By Kiran Bajpai
Virtual project teams refer to professionals that work on the same project remotely. Though companies are increasingly hiring virtual project teams, managing such teams can be quite a daunting task as the team is geographically dispersed and works in different time zones.
In this post, we will shed light on the ten most common issues with virtual project teams. Plus, we will also share ten surefire tactics to help you manage a virtual project team with ease. So here we go:
1. Lack of Prompt Communication: The success of every project depends on prompt communication. Though face-to-face communication is the best way to interact, however, this may not be possible when you have a virtual project team. Consequently, the lack of everyday face-to-face communication often causes miscommunication that may end up causing conflicts between you and your team members.
Solution: As a manager, you need to provide your virtual team with the necessary tools to facilitate regular interaction between you and your team members. Video conferencing tools are the best way to get connected to your virtual team members anytime, anywhere, via HD audio or video.
2. Misinterpretation: Working virtually often creates misunderstandings between team members, which often leads to work getting duplicated or left undone. Such misunderstandings are caused due to language or cultural differences, carelessness, and even deliberate intention.
Solution: Since your virtual team members have common work objectives, you need to take measures to reduce the level of misunderstanding by addressing language/time barriers, if any. You can also reduce all misunderstandings to a great extent by following up with your team members in writing. At the same time, investing in project management software can help you solve this challenge to a great extent.
3. Lack of Focus and Commitment: Another grave problem with virtual teams is the lack of focus and commitment. Since each member of your virtual team is working in his/her specific time zone, it often becomes difficult for them to focus on the assigned tasks.
Solution: To boost the productivity levels of your virtual team members, you need to monitor their progress continually. At the same time, you need to be in touch with them regularly through virtual meetings. When having a virtual meeting, ask a lot of questions to prevent their attention from drifting away and making sure they are participating in the discussion.
4. Often Conflicts Go Unnoticed: Conflicts are bound to arise among virtual team members. However, conflicts can be difficult to identify if the team members involved are not showing signs of arguing in open.
Solution: Look for subtle clues. Check with your team members if any conflict needs to be resolved. At the same time, give adequate time to individual members so that they can express their concerns.
5. Inefficiency: Lack of proper tools or technology, along with inadequate information, often makes a virtual team less productive.
Solution: Since virtual team members prefer working at their own pace, you need to provide them with the privilege to access relevant data on their PC or handheld devices anywhere, anytime. Thus, you should consider investing in customer engagement software to allow your virtual team to extract data on the go so that they can work efficiently with remote access.
6. No Work-Life Balance: Virtual project teams often struggle to maintain a personal life owing to strict deadlines.
Solution: A sensible manager is one who sets boundaries for their virtual teams and doesn’t expect their team members to work after hours. In case you have an urgent project that needs to be completed within a tight deadline, make sure you compensate your virtual team for their additional time.
7. Lack of Motivation: Since virtual project teams work remotely, they are more likely to feel alienated. The factors that instill team spirit into a person are not possible to replicate in a virtual setting.
Solution: Make sure you adopt effective team-building strategies to keep your virtual project teams engaged. Make it a habit to share your success stories with your virtual teams. Plus, find out ways to make them feel wanted. Regular video conferencing can also help build a feeling of familiarity.
8. Information Overload: People who work in virtual teams often complain about information overload as the project management software constantly keeps notifying them. Constant notification ends up annoying your team, besides distracting them from their work.
Solution: Inform your team members that the alerts can be turned off by changing notification settings. They may also choose to disable/unsubscribe from the less important ones. At the same time, make sure you do not end up distracting your team by sending messages time and again.
9. Scheduling Meetings: Since a lot of virtual teams work in different time zones, scheduling a meeting can be quite a challenging task.
Solution: You need to schedule all meetings at a time convenient to all team members. Though it may call for a lot of planning, this is well worth it. Investing in a meeting scheduling tool will help you find out the availability of your team members for the meeting.
10. Monitoring Performance Remotely: When you have virtual teams, it often gets difficult to make sure they are utilizing their time appropriately and efficiently. While some virtual team members would want to finish the assigned task in no time, others will prefer dedicating a considerable amount of time to accomplish the task. Thus, in either case, keeping tabs on their performance can be quite tricky.
Solution: Consider investing in employee productivity monitoring software to get the required data about time management. The software will help you evaluate your virtual team’s contributions in a quantitative way.
Proper implementation of the strategies cited above will go a long way towards overhauling your virtual team management strategy besides helping you build a happy remote project team.