Friday, April 27, 2012

Project Management: 7 Tips for Managing Virtual Teams

The first law of project management states: it is your responsibility to ensure that deliverables and milestones are achieved on time and with the utmost quality.

No excuses; Even if you are managing cross boundary, expansive projects and managing Virtual teams.

There are many moving and sometimes, non-moving parts to a virtual team that makes managing them more difficult. Here are a few tips and techniques to follow:
  1. Set clear project objectives and expectations for your team. Clearly communicate the project objectives, schedules and individual roles and responsibilities. It is important that everyone knows what they are doing, how their work contributes to the project, what other team members need from them, and why. Though everyone can work independently, it is important to keep the links in place and to repeatedly communicate and state the team’s objectives. Failure to do so can be catastrophic for the success of a project. 
  2. Set the rules and tone early. At the beginning of the project it is crucial to let the team members know what is expected of them. Status reports, participation in conference calls, hours of availability, and deliverable schedules are essential parts of managing virtual teams.
  3. Understand and respect different cultures. This is very important if you are managing team members of different regions and/or in different countries. First Learn and then Honour your team members’ cultural differences and their right for personal commitments and religious practices.
  4. Choose the most effective technology to aid communication. The anchor of every virtual team is communications and the technology used to support it. Even as fuel prices soar, flying the team in for a meeting each week is not realistic. So, online chat, conference calls and webinars are much more effective. There are a number of technologies available such as Instant Messaging, Online LiveMeeting, Skype, and many other tools that support video and Web conferencing. Check that these tools are available, suitable and work efficiently in all your regions and countries. In addition, there are collaboration tools that allow team members to share and collaborate on documents such as SharePoint, Dropbox and many more.
  5. Be very specific about time commitments. Never 'assume' or leave something to chance. Make sure that all team members know when deliverables are due. Make sure it is clearly definied in your project plan and, if needs be, draw them their own expanded section. You have failed if you have to remind them the day before. You never, ever want to have them scramble to get something done before close of business the next day. The chance of success will be nil or the quality of the deliverable will be greatly reduced.
  6. Get the team together on occasion. Although it is expensive to bring remote teams together, it is a necessary element to managing a virtual team. To build and continue team chemistry, gathering the team together strengthens personal relationships and working partnerships in both the short and long term. Never underestimate the importance of building better relationships through team camaraderie and rapport.
  7. Three hundred and sixty degree communication. The bottom line: you are the conduit for communications, the motivator and problem solver but when the team is working well, stay out of their way. Empower and trust your team to make proper decisions by working with each other and make sure you are not the bottleneck by insisting that all communication be channeled through you. After all you are not the project, you are just the project manager.

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