I have been taking advantage of my time at home this week. I am doing a lot of writing while I watch over my son’s recovery. I am presenting a keynote for PMI Capital Michigan next month; this has been a good opportunity for me to prepare and practice my speech. The Michigan Chapter is celebrating their 10th Anniversary and is having a gala dinner event to mark the occasion. I am going to take them on a retrospective journey, revisiting the past ten years in project management – wow, what changes have occurred!
In the late 90’s, co-located teams were the rage. Organizations recognized the value of housing team members in one location; co-located teams have an advantage in productivity because communication is simple. When principal members of the project team are situated in one place, it is easy to interact on a regular basis. This continual interaction facilitates the daily growth of interpersonal and team relationships and, fosters a strong team spirit which leads to higher productivity and quicker adaptability to change.
As our world evolves and become more global, team members no longer have the luxury of getting work done in one shared space. Today, it is not uncommon to have team members in different corporate campuses, in different states, or in different countries. With team members dispersed across the globe these days, how do you keep everyone involved? First and foremost, understand that virtual team members may have different needs and concerns compared to co-located team members; it is important to allow everyone the opportunity to voice their needs and issues.
Consider the needs of your virtual team members, as sometimes it is hard for us to fully appreciate the unique requirements of our distant colleagues. For example, when you conduct a virtual team meeting, how long does your meeting last? Do meetings go on for longer than one hour? What do your virtual team members do when they need to use the restroom? Do they place their phone on “mute”, quickly disappear and hope they are not called upon during their absence? Why not schedule a formal break during a virtual meeting, allowing all members the equal opportunity to move about, stretch their legs, or conduct activities we all take for granted when we can easily see one another in the room?
How many times have you been on a conference call, only to lose the connection mid-way through the meeting? Does your team have a “Plan B” in place, so everyone knows who reinstates the call and how it will happen? Or how about when someone places the call on hold, only to interrupt the entire meeting when everyone on the connection listens to the muzak over the open line?
You should also consider ways to enhance a level of intimacy among virtual team members. Each time you hear a ‘ding’ when a new caller joins the meeting, does everyone know who just joined? Do you know what your virtual team members look like? Posting photos is easy with today’s technology. Grab your cell phone, smile for the camera and say “Cheese”! Post your photo today; strengthen your team community for more productive project results.
Creating a common experience among virtual team members and co-located members is difficult yet important. Making everyone on the team feel visible, even when not seen, creates a level of equality and produces engagement among team members.
Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Lisa DiTullio & Associates, LLC