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Virtual Teams that Work

Communication can take form in many ways, when it comes to project management. One can share documents  and distribute them in global teams. Send Emails in a moments notice, while on the phone with a client. Text messages, tweets and Facebook posts are all becoming a daily chore for workers, not just those in the media any longer. Fast collaboration, which leads to lazy communication.

How does a team keep these forms of communication from taking on a life of their own and wasting more time, than keeping a project moving? The answer is to keep the focus of the group in a single system that offers all the advantages of the aforementioned solutions. Some of the options listed above are poor choices for business communication. Texting is a useful tool for a quick reminder, however, some users try to use it as a communication tool to give instruction to a teammate. This is a bad practice and typically leads to confusion and more wasted time in lengthy exchanges. Tweets and Facebook are great to tell the public of an event, or general advertising but also are not necessarily beneficial to teamwork and lead to wasted time pulling attention from work activities toward the social and family life of the users.

With 2tasks.com a user can share documents with teammates and customers, they are notified by email of a new document on a given project. They can edit the document, or comment on the upload as well. With this communication tied to the specific document within the project, there is no trying to figure out what the communication is relating to. The chat sessions are an easy option for members of a team to quickly communicate while the focus is solely on a given project. They are not distracted by outside forces like a sms message to their phone, where you are competing for the teammates attention with their high score in Angry Birds.

With a free 60 day trial, you can try out this new technology that is changing the way businesses get things done. Just create an account in 30 seconds, and start your new project in two minutes with up to 10 team members. Start your free trial today!

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What changes when teams are virtual?

To be successful, virtual managers must be aware of the challenges of overseeing virtual teams:
* The absence of non-verbal communication. Subtle indicators such as the silent nod of approval or the raised eyebrow of disapproval are eliminated in virtual teams. Words of praise for a job well done should be conveyed in virtual meetings so that practitioners know they are on the right track.
* Working across time zones. Schedules for meetings must be sensitive to team members in multiple time zones. In extreme cases (such as a team with practitioners in both Asia and North America), the number of common waking hours is limited and finding meeting times can be difficult.
* The difficulty of building rapport. Rapport is essential for functional team work but often difficult to establish and develop when people don’t have the opportunity to meet in person and get to know each other. This can be overcome by facilitating social interaction between team members.
* Over-reliance on email and telephone communication. The narrow communication channel available to virtual team members can lead to a sense of isolation. It can also cause frustration if colleagues err in causing email overload by their efforts to provide information.
* Managing conflict at arm’s length. Research has cited conflict management as a challenge for virtual teams, although it could be argued that less contact means less conflict.

VIRTUAL TEAMS SUCCEED BY USING BEST PRACTICES
The growth in popularity of virtual teams has prompted a number of researchers to take a closer look at what makes the good ones work. They have found that the most successful teams follow these best practices:
* Institute strong leadership. Executives must fully support the virtual structure and be aware of the potential challenges of managing a virtual team. They should consistently monitor the team’s progress to ensure deadlines are being met and budgets are on track.
* Choose the right team members. Individuals should be selected with a view to forming a successful team. Not all practitioners will thrive in a virtual environment. Those who are self-reliant and self-motivated will fare best.
* Set expectations from the start. Articulate objectives and define team member roles up front to avoid the possibility of overlooking or duplicating aspects of the work. This is especially important given the geographical distance between members of a virtual team.
* Implement strict protocols. Establishing protocols will ensure that each team member knows when and how quickly to respond to action items, and will determine the steps to take when a team member fails to do so. Team meetings should be run by a strong chair. People should be prompted to give their opinions as opposed to volunteering them. Digressions should be discouraged as they tend to disengage other team members. Multitasking during meetings should be prohibited.
* Use proven processes. Teams need processes that govern the way they work and how the work will get done, from being aware of individual responsibilities and decision-making procedures to the consequences of poor work or missed deadlines. Virtual teams have little margin for error when it comes to project management, as problems can go unnoticed and grow into major issues.
* Manage timelines and budgets carefully. Often a project budget will dictate the number of hours that can be charged to a client. Because freelance practitioners are paid according to the time they take, budgets can easily be exceeded if not properly monitored.
* Establish meaningful project milestones. Milestones should be implemented to chart a project’s progress and act as checkpoints for the timeliness and quality of virtual team work.
* Encourage interaction. Leadership must ensure that team members have some mechanism by which to develop strong working relationships. They should also bring team members together by organizing social functions every few months to help them build rapport.
* Communicate more efficiently.Virtual teams can be connected by various technologies, including phone, email, instant messaging, video or web conferencing, or virtual project collaboration software like that found at 2tasks.com. Use more than one of these options so team members can choose the technology they’re most comfortable with. In addition, more communications do not necessarily mean better communication. Too many emails can lead to information overload and cause important issues to be overlooked. The key is to convey only relevant information, and to do so clearly and consistently.
* Minimize team conflict. Although conflict can lead to better ideas and solutions, conflicts within a virtual team should be dealt with immediately, because they can escalate quickly. Virtual teams do not build rapport as easily as other teams, and managers may have to become more involved in conflict resolution.

Let’s Get Social

I purchased my domain from 1and1, and linked it to WordPress. This will allow me to build a following on my domain through my blog, of individuals with an interest in project management and/or entrepreneurship.

This evening, I spent my time working on the social media side of things, establishing my base and locking in the names I want on networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr. I also began development on my log in screen. It is fairly simplistic but has sufficient security for the moment.

After a discussion with a follower yesterday, I downloaded Hootsuite, which has been a huge help in setting up future management of my online presence. If you have not done so already, read through some of the replies to my previous posts. There is some wonderful information in helping you establish a web presence, either by yourself or through a great company in Troy, Ohio (Go Bucks!).

I will be posting pictures on flicker of sketches I do of the future development before it is built. This will not only give you an Idea of what is coming but a chance to comment on what you see as well. I will be looking at some Kanban programs tomorrow evening and see what seems to be working for people. I like the idea of a simple format that is clean and easy to update. Chat is another thing I am looking at, not sure if that is the preferred method for communication for everyone though. I may stick with a forum type module at first and add chat as an add-on later. The calendar will likely be the first thing I add once I have the log in screen complete. Once I have that in place, you will be able to log in and begin using the calendar free of charge.

What are your thoughts on three things you must have in a project management software?

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