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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Team challenge: The unique issues of Virtual or Remote Team Working |

Team challenge: The unique issues of Virtual or Remote Team Working

‘Traditional’ team working – where team members are based in the same location and face to face communication can easily take place – is something that most of us are familiar with. The protocols associated with working as part of, or perhaps managing a team like this will be second nature. The trend towards organisations introducing Virtual or Remote Working (VRW) however brings with it an entirely new set of challenges which need to be considered and addressed if such a team model is to succeed. Most of the challenges these teams face can be grouped under common areas;
Time:  Where team members are separated by time zones, careful consideration must be given to scheduling work and communications to take these variations into account. Team managers will need to work with the different time zones, prioritising and planning work accordingly so that work allocation is balanced among team members. Working across time zones can have a positive impact, bringing additional leverage as the working day for a team is extended.
Team formation and maintenance: Making sure a VRW team is composed of members who can work effectively together, and ensuring the team is developed and maintained on an on-going basis to deliver success is key. Getting this right will involve finding ways to promote informal relationships, increase interaction and build trust and empathy between team members. Where a Remote Team is made up of individuals from different cultural backgrounds this is likely to require intercultural training for team members.
Stakeholder management: A team will be created to achieve an objective or deliver a task and there may be a number of stakeholders within an organisation who have an interest in supporting the team and making sure its strategic goals are met. It will be necessary to manage these stakeholder connections, maintaining positive relationships and making sure the expectations of all parties are met.
Technology selection:  Technology can play a pivotal role in the success of a VRW Team but may involve significant investment. It will be vital to research and select the right technology to enable the team to work together efficiently. Areas to think about will include how to manage effective discussion over the phone, video-conferencing and audio visual aids to help share content during meetings. Thought will need to be given to dealing with team members who may not have access to the same technology as other participants – and back-up plans will be needed to ensure continuity when inevitable technology issues occur.
Clarity and sustainability of goals, roles and tasks:  All VRW Team members must understand and agree on the aims of the team and will need to remain focused and motivated whilst undertaking the tasks necessary to ensure the required end result is met. This will mean overcoming issues such as making sure members understand instructions; setting up systems for feedback, performance reviews and how to manage conflict.
Managing any team of individuals who have been brought together for their skills, who may not know one another and who comprise of a broad mix of personalities and characters will always present challenges for the team leader and team members alike. When the team is Virtual or Remote and team members are not able to meet one another face to face though, the complexities of team dynamics are compounded still further, introducing a different set of challenges which will need to be taken into account.
Perhaps you have experience of working in or managing a Virtual or Remote Team. What unique challenges did you have to deal with? Did you find that you had to acquire new skill-sets? Share your thoughts with us at expatknowhow.
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Team challenge: The unique issues of Virtual or Remote Team Working |

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