Virtual Teams, Knowledge Shelf With the surge in telecommuting practices, the twenty-first century project manager faces increasingly more complex challenges in managing his or her team. One of those crucial challenges is conducting effective communication in a virtual environment. To ensure the ultimate success of a project, the project manager must make sure that the factor of effective communication is addressed as a top priority.
A key benefit to forming virtual teams is the ability to cost-effectively tap into a wide pool of talent from various locations. There are several definitions of the virtual team worker, but within the context of this article, we are talking about people who work on project teams and who display the following attributes: They work primarily from a particular office maybe a home office, or maybe a fixed work locationand they are not expected to travel each week as a part of their job i.
How different is managing a virtual project team from a co-located team? Are there additional considerations or risks involved in managing a virtual team? Before we answer these questions, one must first understand the dynamics of the virtual team worker.
Being a virtual team worker is not for everyone or every organization.
A virtual team worker is more likely than the collocated worker to suffer from feelings of isolation if the set-up is not right, and they need to be more self-managing and focus their efforts in a particular way.
In order to effectively manage their virtual project team members, the project manager needs first to understand how to achieve this. We contend that there are five primary aspects in which a project manager should direct their efforts to ensure effective project management of the virtual team; 1 Manage Goals 2 Manage Communications 3 Keep People Motivated 4 Regularly Assess the Effectiveness of the Remote Communications, and 5 Use Collaboration Tools.
Manage Goals Setting clear goals and objectives are important in any project. When a portion of the team is virtual, this is all the more important.
The virtual team workers cannot physically walk into your office to ask clarifying questions, review goal statements posted on the walls or physically attend team focus meetings. In order to allow inclusion of virtual team members, consider adding the project team goal statements on the front page of team work sites or find other ways of making them readily available.
There is no difference for this between collocated or virtual teams. The key difference for virtual team working is that project managers need to understand the specific communication needs of the virtual team workers, as well as their own communication style.
Apart from perhaps an initial face-to-face meeting which we recommend, if it is feasiblevirtual team workers are connected to each other through electronic forms of communication email, instant messaging, conference calls, videoconferences.
In order to mitigate this risk, the project manager needs to understand the importance of selecting the appropriate communication medium for each message.
Be highly perceptive of cultural differences if your team is multi-national, and how different cultures may prefer different communication mediums.
Is something during your project significant enough to warrant a video conference e. Only through video conferencing can you detect positive or negative body language. On phone calls which are a common form of virtual communicationpay attention to the tone of voice being used; be perceptive to any signs of discontent or frustration.
Check that people are paying attention by making any conference call interactive. Keep People Motivated Any feelings of isolation and disconnection from the team have a direct correlation to the motivation of the virtual team member.As virtual teams grow in popularity, there is a need for ongoing leadership and team development activities which forms an integral part of project management skills development and is a key element of any investment in learning and development.
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