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Planning & Organizing a Virtual Team

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  • 0:02 What Is a Virtual Team?
  • 1:00 Planning and Organizing
  • 3:48 Communicating
  • 4:36 Software and Hardware
  • 6:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

With more employees working from home and satellite offices, virtual teams are becoming common in business today. Virtual team success depends on creating work plans, work protocols, scheduling strategies, and technology plans.

What Is a Virtual Team?

Imagine having a job where you can roll out of bed, stumble to the coffee pot, and then start working in your pajamas. Well, don't think this is impossible. More and more companies are utilizing virtual teams in the workplace. A virtual team is a group of employees who work across many geographic locations. The team collaborates through the Internet and teleconferencing platforms.

Not every virtual team works from home. Virtual teams may work from satellite offices scattered all over the globe. In fact, many companies are going in this direction and the trend makes good business sense. With employees located all over the planet, work can be done 24 hours a day. Another benefit to virtual teams is reduced overhead. The business doesn't need to pay as much for office space and equipment. It's cost-effective and convenient.

But changing to virtual teams is not a perfect solution to the constraints of a conventional office structure and it does require careful planning. This lesson explores how to plan and organize a virtual team.

Planning and Organizing

When Cogsworth Consulting decided to downsize its corporate headquarters and allow many employees to work from home, the company leaders and employees were excited. Employees envisioned themselves working poolside, while Cogsworth executives imagined employees working longer hours, being more productive, and experiencing a healthier work/life balance.

But Cogsworth executives also knew that this major decision would require careful planning to achieve the benefits everyone anticipated. Management would need to:

  • Set protocols for workflow
  • Define work plans for teams
  • Set expectations for team members

When management starts to set protocols for workflow, it needs to outline the overall company procedures and systems for the workflow. The reason for this is mainly because the virtual team cannot be monitored in the same way a team can in a brick-and-mortar location. Not only are team members working in different locations, they may also be working at different times.

Setting protocols doesn't mean micro-management. But precise procedures for the workflow, hours, processes, and channels of communication must be set and agreed upon before any employee can join a virtual team. After all, managers must have a way to monitor their employees from a distance.

As management prepares to define work plans for teams, the work plans must be developed. These are specific to the team and are detailed blueprints of how each team member is going to accomplish the tasks. Think of these as action plans or task lists, but more detailed. Some things to include in a work plan are an overview of the task or project, a description of the purpose of the task or project, and a timeline for completion.

Work plans also need to specify how each employee will be held accountable for the completion of assigned tasks or projects. So a tracking process must be created. Since Cogsworth is a consulting company, the employees are mostly responsible for getting new consulting business. One way management can track performance is by setting up a software program where consultants can input their activities daily. Management can run a report each week to see what's happening in the virtual offices.

Finally, management needs to set expectations for team members. Being part of a team means making the commitment to its purpose and goals, and being accountable for its outcomes. So, to make things clear, individual employee expectations must be set. Employees like to know what the boss expects of them in terms of their performance.

Management can start to set expectations by:

  • Setting performance goals
  • Giving clear directions
  • Defining schedules, including details such as the hours of work, days of the week, and the deadlines
  • Providing a detailed description of responsibilities
  • Assigning an accountability schedule

Every employee prefers direction, and the virtual team member is no different. In fact, because the virtual team works in isolation, these employees may require even more communication about their tasks or projects.

Communicating

Since the team may be made up of people all over the world, team communication can be a challenge. This is especially true for team meetings when teams are in more than one country. For example, Cogsworth has teams in New York, Dubai, and Sydney. For a meeting to be scheduled, management would have to consider that when it is 12:00 PM in New York, it is 8:00 PM in Dubai and 2:00 AM in Sydney. No matter how you look at it, someone is going to have to wake up early or stay up very late for a meeting at the same moment.

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