Virtually Seamless: Best Practices for Working in a Global Environment

Virtual team: A group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. According to a RW3 Culture Wizard 2012 Survey, respondents said 61% of their productivity was dependent on working virtually. Further, 41% of respondents had never met their other team members face to face, and 24% physically met only once a year. Virtual teams are a reality, but it’s no mystery that working virtually presents both challenges and opportunities. Despite the logistical challenges of technical limitations and time zone differences or team cohesion challenges like developing trust or dealing with cultural differences, virtual teams do work with effective leadership. When leading a virtual team, there are four building blocks one should use to help to overcome the complexity of the virtual environment: technology, structure, communication and synergy. Technological advances offer many options for interacting with virtual colleagues, but these options will only increase team productivity if team members are comfortable with their use. Any discomfort with technology can be mitigated by providing education for the team on how to use and manage these tools. While technology is a basic building block for successful virtual teams, working virtually is truly more about people. A far more important building block than technology is the need to provide structure. With less face-to-face contact, you need even more formal structures to reduce uncertainty for the team and manage cultural differences. This is where project management tools become indispensable. Team charters, project plans, process maps and responsibility assignment matrices (such as a RACI matrix) are vital to virtual team productivity. These project management...