Back To CourseBuilding a Virtual Team
3 chapters | 19 lessons
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Sudha is currently an Information Technology Specialist and a EdD student at the University of Delaware.
Tara, who is working remotely, submitted her project at 9:00 A.M. on a Tuesday morning. The project was due at 5:00 P.M. the previous day. Her project manager Olivia wasn't exactly happy with the late submission. This also wasn't the first time, and Tara has been warned before.
Virtual teams consist of team members working from different geographical locations and communicating through email, video conferencing, and other technologies. This situation with Tara is just one example of what can possibly go wrong when working with virtual teams. Olivia decided that this was the time to set up norms and best practices so that something like this doesn't happen in the future. She considered implementing a number of best practices across her teams.
One of the first norms that Olivia decided to implement is the five-sentence rule. Tara said she was receiving a number of emails that took her a long time to respond to, which made her miss critical messages. The five-sentence rule means that emails should be no longer than five sentences and adhere to the following guidelines:
Olivia organizes virtual meetings using audio/video conferencing that allows her to discuss project goals and provides the opportunity for team members who never see each other face to face to keep up to date with what each person is working on. Many times, one of the team members, Matt, will start talking, and others join in. Before they know it, the meeting has run to over an hour but with no real focus.
In order to organize and streamline future meetings, Olivia decides to implement the five-minute rule. This means they would have more frequent weekly meetings instead of meeting every other week, but each meeting would be limited to a maximum of five minutes. The team members would need to be well prepared, and each person would be given about 15-30 seconds to talk. The time to talk would be focused on updates to the project and how others may be impacted.
When this was implemented at the next meeting, Olivia was happy with the results. Matt got to the point when he said ''I finished the report and emailed it to Deb for review.'' Deb followed up with ''I'll have the review complete by Tuesday.'' The meeting was proving to be much more productive.
Olivia realized that while the weekly five-minute meetings were productive, the team also needed more time to discuss important topics, like making suggestions or exchanging ideas for the best possible approach. Every month the team would meet virtually for an hour-long meeting, but they would follow the 80/20 rule.
This meant that the meetings would be 80% active and 20% passive, so Ann, for example, would have to streamline her presentation to be no more than 10-12 minutes. For the remainder of the time, Olivia could get the team engaged in active participation for the next big project the team is going to be working on.
Another ground rule that Olivia implemented was that all meetings would start and end exactly on time. This means that Ann in China would have to be logged in at exactly 8:00 AM on Wednesday, and Pat in New York would have to be logged in at 7:00 PM on Tuesday for the meeting that Olivia the team manager hosts at 8:00 PM on Tuesday from Austin, Texas. If a team member is late, items discussed will not be repeated, and the team members would be held responsible for catching up on missed topics. Olivia would be responsible to make sure the meeting ended as scheduled as well.
Tara missed her deadline because she didn't check her emails. Olivia informed her members of the importance of communicating, especially since emails would continue to be the preferred mode of communication. Olivia laid out a few guidelines: (a) emails should have a short and descriptive subject line, (b) urgent emails should be pre-fixed with 'U' in the subject line, (c) an urgent request requires an immediate response no later than four hours at the most, and (d) emails require the use of bulleted or numbered lists to present items in an easy-to-read format.
Other communication best practices that Olivia implemented were the use of messaging for real-time conversations, shared calendars to schedule meetings, and file sharing programs to share files and work collaboratively on project milestones.
Let's take a few moments to review what we've learned about the norms we establish with virtual teams. Since virtual team members work from different geographic places located remotely from each other, it's really important to establish norms to avoid information overload and streamline communication. The five-sentence rule requires that emails should be limited to five sentences or less, stating the purpose of the email and what is expected. The five-minute rule establishes that meetings should be limited to five minutes or less. Each team member will be given 15-30 seconds to provide updates on the project's impact on others.
Other norms include the 80/20 rule, where only 20% of the meeting time can be passive and the remaining 80% of the time members have to be active participants. In addition, meetings should begin and end on time, emails should have descriptive subject lines and required response times, and messaging, shared calendars, and file sharing to work collaboratively on projects and milestones should be used.
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Back To CourseBuilding a Virtual Team
3 chapters | 19 lessons