management life will not only be productive, but it can be a lot of fun.

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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. Page2
  3. 3. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS TEN TIPS FOR BEST PRACTICES IN MANAGING V I RT U A L W O R K T E A M S U S I N G T H E W E B Good 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 assist you with your good old-fashioned management skills. Choose tools that are gaining traction and your virtual team management life will not only be productive, but it can be a lot of fun. 1. Use solid management practices Your overall management style should not differ between in-house and off-site teams. As you would with any project, assess company objectives and criteria for success. Assign tasks 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 and communicate an ‘exception’ handling process. Page3
  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. Page4
  5. 5. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS Sustainable Virtual Team Communication Model As today's workforce becomes more geographically dispersed, more and more organizations are facing the struggles of virtual communication. Good communications 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 to make your virtual team the most successful it can be. Check on benchmarks as they relate to timeline and budget with Hold an internal kickoff with all stakeholders for each project or the use of web-based invoicing or time-tracking applications. assignment. Communicate logistics information, such as contact info, system access, etc. and ‘single voice.’ Meet via Expect to review results in small chunks until processes are established. Allow for frequent updates and status reporting teleconference, web conference or tele-presence, between benchmarks. Do NOT tolerate that if possible. Define and communicate objectives ‘no news is good news.’ Hold frequent and criteria for success with each meetings to establish and expand trust. team member. Communicate priorities and ‘nice to haves’ clearly. Emphasize individual contributions. Give Seize opportunities for social team members control to brainstorm, interactions. Create an open share research and generate new environment for virtual teams ideas online. Monitor and maintain to assist one another and communication weekly for success. Expect support a diversity of resolution if issues arise, accountability and backgrounds, talent and ideas. solid go-forward plans from all team members. Celebrate accomplishments throughout Use online resource management application to store the project life-cycle. Find creative ways to project materials and record knowledge in a central location. acknowledge achievements as individuals and as a team. Page5
  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. Page6
  7. 7. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS 6. Consider team demographics When selecting the right tools, ensure they meet the needs of the diverse individuals who will use them. Do these tools assist in solving some of the typical challenges for virtual team members, such as adjustments to differing time zones, cultures and languages? Ensure that older individuals are comfortable with the newer technologies you select and that younger ones recognize the benefit of using tried-and-true tools. 7. Foster creativity, sharing and co-creating For companies to grow, they must now rely on internet collaboration and emphasize individual contributions. Give team members the control to brainstorm, share research and generate new ideas online. Use social networking tools that capture personal observations, invite comments from other team members and distribute new knowledge. You’ll be surprised at the innovations that occur once thoughts, groups, and connections converge. 8. Enable learning Create virtual learning environments online to record best practices, process improvements and lessons learned on all projects. Re-evaluate regularly the tools and technologies used to manage projects to determine if they continue to meet project and team requirements. New tools or the combination of tools (or mashups) arrive on the market by the hundreds weekly. Something that was not available six months ago may solve your project or business problem today. Page7
  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. Page8
  9. 9. MANAGING VIRTUAL TEAMS Remember, a little creative thought and the appropriate tools can assist you with your good old-fashioned management skills. The proper mix of these elements 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 we'll 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 Page9

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