Starting a Virtual Team with the Right Membership

Manager's Guide to Virtual Teams (Briefcase Books)
Manager's Guide to
Virtula Teams book
In the “Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams” by Kimball Fisher and Mareen Fisher they state the 3 reasons a virtual team may need to exist are because members: are not located in same office building, may work different shifts or in different time zones, and/or come from varying cultures. Working with virtual teams (a.k.a. GDT) can be hard if the manager has not selected the correct members and does not make the effort required to get all members to work as a team.

In this post, I will focus on summarizing chapter 6 of the book, which is starting up or refocusing a virtual team. The chapter provides tips for 3 typical team start-up activities that can not be skipped for a virtual team, even if they are a temporary project team. The standard activities include:
  1. Creating a charter (a.k.a. mission/purpose and results/objectives for team)
  2. Defining roles and clarifying responsibilities
  3. Establishing operating guidelines (a.k.a. ground rules or team behavior, which in my opinion should include participation in meetings, problem-solving and decision-making processes – the book also suggests some good methods for the last two in later chapters).
Included in this chapter is an activity which I have seen some technical teams optionally put in their operating procedures in order to better work together. It is required for virtual teams as a 4th activity; it is the establishment of technology-use protocols. To save time, I will not write about these 3 team items since it is possible to find many articles on all 3 and find suggested ideas for developing each in many team-building books.

Instead, I would like to paraphrase the attributes that the Fishers believe virtual team members must have, since some of these may be different than the requirements for co-located work or project team members. Here are the attributes to consider for a virtual team member:
  • Can work independently with little/no supervision but is not a loner
  • Is self-disciplined so that he/she will start and complete tasks
  • Will enjoy working on a team and has good interpersonal skills
  • Gets good results through use of good judgment and necessary skills
  • Is competent in both work/project skills and required technology
  • Accepts accountability for self and work responsibilities
In the “Manager’s Guide to Virtual Teams”, the authors also stress the importance of orientation for new members, team training, appropriate training for all in necessary business-related skills, and taking time to celebrate as a team. Continuous learning is encouraged with team-building activities in both live and web/video meetings as key to helping the virtual members feel more like a part of a team. They suggest doing short easy relationship-building activities at least monthly in virtual meetings and then do other types of team-building at event or meeting dates when the group gets together at the same location.

For more from the book, see my next post on Assessing the Effectiveness of a Virtual Team Leader.

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