Virtual teams are an increasingly common form for organizing work—see the working remotely infographic. In the two previous posts in this series, I wrote about the need to be effective with virtual teams, and shared two keys:
- Use Virtual Teams When There is a Clear Benefit to be Gained
- Mitigate the Problems Caused by Crossing Boundaries
Here’s the third key.
Key 3—Make the Details of Collaborative Work More Explicit
The third key to success with virtual teams is to make the details of collaborative work more explicit. Working remotely reduces the range of cues available for communication and its interpretation, and thus there is a need to be more upfront about how your team will work together. As I wrote in Seamless Teamwork in 2008, issues like office hours (and availability), response times to email messages and other forms of communication, upcoming local holidays, and division of tasks need to be discussed, agreed, and refined over time.
One reason for this is the need to build trust between team members, frequently without the benefit of face-to-face time. Face-to-face interaction is the gold standard for building trust, but an increasing number of teams are asked to operate without such interaction. Clarity over how the team will work together goes someway to overcoming the absence of face-to-face interaction for building trust. Everyone knows what they have to live up to, and how their progress (or lack thereof) will impact their team members. Doing what you said you’ll do builds trust with your team members; not doing so rapidly undermines trust, thereby compromising the performance engine of the team.
Your Best Experience
What’s the best experience you’ve ever had with virtual teams? What made it so great?