Virtual teams encounter challenges like any other team however; their challenges are a unique mix. Processes can be put in place to meet these challenges head-on and prevent them from getting out of control. Certain processes are best when implemented right from the start and these are not a one-time task but rather ongoing processes. Methods to ensure trust, schedules of face-to-face meetings, metrics for team performance and proper communication strategy can increase the chance of virtual teams to be successful.
Trust in a virtual team is the most important driver of success. Although this is important for any team, it seems to be much more important when the team is not collocated. As a team member, you need to trust your teammates will complete their pieces of the work. As a subordinate, you need to trust that the team leader believes you are doing the work you said you were. I feel that in order to build trust in a team, team members must show positive actions. Once team members see that others are reliable, trustworthy and respectful trust will grow.
Regarding face-to-face meetings, I believe the team should have at least one two hour meeting per month. Topics covered in this monthly meeting should be what the team has accomplished recently, what team members are currently working on and where the team is heading. It is important for the team members to reconnect with each other and to learn the team leader’s goals and visions. This all helps to connect the team members and motivate them to complete their work. In a larger team, small sub-groups should meet face to face on either a weekly or a bi-weekly meeting for a more focused agenda.
Metrics are an import part of measuring performance. By focusing these metrics on the team’s performance, it will help to make team members feel they are part of a group. It should also motivate them to not bring down the team. All team members should know what the team metrics are and what the current levels are.
Communication is always essential to any team success. By keeping communications clear, concise and infrequent, it can increase not only the clarity of the message but can also encourage the reader to respond if required. We are constantly bombarded my calls, emails and texts so it is easy to feel overwhelmed. To work successfully in a team I always try to get to the point with any message I send.
Having processes in place can have a tremendous impact on the performance of virtual teams. Like collocated teams, they face similar challenges but virtual teams have a unique mix. A good team leader will put in place processes to ensure the team is able to perform. Trust, face-to-face meetings, performance metrics and communication strategy all have great impacts on virtual team success.