Monday, March 8, 2010

Virtual Team Management

I was going through the Demonstrations and Case Studies on the Enspire Learning website when I came across a marvelous simulation on Virtual Team Management.
You can access the demos by registering.

I recommend this simulation to all those who either are handling a globally distributed team or a project, and to all managers who feel that effective communication is one of the keys to business success. As a part of a project team that is globally distributed at the moment, I realized how important the parameters mentioned in the simulation are for the success of such projects.

The simulation is built to solve the following problem:
Problem: This software company's business continues to grow worldwide, and with that growth new challenges arise. The company sought a way to teach virtual team management skills to a multicultural, transglobal audience of project managers.
The simulation covers some key points that can help to avoid miscommunication, especially for a distributed team:
  1. Important principals of virtual project management like,
    •  Sending the meeting agenda ahead of time
    • Inviting the right people 
    • Following up on decisions
  2. Key stages of a successful meeting--local or global
    •  Preparation
    • Facilitation
    • Follow-up
  3. Criteria for planning virtual meetings:
    • Agenda
    • Communication media
    • Different time zones
  4. Most critical to a project
    • Invite the right people
I will highlight my takeaway from this; I personally found the choice of communication media and inviting the right people two very critical components of successful meetings.
 
Choice of communication media: Some meetings demand more high context communication than others. High context communication tools like video conference communicate more than just words. These communicate body language and gestures and are best for decision making and addressing problems. Most requirements fall in between and can be addressed by using WebEx or net meetings or phone conferences.

The image below from the demo shows the spectrum of context and the corresponding meeting options.


Inviting the right people: Sending out meeting invites seem to be a fairly easy task; but a failure to do this right can "weaken team trust and rapport". Assuming that someone is busy and hence would not attend or wish to be involved is one of the fundamental mistakes that is often made. Never assume! While, notes the simulation, people on your project team may not be able to refuse to perform, they can give less than their best if they believe they have been slighted.

Do view the simulation for a better understanding of how:
  1. A well-designed simulation can drive the point home
  2. A choice of communication medium impacts meetings
  3. Selecting meeting attendees requires forethought and clarity about the purpose of the meeting

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