All the same, some virtual teams thrive. How? Case studies at multinational firms, plus a survey by the London Business School, offer these 10 best practices:
- Invest in an online hub where members can get to know each other. Social networking helps everyone jump-start the process of .
- Include a few team members who are already colleagues. They’re called “heritage relationships.”
- Enlist one in six team members as “boundary spanners.” They are notable networkers who have lots of connections outside their teams.
- Groom boundary spanners continuously.
- Break the team’s workload into chunks so members can work independently. This is particularly important across time zones. Only at the end of a project do you need to integrate the workflow.
- Create online space for collaboration, brainstorming and inspiration. Team members should be able to share plans, modify shared work and weigh ideas.
- Encourage discussion, but don’t force socializing. At first, keep communications focused on work.
- Hold the grunt work. If the work is dull, the team will fail. Members simply fade away by contributing fewer ideas or plugging in to fewer conference calls.
- Ensure the importance of the task. When virtual teams light up, it’s because they find a project compelling. This happened at BP when its chief asked everyone how the company could become “a force for good.” One team dug into sustainable energy and wouldn’t let go until the company embraced its agenda.
- Recruit volunteers. They have valuable skills, interpersonal connections and they care. Nokia says significant parts of its teams are volunteers.
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