We all agree that the new working world is fascinating yet intimidating. Whether or not we like it, it is certain that everything will change and some of us have already made the transition. Today, distributed, virtual teams play a central role in many domains. In the digital age, they are one of the key success factors for companies both big and small.
At Pentalog we have been working with virtual teams for more than two decades and we have been very successful with it. Virtual teams will become the standard format of collaboration in the digital world. It is essential for Digital Leaders to be able to understand how virtual teams work and how to handle them.
Virtual vs. Distributed Team?
The terms are used interchangeably and basically mean the same thing. A virtual team is a group of people working on the same subject while in different locations, time zones, cultures or countries. While some might see this as a disadvantage, I truly believe the opposite to be true. The diversity this kind of team brings to the table is invaluable and at the core of any company with sustainable competitive advantage.
There are several proverbial ducks to get in a row before harnessing the full potential value of a Virtual Team. Aspects that must be addressed before starting a project with a virtual team include:
1. Technical: Which tools are best to use for group meetings, chats, calls, & video conferencing? What about security and budget?
2. Organizational: Which organizational frame works best for the team (e.g.: Scrum, Kanban) and how often should meetings be held? Who should plan the meetings? Which members should participate and where will the results be documented?
3. Interpersonal: How do you ensure motivation, communication, cultural competence, fun, and accountability?
The 1st and 2nd points are easily managed when using an experienced service provider like Pentalog. If you need help balancing these aspects of your virtual team, contact one of our collaboration specialists.
The most challenging but most rewarding aspect – is the last. Managing the Interpersonal component of your virtual team successfully is what separates leaders from “bosses”. Leveraging the differences in your team and using them to everyone’s benefit transforms the seemingly disadvantageous into a thriving, conquering team.
Read more: Will your dev team deliver on time?
Turn Virtual Teams into Conquerors
Find some common ground to unify your team’s energy regardless of language or cultural differences. There must be a higher goal or philosophy shaping their purpose and motivating them to act as a unit while pursuing the project goals. Usually, this goal is intangible. Rather than just cash, the motivating factor is feeling of being part of a great game while playing with a stellar team.
You must set an example by being a great communicator while teaching your team how to communicate effectively as well. This sometimes means explaining the obvious by re-framing your explanation.
Effective Communication includes:
1. Reiterating questions and answers to ensure common understanding.
2. Setting guidelines for completing tasks and communicating them (Have a definition of “ready” and “done” for a task)
3. Respecting Non-Verbal Communication Rules: all team members are equal and should be treated with the same respect, independent from their role or rank in the company.
4. Listening as if you would have to re-explain the statement to someone else outside the team.
Celebrate your results regularly, whether good or bad! In other words, make learning an experience that is independent from success. No matter the goal of a project, make sure to learn from failures as they’re often the best teachers. (Aside from you, of course!) It is important to stay away from the “blame game” or single out any single team member as the main reason for a failure – it only alienates your team.
The best way to learn from a mistake is to analyze what went wrong and come up with a solution to avoid it in the future and then reward the team with a treat. We have all made mistakes when we were children and it is part of the learning process. We have learnt to walk by falling down and we were always rewarded by consoling words, hugs and kisses or sweets from grown-ups. That was our motivation to go on. Why should it be any different now, just because we are adults?
On the other hand, when the team has accomplished something or has gone beyond expectation to achieve something outstanding, you should reward this with more substantial incentives like money, a party, or some type of activity the whole team can participate in. At the end of a project when the final goal has been achieved you should remunerate the work of each individual team member. This will prepare the road for future work.
Learn more about how to manage a remote team
Working in a virtual team teaches employees many valuable skills. They learn how to communicate effectively in a foreign language and how to interact with a culturally diverse set of people. They also learn self-discipline and self-management as they have to figure out how to structure their work so that everyone can follow and understand the process.
A company that has integrated virtual teams into their corporate culture has achieved a major milestone. Successfully working with virtual teams allows a firm to attract the best employees from all over the world and with the best talent they can become the most successful in their field.
So go for it!
If you want to work with a virtual team, contact us. Our consultants will help you ramp up a dedicated team or recruit the freelance developers that best match your technical and business needs.