Tools for self assessment related to working in virtual teams
How do you select the team leader for an important project that is spread over several geographical locations? Or how do you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as a leader of a virtual team so you can define your personal development effectively?
Go to the download part of my website to access a short self assessment and evaluation tool for team leaders.
Download Virtual Team Leader http://www.bazimmermann.com/english/downloads.php
You lead a culturally diverse team stretching across the globe? How well developed is the ability in the team to constructively use this diversity? In the download section of my website you will find a concise self assessment of the intercultural aspects of working in virtual teams.
Download Team Cultural Awareness
Even though important for every team, it is particularly vital for virtual teams to agree the norms of co-operation. Yet, there is no one-fits-all solution as each team, of course, is working in a different context. Go to the download section and you will fidn also a document with a list of 7 categories for which I'd strongly recommend to define those norms to achieve the most effective virtual team possible.
Download Team Norms
Subject: Social contacts via the Internet
Author: Clay Shirky
Published by: Penguin Books Ltd, London
Review: Jeff Beckham at http://www.jeffbeckham.com/
Humans are social animals. And in "Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations", Clay Shirky shows how the widespread adoption of the internet has allowed us to become more social than ever.
And though the focus is on the online tools we use to find, meet, and talk with each other, you don’t need to know your Twitter from your Meetup to appreciate the insights that appear on nearly every page. Shirky’s clear writing brings newbies up to speed easily and shines new light on established tech topics. Those of us who grew up before the rise of the internet will easily recognize the barriers to sharing information (how can I let other people see this newspaper article?) and getting groups together (how can I find people who like to do what I do?) that have existed for as long as we can remember. But one by one, Shirky shows how those barriers have fallen, and how it’s easier now than ever to publish, organize, meet and take action.
One such example is taken from Austin, where in 2006, planes full of American Airlines passengers were left sitting on the runway for hours because of bad weather. One of those passengers, a real estate agent from California named Kate Hanni, used her comments on the Austin American-Statesman website to begin organizing her fellow passengers into a group that proposed an Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights. Her simple comment — “Anyone from this flight please contact me” — was the spark to a movement that ended with lobbying Congress and with airlines feeling the pressure to adopt their own Passenger Bills of Rights. Prior to email and websites and online comments on news stories, those disgruntled passengers would only have shared a story and a warning for travellers. With those tools, they had a way to create awareness on a great scale and the possibility for new actions. “Here Comes Everybody” is filled with these type of examples, from strangers banding together to find a lost phone to the users of Digg taking collection action over the publishing of DVD unlock codes. Each story illustrates the social and technological factors at work today, and how the future of our groups will be impacted.
To order the book click on the link:
Premission to republished requested
6 levers to drastically improve the performance of your virtual team
Be management or project teams - working with virtual teams is common practice in R&D these days. This makes it the more important to be aware of the specific requirements and stumbling blocks one might face. Scientific studies as well as my own experiences in working with virtual teams highlight 3 challenges in particular:
I.) Communication amongst team members is breaking up and critical subjects are not sufficiently shared, if at all. This is a phenomenon particularly showing in R&D because developers tend to exchange largely facts and functional data leaving out more intuitive and less tangible information. Example: A global team developed a new processing technology. The solution favoured by the team leader in Europe was elegant but also complex. Team members in Latin America couldn't voice their concerns about challenge for their colleagues in Brazil to deal with that kind of complexity. Those concerns couldn't be verified at that point and could have shed a wrong light on their colleagues. During installation of the equipment serious problems did occur and could only be solved through major re-design.
II.) R&D continuously faces the often conflicting requirements of marketing/sales on one hand and production on the other. Resulting conflicts are often acknowledged too late and solving them is particularly complicated in virtual teams.
III.) Due to the spread of team members over various locations very often loyalty issues rise when allocating resources. This is even more true when the actual line manager is in the same location. Example: If your evaluation is directly depending on your line manager and you are also working on other projects for him, then it is only understandable if his requests become first priority over those of the virtual team. The problem is that these forces often aren't addressed in virtual teams.
So, which factors are determining the success of virtual teams?
• Trust amongst team members
• Communication in the team
• The ability to manage conflict
• Use of appropriate technology
• Consideration of the critical team size
Although this list is also true for teams located in the same place they are essential for virtual teams. In the end it is down to you as the team leader how you manage these factors.
If you utilise the following levers and take into consideration some practical tips you should be well down the road to success:
1. In the beginning, focus on developing a sound basis of trust.
Tip: Consider the investment of both time and money to bring your team together for a personal kick-off meeting or workshop. It is an invaluable way to establish the ground rules and often even pays off to use a professional coach to help you bring the team together.
2. Make sure to allow the building of social relationships. Tip: Implement a replacement for the "chat at the coffee corner". Establish weekly voluntary teleconferences without agenda and encourage the conversation about interesting subjects beyond the project content.
3. Do not ignore tension hoping they will disappear on their own. Tip: Address conflicts as soon as you notice them. Encourage an open dialogue and constructive handling of a conflict. Develop a culture where arguments are possible and considered positive as long as they don't get personal.
4. Select a team structure that supports virtual team working. Experience shows that virtual teams are most effective when they have 5 to 7 members.
Tip: Often project teams have more than 7 team members. In that case, develop satellite teams with maximum interdependency and assign one representative each to the core team. Example: several representatives from sales, marketing, purchasing, engineering, production and commercial are assigned to your team which can easily lead to 15-25 members in the team. Agree with the representatives of each function in separate meetings how you want to work, define clear responsibilities and assign one representative for the core team. This leads to an effective core team and also motivated satellite teams. It is not recommended to define this in a meeting with the entire team as often discussions aren't as open as they should be.
5. Establish clear channels for communication and determine appropriate technology.
Tip: Use the first meeting to agree on content, frequency and type of channel for certain information. Agree when e-mail is sufficient, when teleconferences are needed and when even video conferences are required. Consider yourself to be the "communication engine". If you stop everyone else in the team will too.
6. Establish early the rules and structures to be followed for making decisions.
Tip: Do not hesitate to delegate certain decisions to individuals or satellite teams. The clearer that is agreed in the beginning the smoother decision processes will work. A „RACI“-analysis (responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) of relevant tasks can help tremendously.
You can find a detailed explanation of a RACI Analysis vi this link:
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