The difficulties of leading project teams electronically become more evident as firms shift toward a virtual work environment. How do you ensure your virtual project team is productive and efficient, given that there is no physical office space and team members are located worldwide? In this blog post, we’ll discuss some difficulties you could have when leading project teams electronically and offer tips for overcoming them.
Keeping everyone informed is one of the difficulties of leading a remote project team. Keeping everyone informed of the most recent developments might be challenging when team members work from various places and time zones. One way to overcome this difficulty is to set up regular update sessions where everyone can gather (virtually, of course) and share what they have been working on. Thanks to this, everyone will be able to stay informed of the most recent developments and offer suggestions or criticism as needed.
Maintaining clear and precise communication with a virtual project team is another problem. There may be a great deal of misunderstanding or miscommunication when team members are spread out in different places. Overcommunicating is one technique to overcome this difficulty. Ensure that everyone is aware of the requirements, due dates, expectations for each assignment, and what needs to be done. Give as much information as possible on the task and the desired result.
What is virtual project management?
Real-time tracking of the status of tasks and other projects is meant by the term “virtual project management,” which refers to remote working. Since team members and staff are frequently spread out across multiple time zones or regions, a virtual project manager’s responsibility is to ensure everyone knows the organization’s objectives and adheres to deadlines.
The project manager is in command of the team while working remotely. It’s not easy for many organizations to build virtual teams, plan projects, and execute them from afar, yet it is one of the most effective techniques to work efficiently.
Know that you are not alone if managing your virtual project team is difficult. You may contribute to the effectiveness and achievement of your team by being aware of some frequent issues and putting some straightforward fixes into practice.
Create a virtual team first, then. A virtual team comprises people who work together remotely to develop a project, product, or service.
One or more of the following reasons typically leads to the formation of a virtual team:
- Businesses having a presence in several different places are growing significantly.
- Finding someone else can be the solution if you require a skill that is not offered locally or is too expensive for you to pay for.
- Working from home allows you to avoid office expenditures and commute time.
- The Covid-19 epidemic describes the H1N1 pandemic, which severely restricted social connections.
What are some of the common challenges faced by a virtual team?
The relationships essential for trust, collaboration, and problem-solving must be built up more diligently when members of virtual teamwork from various locations. Osmotic learning, defined as learning based on talks, observations, or indirect interactions, is much less accessible to remote workers than it is to in-person teams.
Furthermore, when paralanguage is absent, it becomes much more difficult to understand other people, frequently resulting in misinterpretations due to the absence of contextual clues such as physical gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions.
Because virtual teams are dispersed, members may work remotely, making it challenging to coordinate time zones. Additionally, communication issues could result from cultural differences. While managers generally have faith in their staff, virtual team managers could struggle to inspire them.
Solutions for effectively managing virtual teams
Before coming up with solutions, it’s critical to understand that a virtual team must adhere to the same standards as any other effective team. For instance:
- Then you must communicate that vision to the client to allow them to accept it.
- Observing the ground rules of the team.
- The conference room is the call center’s most crucial and frequently disregarded part. In this high-contact industry, a collaborative environment is essential for maximizing production.
By implementing one or more of the solutions outlined below, project managers can manage virtual teams successfully:
-Early team bonding
Establishing relationships will benefit significantly from facilitating team-building exercises, ideally done face-to-face. Another choice for enhancing team ties is team off-sites. Icebreaker games can speed up team member introductions if virtual team bonding activities are also offered.
Setting team norms at the commencement of a team’s formation is preferred. Encourage the group to establish clear ground rules that outline acceptable and unacceptable team behavior.
-Team size, structure, and calendars
The Center for Creative Leadership claims a virtual team of up to 9 people works best. Optimizing the size of a virtual team makes it easier to define roles and ownership rights for tasks. For a virtual team member to contribute successfully, it is also essential to restrict the number of projects they can work on. It is also a good idea to organize the team by identifying the core members and providing early support.
While supporting members assume a lesser degree of responsibility, the core members are heavily invested in the project and accountable for accomplishing crucial tasks. You can utilize a public resource calendar to set meeting times after determining the team size and duties (and know when not to schedule anything).
-Establishing transparent work systems
It is excellent practice to define the steps needed to complete the work, assign clear duties, and have systems in place to monitor progress if you want to have an impact frequently. All team members will be able to be self-motivated as a result of knowing what is expected of them. Periodic reviews using deliverable dashboards, Kanban boards, or video conference meetings can help ensure everyone stays on course.
-Creating and following through with a Communication Plan
In virtual teams, employing a transparent and efficient communication strategy is crucial. Given the lack of osmotic learning and the inability to understand paralanguage, developing and adhering to a clear communication plan becomes essential. The communication plan must include protocols (who communicates with whom, the format of the conversation, such as a bulleted list, a picture of a dashboard update, or a summary report), as well as channels of communication (email, phone, videoconference), as well as team lingo for teams made up of people from different departmental and cultural backgrounds.
On quick-paced/agile projects with virtual or geographically scattered teams, scheduling work hours that overlap is helpful for team members who need to collaborate often. Team members can make significant changes using shared communication platforms like Google Hangouts.
Your team will be better equipped to communicate as needed during the day by establishing day-long video conferencing links, or Fishbowl windows, at the start of each workday live.
Last but not least, ensuring the team can adapt to new communication technology and tools is critical. Employees must receive sufficient training and help in using the tools correctly.
-Assessing engagement and team productivity
It might be challenging to determine who contributes to virtual teams. The team’s evolution, talent shortages, support for continuous skill development, and project goals must be understood. Project managers can evaluate team members’ productivity by assigning precise tasks and checking up on progress periodically. Project managers can motivate virtual teams in two ways: with incentives and praise. To maintain the team’s commitment and morale at a high level, even the most minor achievements should be acknowledged and made public.
Building a solid team from anywhere
The establishing, inspiring, and aiding characteristics listed below will go a long way in helping virtual teams produce the best projects:
- Encouraging an environment at work where obstacles are dismantled, team norms are formed, and defined procedures, roles, and systems for progress review are in place.
- establishing a solid communication strategy and using the appropriate tools for communication
- Virtual teams will continue to exist even after the epidemic; the sooner leaders can effectively manage them, the better for businesses.
What are the challenges in managing virtual teams?
There will be challenges you and your team must overcome as you go about your daily activities. These might range from straightforward misunderstandings to more complex issues like feeling cut off from the workplace.
Working in a virtual office will most likely have you face some of these challenges:
- Poor performance and ineffective production
- You might not know what must be done because face-to-face communication hasn’t been.
- Your relationship with your coworkers may be deteriorating due to depersonalization.
- The act of “separating the church from the state” has blurred the boundaries between work and personal life.
Working from home presents obstacles for many people, including you. Don’t worry if you encounter anything that isn’t on this list; others may also be dealing with it.
How do you overcome the challenges of managing virtual teams?
Yes, it needs to be done deliberately and gradually. Keeping these ideas in mind makes it very easy to deal with the difficulties of managing virtual teams:
1. Allow flexible work hours
What if your team is geographically dispersed and remotely based?
It goes without saying that because your team members are spread out throughout the globe, working together won’t happen very often. For instance, your back-end developer in California and your UI designer in Warsaw won’t be able to report for work at the same time.
Your staff must be more flexible with their work hours because they will collaborate across time zones. They will be happier and more effective since they will have a better work/life balance. Additionally, encourage your staff to work by their natural tendencies and to keep a time log of the jobs and projects they work on throughout planned work hours.
-This way, you’ll be able to see:
- When each member of the team likes to work
- Who is currently working on what, and when?
- Who is available right now to take on a new task?
As a result, you’ll be able to identify the windows during which everyone is accessible and plan group activities accordingly. Your staff will be able to use their time more effectively on projects that require cooperation. This spare time can schedule a conference meeting, go through plans, and check in with everyone.
You can evaluate productivity levels and spot bottlenecks and time-wasting practices that you can do away with in the future by keeping an eye on your flexible work hours.
2. Undergo virtual teams training
It’s advised that you get some training first before attempting to manage a remote team.
Since there are numerous ways to manage virtual teams, virtual teams training courses also cover three distinct areas of instruction: technology utilization, group dynamics, and cross-cultural communication.
Investing in the proper tools is an excellent way to get a team up and running. Ensure that everyone on your team is comfortable with the virtual team management software you utilize at work. As a result, you must deal with:
- What kind of equipment should you use?
- Every situation differs from the next when it comes to tool selection.
- How to select the tools that are best for your individual needs
- How to handle technological issues like broken tools and poor internet connectivity.
-Group processing training
Your team will need to be adaptable because you’ll need to be able to handle a variety of project challenges. You must thus talk about the following subjects:
- creating and establishing realistic objectives,
- being skilled in resolving problems
- building trust between distant team members, and
- Try these group activities to enhance communication and teamwork.
This type of training is essential if you work in a diverse setting since it will teach your virtual team how to work well across cultures. As a result, you must deal with:
- How to acclimate to a new culture rapidly
- How to operate within each culture’s conventions and work practices and how to adjust to them
- How to get rid of prejudice and scorn for the strange.
You can enroll in an official “Managing Virtual Teams” course to discover the best strategies for managing virtual teams. As an alternative, you might carry out your research on how to manage the training effectively.
3. Nurture a reward-driven environment
Being in an office environment can significantly affect how productive you are and how you approach projects during the workweek. Numerous teams who work remotely claim that alone considerably lowers the quality of your output.
Working next to your coworkers may be advantageous because it stimulates your desire for competition. This competitiveness lessens when you work from home, especially if you occasionally find it challenging to get to your place of employment.
The easiest way to do this is to design a meritocratic or reward system that thrives in a hostile environment. You can, for instance:
- Your employees deserve appreciation for the hard work they’ve put in. In this shared stage, give them the recognition they merit.
- The week’s or month’s most challenging working employee merits incentives.
- Days off should be granted to those who perform best.
- Plan enjoyable get-togethers and meets on a virtual platform.
4. Organize meetings according to different time zones
You’ll need to think outside the box to develop a game plan that works for everyone if your team works digitally and is in a different time zone. Although time zones can be challenging, if you prepare in advance, it shouldn’t be a problem. This also applies to all kinds of group gatherings.
To schedule meetings at the best times possible, it’s advised that you:
- List every member of your team on a piece of paper.
- Remember to take into account their time zones.
- Add the results of their time tracking to their clock-in and clock-out times.
- Compare schedules to find the ideal time for meetings.
Online time zone converters are available for this purpose. You can use a video conference or communication technology to conduct meetings remotely.
5. Ask for progress reports
Although you don’t want to micromanage your employees, you still need to pay attention to what they’re doing and whether their work is progressing as required.
-You can do this by;
- Without a doubt, they are not performing the task as well as they formerly did. They’ve since moved on to discuss their work habits with other cleaners, leaving me more alone.
- Meetings every day are crucial for both businesses.
- Plan frequent check-ins.
You’ll be able to identify possible issues, talk about them, and deal with delays as they arise.
6. Use management tools
There are many solutions available to assist with virtually managing virtual projects if you order a remote team:
-Project management tools
This is a fantastic tool for keeping tabs on deadlines and project development “from a distance.”
-Task management software
Perfect for keeping track of all work-related documents and knowing what you need to do and when.
-Team management tools
brings team members together effectively.
-Screen sharing tools
When you need to complete anything remotely, such as helping a team member set up a new program that you both will use.
When you need to work on multiple documents at once and require that all changes be saved and synchronized instantly.
7. Harbor a virtual team culture
Virtual team cultures are just as important as other team cultures since, whether an organization is physical or virtual, its members must establish some sort of relationship and trust. You can do it by taking the following actions:
-Meeting face-to-face from time to time
If you and the other team members are close by, plan to hang out once or twice a month after work. It will be more fun to get to know each other better over dinner or at a bowling alley than always to discuss work.
-Trying to establish virtual friendships
Find strategies to motivate folks to show online buddies because you can’t play together very frequently in person. Take the initiative as a manager by adding your team members to social media platforms like Twitter and Linkedin.
-Making all the meetings remote-friendly
Holding in-person meetings might make it simple to leave out members of your team who work remotely unintentionally. Make it a habit to hold EVERY meeting online, even if it’s just a quick check-in, to prevent this.
Communication issues and how to solve them
Communication is one of the most significant difficulties in leading a remote project team. Finding a time when everyone is available to communicate can be challenging when team members are spread out across different time zones and regions. Another problem is that certain team members can feel awkward using text or video chat to communicate, making it challenging to get everyone on the same page.
There are many ways to fix these communication problems. One is to utilize a real-time messaging app like Slack, which also makes it simple to search previous chats. Another option is to schedule routine video conferences or conference sessions so that everyone may share their thoughts and discuss the project’s status. Last but not least, having a transparent project management system is critical so everyone knows their responsibilities and can readily follow the project’s development.
You’ll be able to overcome the communication difficulties and maintain the direction of your virtual project team with the help of these solutions.
Managing team members who are in different time zones
Location is one of the most challenging components of managing a virtual project team. Meeting scheduling and deadline coordination may be challenging due to time zones, and team members may experience a sense of isolation.
There are a few solutions that can help with managing virtual project teams;
- To keep track of work and deadlines, use project management software. This will make it easier for everyone on the team to stay on top of the job.
- Have frequent video meetings so the team can communicate and see each other’s faces.
- You ensure everyone is on the same page and communicate frequently and plainly.
Using this article’s advice, you may effectively manage your virtual project team and get beyond obstacles.
How can virtual project management be used?
The following methods are the most excellent strategy to foster intimate communication and cooperation among the team when working remotely.
-Use project management software
Working well with team members, especially those geographically dispersed and with varying schedules, depends on having the appropriate software. By sending notifications of milestones and reminders about crucial tasks, VPM aids project managers in keeping their teams on task. A tool that streamlines the onboarding process for new team members and gives updates on project schedules is available.
You can build a high-performing virtual team using the following software;
You may effortlessly manage your project team with this tool by setting up meetings and exchanging files. Additionally, you’ll work well with other teams in collaboration.
You can manage your calendar, content, and documents in real time with G Suite, a product made by Google.
Conferences and content management are only a couple of the activities that this tool is perfect for.
By dividing large projects into manageable jobs, this software aids in the management of complex projects. With tools like a message board and group chat, you may work with others and keep on task using automatic check-ins.
VPM Messenger is a project management-focused internal communication tool that works with other VPM products. It may establish project-specific channels, connect other programs, and collaborate on documents.
With these technologies, project managers can precisely measure employee working hours and ensure each remote worker puts in the necessary time and effort for essential project deliverables.
-Maintain consistent contact with your virtual team
Regularly check in with your team to see if they require assistance and to ensure that the project is progressing as expected. Discuss projects, ideas, or future activities with virtual teams, so they know their responsibilities. You could wish to schedule checkpoint conversations through routine phone calls and through your notification system’s communication channels. Try to limit the length of your phone calls.
You may provide tailored support to each remote worker as necessary by staying in touch with them and keeping all projects on schedule. You can provide timely and pertinent recommendations if you know what drives each team member. Your team will work more effectively as a whole if you keep the lines of communication open. Use a service like Google Calendar or Calendly to schedule calls and send messages and emails in advance if contact cannot be maintained during typical business hours.
-Create a supportive environment
Encourage team members’ trust in one another to improve the working atmosphere. Ensure that everyone can rely on one another to accomplish the primary goals. Due to ongoing involvement, businesses that help their staff in their daily tasks can achieve their goals faster.
If virtual workers trust the project manager as much as the rest of the team, they will collaborate better and work more productively. This can be achieved by organizing a variety of team-building exercises to motivate remote teams. Treating everyone equally and appreciating their contributions to your business may encourage social interaction among your workforce.
-Diversify communication methods
Holding weekly team meetings to go over the outcomes or providing daily updates via communication platforms like Skype is an excellent option. By varying the channels you utilize for communication with your team, you could, for instance, reach out to them twice a month.
Some of the communication techniques you can use include:
- If you often hold audio or video call meetings, think about using an alternative format to change things.
- We had a plan based on our prior expertise, and we could manage the situation efficiently. The team’s leader should divide the team into smaller groups and have separate meetings with each group.
- I email updated PDFs rather than setting up in-person meetings to distribute copies of reports.
- Request that another team member speaks in your place to make sure they are aware of the situation.
- Ask your team members their opinions on the present communication channels and how effective your approach is.
Member interactions can be improved by incorporating different communication styles into virtual team participation. By doing this, crucial talks may be had with every team member, including individuals who might find it challenging to speak up during routine meetings.
-Allow team members to set their deliverables
When employees create their timetables, they are more inclined to follow them because they can feel more accountable. You can ask each team member for a period when assigning daily tasks or duties. Additionally, if necessary, you might give some tasks to others and encourage your staff to follow suit. Encouragement of employee flexibility may reduce stress and increase output.
If team members define their deliverables and are aware of their responsibilities within the project, competent employees can perform to the best of their abilities. Employees can go further when they know what they must consistently complete.
Why use virtual project management?
Remote work seems to be the future of project management in a rapidly evolving environment. Virtual project management has several benefits over typical conventional methodologies.
-Lower operational costs
You might be able to cut costs in the following areas by working with a virtual team as opposed to an in-office one:
- An excellent method to launch your firm is with office space.
- furniture and office supplies
- leasing costs
- taxation of land use
- costs associated with traveling
- salaries for full-time employees
By using project management software to conduct business online, you can save money without having to restructure your entire firm.
If the right circumstances exist, workers who work remotely can produce more than those who come into the office daily. For instance, virtual supervisors and team members often work longer hours than 9 to 5 employees since they have uninterrupted concentrated time to work while they are in peaceful settings.
Employing workers remotely not only gives your continuous business coverage, but also gives you a competitive advantage.
Video conferencing for project management enables remote workers to save time on tasks like:
- We provide in-person conferences, seminars, and meetings.
- Document scanning, printing, and other administrative duties.
- non-work-related tasks, exchanges, and interactions
- a daily commute from home to work and back
For remote workers, having a good relationship with their tasks increases productivity. Team members may use their downtime to take care of interpersonal obligations like exercising, sleeping, or spending time with their families rather than talking to coworkers during breaks, as in a traditional office setting.
-Improve employee retention rates
Employee contentment has increased as a result of the ability of virtual team members to work at their convenience as long as they complete duties on time. Self-control and a more profound feeling of purpose to fulfill their obligations, even outside of regular working hours, result as a result.
Giving your virtual staff a healthy work-life balance is crucial if you want them to stick around. They have the freedom to handle personal concerns while still being committed to your company when they work remotely.
-Collaborate with an international talent pool
Virtual projects allow you to collaborate with talented people worldwide without being restricted by geographic boundaries. This global talent pool offers your project a variety of viewpoints that can aid in overcoming obstacles.
The online hiring and onboarding process makes finding several competent candidates for the role easy. The human resources department can find workers with the right attitude and skill set for your business through an online screening.
Although managing a project team electronically can be difficult, it is possible to do it successfully with the correct tools and solutions. You can ensure that your project is finished on time and under budget by being aware of the difficulties with virtual teams and putting some of the recommended solutions into practice. Have you ever managed a project team from a distance? If so, which solutions gave you the best results? Let us know in the comments below.