At Organimi we’re fans of virtual organizations – groups of people coming together in business, government, education and not for profit areas – groups that are already doing amazing things today, and whose numbers will continue to grow.  Think pop-up fundraisers, virtual value chains, online continuous learning & training centers, and grass roots democratic action groups.  Technology is giving us more and more ways to connect, and people are jumping at the chance.

We wrote a recent white paper outlining why virtual organizations will become more popular – inevitable even.

Organimi supports the needs of organizations grappling with engagement challenges in these environments – connecting, communicating and collaborating their teams in virtual workspaces.  At the end of the day, we believe that virtual organizations will need to work for people.

So on the “no one left behind” theory it is nice to see groups already forming to help generate better understanding of virtual teams and organizations – how to create and manage them.  We saw this week a great discussion on LinkedIn Discussion Groups about best practises in managing virtual teams.  Check it out.

What does “virtual organization” mean to you?

 

Responding to a question on the “dos and don’ts” of managing virtually, here is an excerpt from a contribution to the discussion by Janelle Monney

This is a great question. Thanks for starting the discussion. I am also going to make the assumption that you are talking about the most complex of all virtual teams – the multinational, multi-cultural, every time zone on the planet type of team. I have had the pleasure to lead or be a part of those many times in my career.

Others have already brought up many of the high level strategic and cultural concerns so I will share a few tactics that I believe are critical to success (they fall in the category of process and no-no’s). I have them listed in no particular order of importance. Also, sorry for the length….I am passionate about this topic due strictly to all the feedback I have heard from frustrated employees over the years.

 

  1. Equipment – You must have good to great equipment for an effective global call. While people do not necessarily have to meet face to face, it is great if they can at least see each other on video-conference from time to time. Make sure any people who must call in from home at odd hours have proper bandwidth should that be required. This is a “given” in the US but no so all over the world.
  1. Scheduling – Understand the various time zones and vary the meeting times. In other words, don’t make all meetings convenient to the “headquarter” people and inconvenient for everyone else. Also understand global holidays and be careful not to schedule required meetings on holidays in other countries. Start and end exactly on time.
  1. Define the purpose of the meeting and have a clear agenda – Is it just information sharing? Collaboration? A decision-making meeting? This way you may have the “right” people on the call. Do not set up the situation in which everyone has to be on every call. This is linked to the importance of defining roles and responsibilities which has already been mentioned in another post. The calls can be recorded and people can listen to the information at their convenience. When everyone on the team does need to be on the call, make that very clear. Why make someone be on a call at a difficult time if they don’t need to be and they can listen to a recording later?
  1. Conference call behavior – This is HUGE. Quite often, the people at HQ are all in the same room together being really noisy and having lots of side conversations (and maybe even eating). This makes it really tough for the other callers to hear. You need to be relentless about conference call etiquette. Start exactly on time. No side conversations. One person talks at a time. People need to be paying attention and not on their devices catching up on email, etc. The leader must make a special effort to engage the people s/he cannot see. Frequently ask if they can hear. Talk slowly and clearly (especially if you have multiple ESL people on the line). Do not assume silence means understanding or agreement.
  1. Single system of record – Do NOT use email as the system of record. Make sure to use some type of collaborative hub (like sharepoint or google docs). Put all relevant information in that location and only that location. There must be a single version of the truth that is “always” up to date.
  1. Create flexible schedules where necessary – This is a tough one but I really believe it is critical for ongoing effective global collaboration….managers must understand the work/life situation if a team member must continually be on global calls at “off” hours. Do not expect your team to work 9 hours in US time and then be on calls with Asia all night or visa versa.”

 

Some great common sense tips here and in many of the other comments in this discussion group.

Bruce Perron, for example, has some great tips

Do’s:

Choose a definitive leader for the team

Define scope of project.

Define roles and responsibilities.

Define deadlines and meeting dates.

Have multiple contact information for team members and use a unified communication and collaboration system (such as Mitel MiCollab)

Use technology which enables visual communication and desktop sharing.

Send team members relevant information to review before meetings.

Follow up after meeting to ensure joint understandings of information, conclusions and next steps.

 

Don’ts:

Forget to check your email or other devices regularly.

Talk over each other in meetings.

Miss a deadline or meeting.

We hope this is all helpful for those of you thinking about, setting up, and running virtual teams.