Your Virtual Team Management Plan with AchieveIt in 5 Steps
As we mentioned in our previous post, “Driving Results Through Geographically Dispersed Virtual Teams (LINK),” companies are constantly grappling with the challenges of managing virtual teams. As global operations expand, companies bring on talented freelancers, or employees simply start to work from home more frequently, virtual team management is rapidly becoming a requisite skill for today’s business leaders.
In truth, conference calls and emails will only get a manager so far when managing a virtual team. Truly, having a system in place to set expectations, track progress, and ultimately assure results makes virtual team management much easier for business leaders. Many of our clients here at AchieveIt use our software in this capacity – To coordinate geographically dispersed teams.
Below is a 5-step plan that you can follow to set up your own virtual team management plan in AchieveIt to drive better results!
The AchieveIt “Virtual Team Management Plan”
Step One – Set Clear Goals and Build into a Structured Plan
Challenge: In a virtual team environment, setting clear expectations of deliverables, and goals for the team, is paramount to success. In a geographically dispersed environment, all stakeholders need to have an explicit understanding of what needs to get done, the deadlines for said deliverables, and why it matters in the larger context of the business. By structuring work and expectations, managers can build trust with virtual teams because everyone is “on the same page.”
How to Solve the Challenge with AchieveIt: Start by creating a plan in AchieveIt called the “Virtual Team Management Plan.” Define your plan levels, and utilize the flexibility and customizability of AchieveIt to its maximum potential when creating the structure of the plan. A plan structure we use quite often here at AchieveIt (in terms of plan levels) is “Month, Week, and Task.” For example, we will have the top card on the “Virtual Team Management Plan,” be a ‘Month’ card (October 2015). We will then have four ‘Week’ cards as children under the parent ‘Month’ card. Finally, we will add ‘Task’ cards under each week, given when each deliverable is due for the virtual team. With this simple, yet structured, plan in place, everyone knows what needs to get done, and the due dates for the deliverables.
Step Two: Make All Work Visible to All Stakeholders
Challenge: When managing virtual teams, there can sometimes be mistrust that work is getting done, or getting done in a timely manner. This challenge is only exacerbated when employees across geographies are dependent upon each other to successfully complete deliverables, but communication is strained due to time differences. Ensuring project progress is not only visible but in a collaborative environment, is essential to ensuring trust that work is getting done.
How to Solve the Challenge with AchieveIt: After structuring tasks and due dates in your “Virtual Team Management Plan,” encourage virtual and non-virtual team members to comment on those ‘Task’ cards consistently. By encouraging team members to keep everyone updated around project progress, you can simulate an environment in which co-workers have instant access to status updates around projects. Additionally, by encouraging progress documentation, managers can intervene or allocate additional resources when it looks like a deliverable is Off-Track. This ensures everyone achieves desired results.
Step Three: Provide Feedback on a Regular Basis
Challenge: Just like non-virtual team members, virtual teams appreciate opportunities to interface with managers to receive feedback on their work and ways they can improve. In a typical office environment, this is easier for a manager, as they can observe their direct reports on a daily basis and evaluate their work/behaviors. With virtual team members, this is not as easy. Creating a structured feedback loop is important to promoting continuous improvement across the organization.
How to Solve the Challenge with AchieveIt: As mentioned above, consistent progress updates and comments are important on ‘Task’ cards for deliverables that are currently in-flight. But once a ‘Task’ card is marked “Achieved,” it is important that the collaboration on the card does not stop. Managers and virtual employees should take time to insert comments about how the project went, where there were roadblocks, and come up with ideas around how to improve the process moving forward. By encouraging reflection upon deliverables, and the process the virtual team followed to deliver them, managers can have a 360-degree view of that deliverable’s timeline and provide feedback accordingly.
Step Four: Put Virtual Team Members in the Best Possible Position to Execute and Drive Results Given Their Skills
Challenge: When virtual teams get larger and more geographically dispersed, it is often a challenge for managers to create a common understanding around an individual team member’s skills and capabilities. For example, if your marketing team is a virtual team, it would be important for everyone to understand who has specific skills sets that relate most directly to the deliverable (ie. SEO vs. Content Writing vs. Driving Social Media Engagement). When everyone on your virtual team understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses, you can not only task the right people to the right objectives but empower team members with the knowledge of who to reach out to when they need help solving a problem.
How to Solve the Challenge with AchieveIt: In the case of a deliverable having multiple aspects that comprise the results (which is almost always the case), you can use the AchieveIt card to clearly delegate aspects of the deliverable to individual team members in the comments section before changing the card from “Not-Started” to “On-Track”. By delegating aspects of the project to different members of the team given your knowledge of their skills on the front end, you not only ensure team alignment, but you give everyone knowledge of their team members’ expertise and capabilities. With this type of transparency, virtual teams will collaborate with each other to solve problems, rather than relying on the manager to connect them with the right person within the organization or project team.
Step Five: Replicate Success
Challenge: With most teams, and people in general, routine and repeatable processes for success generate confidence and trust. When a team understands its own internal dynamic, and systematic processes that allow them to achieve maximum results, the last thing a manager would want to do it change the paradigm. Once a virtual team has found a way to work together efficiently and effectively, managers must try to replicate that process across all future deliverables involving that team (when applicable of course).
How to Solve the Challenge with AchieveIt: If a manager has followed the above four steps, this step is fairly easy, because the entire data and audit trail is present on a successful, completed ‘Task’ card. In structuring the next month’s plan for your virtual team, try to incorporate aspects that worked well (ascertained from the comment audit trail), and build them into the structure of the execution of your deliverables. There is also a very useful “Clone” feature in AchieveIt that allows you to copy successful plan structures in a click of a button (very helpful when you have large plans that you don’t want to rebuild from scratch.)
Have experience managing a virtual team? Please share your story with us in the comments section below!
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