Virtualization of International sales intelligence

October 8, 2012 by Juha Merinen

Working and Managing Teams in Virtual World

Geoff Taylor from Australia describes “virtual team” to be “A group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They generally have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have independent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”.

Carl Robinson, Ph.D. from Advanced Leadership Consulting has stated that “It is the demands of talented key employees who drive the need for a corporation to set up virtual teams. The days of management thinking “if I can’t see my staff I can’t manage them effectively” are long gone. In many cases staff is more productive working totally or partially from home. For tasks that require a lot of concentration and no interruptions, the home office environment may be perfect”. For the “Virtual Manager” this brings a new challenge in learning how to let go, developing empowerment strategies which allow team members to create their own self-directed work groups. Working this way is new to many managers.

Learn how to manage time zones

Managing work and teams in various time zones around the world is by far more challenging than physical distances between the virtual teams. How to strengthen and ensure effective communication and collaboration in a globalized world is one of the key questions to be answered when seeking after success in a modern business environment nowadays.

Focus on open communication

In order to create a winning team your need to pay extra attention to open communication at all times. Important and very practical ways to do this are for example having an open calendar policy where everyone within the organisation has the access to your own calendar. By doing this the virtual team can manage your and their own time for setting up for example a follow up conference call on the task on hand. If not done with open policy unnecessary time has been wasted to bouncing mails back and forth in trying to find a suitable timing for the call. Regular conference calls are one of the best ways to manage your virtual teams and the status of various on-going projects. However, even today this kind of an open policy is unfortunately still too rare within too many organisations. Before open communication and full access to relevant information is a company policy, nothing will change and companies will not develop.

Trust your people

The key word is the trust between all the team members. If companies do not trust on their own people why were they employed in the first place? ´Out of sight – out of mind´ seems still to be set in the minds of managers. The next generation of managers will no doubt change this for good. For them virtual world equals to real world. One of the key lessons learnt for quite a few of today´s managers will be to realize that you are alone together.

Manage your teams by mutual goals

Managing your virtual team´s outcomes by setting up clear goals, expected milestones and deadlines is one of the proven ways to be successful. In a winning team everyone has a clear non-overlapping role contributing to team´s total tasks. If the team fails it is not because of the individuals but because of failure in communicating the objectives and how to reach them together. It is of utmost importance that each and every one are fully aligned and that the development is being monitored and especially communicated effectively on regular basis.

Work spilling over the private life

The other side of the coin when working from the home office in virtual teams is that the definition of a work day has vanished almost completely. This is one of the risks unless also taken care of by constant open communication. Virtual teams need to have a joint responsibility of each other in ensuring that the work load between the team members is as balanced as only possible.  But once the virtual team has got it right, the reward of working in a modern business culture is huge. The challenge of 21st century managers is to get it right and learn new competencies quickly in managing their virtual teams before it is too late. There is no return to “good old days” when the whole organisation was sitting in a physical office and the company could have been managed by just looking into it.


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