Episode 5: Effective Virtual Teams - Developing A Virtual Team
Bringing together an effective virtual team can be quite a task. After all, you're dealing with individual people, complex human beings. Even though they may be effective team players they've got a whole lot going on in their lives. Personal circumstances will often have an impact on efficiency at work and don't think that this type of scenario is going to pass you by. In fact, you should theoretically budget for problems before they arise and understand how difficult it is to find an individual who will be error-free or drama-free through the months and years ahead.
Quite apart from external circumstances, which may come to bear to affect an individual's output, you also have to consider how such individuals get along with others on your team. Needless to say, you need to be able to get on with each team member and vice versa, but we are increasingly finding that team members need to interact with one another regularly, as well. There again personalities may periodically clash and you have to calculate whether or not this is going to have a bearing on the systems you're trying to put in place.
How do you know how well the team is going to "mesh?" The answer is that you don't unless you try. You can certainly make some assumptions and we may all be guilty of trying to stereotype individuals based on popular culture. However, the proof of the pudding is only in the eating and this can be assessed as part of your growing pains or learning curve as you expand.
If you have done your job well at the outset then you may well find that your virtual team comes together rather more readily than you might have hoped for. In an ideal situation, they will all realize that they function together as a team most efficiently and will look out for each other and help out as needed. For example, if somebody is sidetracked through illness then one or other of your team may automatically step up and fill in. They may do this without asking and you may be lucky enough to find that this metric quickly comes together without too much prompting from you.
Whereas it's always your role to oversee as coordinator in chief, it's always gratifying when other members of the team anticipate who comes to the rescue. You may not have delegated a "number two" in your operation as yet, but remember that you are not infallible either. Surely, the acid test of the ability of the team to truly operate as such is in their ability to make it all happen in your absence.
Do always remember however that when you're growing the virtual team you're doing so from the perspective of ultimate efficiency. You're providing an alternative to the client, often an offer to replace a salaried team of individuals at their home base. Ensure that your structure, systems, and software enable your team to operate smoothly with the least amount of inefficiency inherent in the "old world."