Hello my friend,
Virtual team is a project team that is distributed across the world and which members doesn’t see each other in reality. Today’s world of globalization makes virtual team a very often case and I think that it’s necessary to talk about them. Moreover I’ve recently gathered valuable experience of working in virtual team and want to share my thoughts with you.
Key points regarding virtual team
The main difference between normal project team and virtual team is that the team members don’t interact with each other and with project manager in reality. The professionals in communication tell that only about 11% of information contains in our words. 89% of information contains in how we speak that words and out non-verbal gesture and posture. Now imagine the situation that you only speak with your teammates only via instant messaging tools (like skype for example) or e-mail. You get only 11% of the information that you could get if you spoke in reality.
Well, you can call your colleagues and get some percent more. But the phone connectivity (especially VoIP over Internet) isn’t perfect and you can’t hear all the tones that your counterpart pronounce. If you were talking to him personally, you would hear that he/she says “Our project is on schedule” with the shivering voice. It’s possible to hear it on the phone call only if you are very careful and if the quality is perfect. Otherwise you have to be satisfied with words only again.
Is the video conference the key? Yes, it might be, because you can see more valuable information. At least you can understand that you colleague is at the work place rather than on the beach. But it’s still difficult to recognize the emotions of your counterpart. So the first important fact of virtual team is that the communication is poorer comparing to normal team. That’s why you should pay more attention to it and prepare better to it.
I have no objections, when the people are working in the comfort conditions. I don’t care, if it’s beach, their home of café. What I care is that the work must be done in time and wit the desired quality. If the project team members can guarantee that then it’s better to provide them right to work from place they like. Personally I prefer to work from office, because there is a more convenient place (several monitors, full scale key-boards and so on). Another important advantage of work in office that it’s more likely that someone will disrupt your work. During work at home it’s quite often that your home mates can attend your attention. It’s pretty good to spend the time with the family, but not in working hours. The outcome of the second block is trust. It must be much higher in the virtual team as it’s much more difficult to control the team than in normal environment. You should spend much time and efforts on building the trust inside your team.
The third key point of virtual team is the motivation and keeping the engagement into project. When the people are working together in one room they are constantly speaking to each other about working and non-working themes. This leads to the creation of the team spirit. If the project team members have good relationship they are more likely doing hard work together, because they are really team. Also you have opportunity to speak to the team about the project, work, employee’s desired and concerns and early identify problem points. In the virtual environment it’s much harder, because nobody tends to be open with the people, whom they don’t know well. Even if the people were very motivated about the project, they energy will degrade if they aren’t treated well. And it’s much more difficult to do it in the virtual environment, at least because you as a project manager has to spend much more efforts on that.
What I’ve learned from being the member of virtual team myself is that even super motivated employees lose their energy with the time. They must be challenged, treated and recognized in order they have star performance further. It’s relevant to the normal team as well, but due to worse communication it’s more difficult and therefore more challenging for the project manager.
In the book “The Deadline” Tom DeMarco tells that the most important part of the project management is the team management. Everything other is an administrative stuff, which always comes after people. Regardless of the team pattern, put people first and then your projects will always achieve their goals.