What is the best way to manage a team that is virtual?
I now have several people on my team and most people are working virtually. Two of us are in the same city, but the rest are in different time zones. I would like to start having weekly staff meetings, but I am not sure how well that will work. What has been other people's experiences with managing such a diverse team?
Perhaps you would benefit from having a look at the line of books edited by Hugo Messer - all free from http://bridge-staffing.com/ebooks/. They are written by people who have been there and done that and displays their various experiences and thoughts.
Besides, I suggest that you in most projects make sure that you collect and share various information about the project and other work. As the team members cannot easily just go and ask, they tend to re-invent the hot water or stay without a solution, unless you tie them together by information sharing and easy chat and video meeting possibilities. A good tool for this is Bitrix24. The other tools mentioned in this thread are good too, but GotoMeeting, Trello, etc. all have very different objectives. Bitrix24 is an overall, all-round tool for teams and companies.
For starter, diversity is not an issue since it is subjective often to the product managers standpoint however having a virtual team w/ different and diverse behavior or custom you will basically have the following barriers as a result of such diversity.
1. Complex and chaotic operational structure;
2. Deliverable monitoring & implementation; and
First barrier, you need to simplify and automate how your team operates like pre-tasks scheduling, designate tasks with respect to a team member's skill set, provide a time frame per tasks. Then create an ecosystem for these tasks such as ticketing or job order / request system between members or teams.
Second, be adept to the operation and its inherent probabilities, prepare a weekly sprint for it and make sure that everything in it are time bounded. The rest is you hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Lastly, you need to make sure on top of everything of the teams communication processes let alone communicating guideline instructions. Initiate a difficult exercise. One of example would be to get your team to play a multiplayer first person shotting game like Counter-Strike. You will understand how valuable communication is after your team of 5 engages 30 enemy players and manages to win. From thereon everything else that makes an effective team will fall into place.
In addition, apply a team management methodology rather than just application tool(s). I suggest you make an agile and PRINCE2 approach in your organizational or operational structure of your team. Goodluck!
Hello Thomas, I have managed virtual teams in most of my projects. One of my observations has been a sense of 'lack of control'. I think this may be the chief thing bugging you.
One of the key ingredients of virtual teams is mutual trust and proactive reporting. When members trust each other (across hierarchies) to do their jobs sincerely, much is taken care of. With proacrive reporting - where team members voluntarily share updates makes life even more easier. However, managing teams virtually also requires tools. Leveraging skype,Lync, Hangouts etc are effective means for quick meetings. More detailed meetings could be hosted on a dedicated platform such as gotomeeting etc. Development can be shared thru various collaborative software (plenty in open source). Process wise, my recommendation is to have daily standup meetings first thing beginning of the day, but for not more than 15-20 mins. These should instill a sense of control in you, and a sense of active participation and collaboration amongst your staff.
Google hangouts are the best way to do it. All you need to do is invite them to the meeting.
Using the right (mostly free) tools can give you the right power to manage your team without having to be present in all the timezones or spending too much time on catching up every day. It depends a lot on how your business operates, but still there are some tools you can have a look at like Jira, BaseCamp, and Trello where you can manage and track your tasks, milestones and time depending on the methodology you follow to manage your projects. You can integrate them with other systems as well to automate tasks and notifications. I recommend Zapier in this, as you can setup them yourself (in most of the cases) and eventually at a very low cost.
However organizing at least one meeting per week is still crucial so you make sure things are on track, and moreover you make people feel as part of the company, its culture and its goals rather than just remotely working for their paycheck.
I hope this helps! Should you need any more advice, do not hesitate to get in touch.
Wish you all the best!