Project Management

How to Fix Every Issue with Your Virtual Project Team

Most things in our lives have gone digital. We communicate, learn, and work with people hundreds of miles apart that we may never meet. Virtual teams are now commonplace in IT, but they are still relatively new and have problems that are unique to the format. Elizabeth Harrin explains in a post for the PM Perspectives Blog what some of these issues are and what you can do to fix them.

Incinerating Issues

Miscommunication plagues many virtual teams. It’s easy for people of different cultures, ages, and languages to not communicate in the same way. To treat this, always clarify that you understand what is said before you move forward. The communication itself may be a lot longer than it would be in person or over the phone though. It can take forever to send messages back and forth, so try to call your team members one-on-one when practical in order to help get your points across faster.

Meetings are another thing that becomes more complicated in virtual teams. Managing everyone’s time zones and making sure they can all make the meeting is a big enough headache as it is. But the meetings themselves will often feel like they take forever. To avoid that, Harrin recommends this:

Keep meetings to 30 minutes or less. You can still get everything done in that time. Test out your technology in advance so that everyone is comfortable about how to use it and you aren’t struggling with people joining a call late or using the wrong dial in codes.

It might also be easy for team members to multitask during meetings and lose focus. Keep your team engaged and ask a lot of questions to keep them from losing focus. And more broadly, maybe your team runs the risk of checking out of the project altogether. In that case, keep them on task and make the vision of the project crystal clear. Their contributions matter and the sooner they know this, the better off your team will be.

Virtual teams are susceptible to overload and an imbalance of work/life like any other team. The best way to decrease overload is to clarify the priorities of the team as a whole and to let them know which items are of lower priority. And as far as the work balance goes, just make sure you aren’t overstepping and asking too much of people who didn’t sign on to work overtime.

The virtual format makes it hard to spot conflict, and it can feel like you aren’t connected as a team. Take some time to talk to your team members and ask if there are any issues you might be able to help with. You should also plan time for team to connect and chat so they can build up relationships with each other.

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