Virtual and Global Teams


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All program managers need to strategically choose program communication processes. Unfortunately, technology has complicated the decision-making process for program managers, providing a myriad of methods for communication. Because there are so many choices, confusion often results. Our ability to extract value from technological advances in communication methods lags the rate at which new methods are created.

Our 5 part Guide to Program Communication Processes will ensure your program and project communication is streamlined and helps you achieve strategic goals.

Part 1 of 5: Notifiership
Part 2 of 5: Program Meetings
Part 3 of 5: Team Charters
Part 4 of 5: Virtual and Global Teams
Part 5 of 5: Program Presentation Basics

Part 4 of 5: Program Communication Processes – Virtual and Global Teams

A significant challenge for program managers is leading virtual and/or global teams. A virtual team is more demanding to lead because of the communication challenges that arise from personnel being dispersed and not having regular or any access to face-to-face communication. Leading a virtual or global team is even more challenging when the team includes members from different cultures. The program manager needs to take this into account during the planning process.

Identify a Culture Coach
Leading culturally diverse teams requires more than just leading people from countries that have different cultures. A leading global company provides its program managers with coaches on the culture of various parts of the company. The coach can help you quickly find the norms in the organization that serve as grounding points. You may eventually find these norms without a coach, but the coach accelerates the process and minimizes costly mistakes.

In addition to a coach, there are three key elements to success with virtual and global teams:
1. Have an open mind and be willing to adjust as the circumstances provide feedback. The best sports coaches adjust their tactics to the circumstances of the game. Be ready to adjust.
2. Be ready to learn a lot from other cultures.
3. You still have to build relationships.

Be Aware of Potential Communication Issues
The most difficult part of the virtual team lies in the area of communication, specifically the lack of the informal communication that results from the trust generated by face-to-face proximity. In virtual and global teams, the hallway conversation doesn’t exist. Electronic communication becomes essential, but it can get so voluminous that it becomes more of a hindrance than a help.

Much of what is accomplished in the virtual team environment still happens because of relationships.Therefore, it should go without saying that clear goals, roles, and responsibilities are necessary, and after this has been established there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings, especially at key program and project junctures.

In light of the dynamics of virtual teaming, the more things you can standardize, the more smoothly the team will function. Establishing a weekly status meeting goes a long way toward establishing positive communications.

Use Varied Communication Tools
Tools also facilitate communication. Web-conferencing tools have valuable features that foster good communication in meetings. You can also provide an open conference call line that permits members to communicate with one another at a moment’s notice.

The program manager should carefully select members of remote teams. The program manager has to look beyond the current task, deliverable, or project and build strong virtual teams that pay dividends for the life of the program. This is an organizational capability that should be grown over time. Over a period of months and years this becomes very powerful and should be a major consideration in determining how assignments are made for virtual and global teams.

Once your team has decided on their plan and process, PPM software can help you execute that process. WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.