Globalization had huge impacts on our society and influenced the business environment tremendously. Some years ago, top managers spent most of their time in planes travelling from their headquarters to subsidiaries and back. Virtual teams, enhanced technologies and new business behaviors make it nowadays possible to replace at least some of the necessary travels with online meetings. Managing virtual teams requires a very specific skill set as well as some flair from the group’s supervisor.
1. Cost savings
The number one reason why most companies prefer virtual meetings over face-to-face meetings is money. A small online conference costs by far less money than bringing every meeting participant on the same table. Furthermore, online meetings save all participants time and make the whole process of the project much more efficient. Travelling less also positively effects the environment and increases the company’s sustainability.
2. Team spirit
While virtual meetings make it possible to save a lot of money, they could also cost the company a lot. Nothing is more expensive than an ineffective team. Every leader knows how difficult it is to manage diverse teams in the same building. But this is nothing compared to the difficulties one can face with teams from different countries, different cultural backgrounds and different working habits. To make remote projects work, it is necessary to develop a common understandings and to form a real team. In the best case, there should be an initial take-off workshop at the beginning of the project where everybody attends in person. In situations where this is not possible, it is even more important to set up clear rules, to build a common objective and to settle disagreements on a very early level. While discussions are often seen as positive to achieve the optimal result, it is difficult to handle them over distance. Overall, it is important to give every group member a personality and a face, even if the team members do not meet in person, e.g. by sharing personal stores with each other.
3. Project tools
Technology is an important factor for the success of global teams. There are very specific tools for global collaboration, but mostly the simple ones are even more important. It maybe sounds needless to mention, but everybody should use the same world clock. Another crucial part of your project will definitely be to set up an effective communication. Tools such as Slack will help your team to stay informed and improve the team spirit at the same time. To talk over distance, it is recommended to set up a VoIP software such as Skype to make audio communication easily possible around the world. Documents should be stored at your Dropbox team folder and presented to your colleagues via Beamium. For development teams, Jira and GitHub will be very important too. Of course, there are many other tools available on the market and the represented ones only show a small number of the available products. Make sure to try out different ones to find the right one for your team.
4. Regular update meetings
In global teams, everybody thinks that he works most. If problems occur, nobody feels responsible. To avoid such common problems, make sure to regularly update every team member about achievements, problems and milestones. Discussing problems at an early stage makes it easier for the team to react. Sharing learnings can be very useful for other team members and should be encouraged by the supervisor.
5. Celebrate milestones
It is very likely that problems occur at a certain point in your global set up. To avoid bad emotions and to further strengthen the team spirit, it is important to celebrate milestones regularly. Every team member should be incentivized on a team level to avoid lone fighters. At the end of a project, it can again be very useful to meet in person to strengthen relationships for the next cross-country collaboration. To sum up, international teams can be very effective and beneficial for your company. To make global teams efficient, communication should be handled successfully. The right project tools should be chosen to avoid problems and to emphasize milestones. In the end of the day, managing international teams requires some new skills which even very experienced senior managers should learn from scratch.
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