Monthly Archives: June 2011

Being a part of a Virtual Team

virtual(a): existing in essence or effect though not in actual fact. So idea is to produce the output without a factual team, a team without any existence. Now you get the essence of our work and value of our work.

Virtual Team: A geographically separated team with common goal.

As a team member

  • Be a team member, even if you are in your own room working in your pajamas.
  • Take notes of the conversation; send a memorandum to your manager about the understanding.
  • Most team members are working in good faith. Give them benefit of doubt and provide a second chance to explain/correct mistakes.
  • Your manager, who is 3000 miles away, will care more about the result and less about how you spend your whole day. But it is in your interest to show-case your efforts/skills. Use ways like writing end-of-day email summarizing your day, write blogs about your technical growth, etc.
  • Your manager has his/her own agenda for the day. Make sure you don’t throw surprises. If you are expecting a problem, don’t wait till last minute, it is ok to mention “possible risk”.
  • If you do not understand the importance of your job, ask explicitly. Ask how it fits in overall picture. Most likely you have not understood your job itself.
  • Avoid slangs and colloquialisms. If people do not know the expression it could means entirely something else. E.g. Expression for “you are pulling my leg” in Russian translates to English “you are hanging noodles off my ears”.
  • Respect cultural differences. American English is often direct and might sound offensive to even UK English speakers. Whereas Indians use more words this obscures the meaning. Try and find the balance between meaningful and inoffensive communication.
  • Many people have different time schedules. If you are expecting some work to be done in certain time, ask for exact time. Most people have different snacks, lunch, dinner and sleeping times.
  • Have a mailing list: one internal to project and one for client.
  • Try and use collaborative software such as wiki, discussion forums, blogs, etc. to share idea and mainly document your technical achievements.
  • Be exact about timing e.g End of Business means different for different people. You have to specify End of Business for which time zone. Is end of Friday means start of Monday?
  • Be punctual about the meeting timings. Most of the European cultures are less tolerant about the unpunctual people. Respect your as well as other people’s time.

 As a manager of Virtual team

  • Play multi-player shooting game online. Everyone wants to shoot their colleagues time-to-time. Having common target as a boss is even better J
  • Meet physically once in a while and have a team building exercises, e.g. go for bowling, for a drinks, etc.
  • Use webcams, video chats for regular communications. This will create more life-like environment.
  • Remember that productivity drops over the time. And manager has to make special efforts in order to prevent that from happening.
  • Create a clear structure and assign responsibility very clearly. Assign responsibilities individually but goals collectively. Incentives must be for collective efforts and then reward special individual efforts.
  • Create a more transparent atmosphere by sharing information over mailing list as opposed to individual emails. Have at least one weekly synch-up meeting (if not every day).
  • Provide special attention to build cohesiveness, and trust in the team. This will build relationship faster.
  • When pointing the flaws always provide average of the team. E.g. collectively we have received 50 defects as a team and talk about how we can address them. But talk to individual worse-performers e.g. person who caused 25 defect (out f 50) and create a separate plan. Do not point somebody’s mistakes in open forum.
  • Know about personal life of team members. Give half day off on somebody’s birthday would go long way in establishing positive relationship with that individual and other team members as well.
  • Use chat / discussion forums to collaborate more. Sometime emails seems “my way or high way”. You could have separate discussion session where people just provide suggestions, or “think aloud” about how to resolve the issue.
  • Arrange the meetings in overlapped timings. If this is not possible at least arrange it for convenient time for most people.