Managing virtual project teams
Research indicates there are many benefits to virtual project teams, including extended hours of business, reduced overheads such as office space, access to new markets, access to new skill sets, productivity gains and improved work-life balance.
The project management role is clearly changing and moving away from the boardroom meetings and group gatherings to virtual project teams at various sites around the world. Most project managers with a few years experience have managed at least a project where some or all the project team was remotely located.
In order to effectively manage his virtual project team members, a project manager needs first to understand how to achieve this. There are six main aspects in which a project manager should direct his efforts to ensure effective project management of the virtual team:
1. Manage the goals of the project
The project manager should set clear goals and objectives for each project. When it comes to virtual team members, goals and objectives are more important since the virtual team members are not able to walk into the office and ask clarifying questions or physically attend team meetings.
In order to assure a better communication, a project manager should add the project team goals on the front page of team work sites or find other ways of making it visible.
2. Manage project communications
As you already know, project management time is almost 90% communication and the percentage is the same for collocated and virtual teams. The main difference for virtual teams is that the project managers have to understand the specific communication needs of the virtual team members and their own communication style.
The virtual team members are usually connected to each other through electronic communication such as email, instant messaging, conference calls and video conferences. Only through video conferencing the project manager has the possibility to detect positive or negative body language. On both conference calls or phone calls, he should pay attention to the tone of voice being used and to any signs of frustration or discontent.
3. Build a rapport and establish trust
Another aspect of managing people is to build rapport and trust with each team member. This is twice as hard with a virtual team. Project managers should establish this early in the project life cycle and ensure that they spend time with each team member and build a relationship with them.
Rapport and trust is a two-way street. People must earn trust and be given trust by others. Project managers need to go our their own way and trust that their team members will deliver on their respective tasks at the times they agreed to deliver.
4. Keep tasks short for early success
If project managers create tasks that are short, they allow easy tracking and performance reporting from the beginning of the project. The main advantage is that the virtual team members know exactly what to do, how short it will take, when it is due and what to deliver.
Working on five short tasks is easier than having to do so for one or two long tasks. This technique should keep the virtual team members motivated and wanting to complete the activities with more enthusiasm.
5. Recognize and reward people
If a company has a reward or recognition program, project managers should use it. If not, they have to take the time and effort to create these rewards for their project team members. It is amazing how far a well-received fun certificate or a marketing gadget given to a hard-working team member goes toward building morale and a great working relationship.
6. Create fun
It is the responsibility of a project manager to create fun on their projects. This means that they need to create a fun environment, but also keep the project team focused to deliver a successful project. There are many ways of having fun on a project, from giving gifts at status meetings, morale events and generally keeping he environment light and motivating.
Virtual teams are increasingly in today’s world and there is a lot of high quality information on how to manage effectively the virtual project teams. Managing a virtual project team can be richly rewarding, and requires many of the same core competencies as managing a collocated team, with the added element of being highly sensitive to communication styles and ensuring appropriate styles are used depending on the occasion.
1.Project Management communications Bible, William Dow