How to make your virtual team work – part 5

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This is the last of the series of videos based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Chapter Project Society Conference in Belgrade, September 2015. It is the video where we look at strategies for virtual team building.

One of them is to start with a big bang,in other words just create a team with people in different places and then try and bring them together. A second one is to establish a core team; a small number of people that may be able to do some of the work and then once they’ve got a basis for working together to invite other people into it. And the third one is to evolve an existing organization and consciously make it more virtual.In my view the third of those is definitely easier than the first.

However there may be reasons for doing this one: Skills may be available in different places, it may be an issue of time zones,it might be languages to support a help desk. There may be other issues: maybe one country is particularly skilled in a particular type of service or competence, and it may not be workable just to say everybody must be in one place. But it’s definitely a challenge because the people don’t know each other and individuals are programmed culturally in different ways. Maybe a slower but surer way of doing it is to establish a core team to do some of the work and then to build up the ground rules and the team spirit with this group.When that is moving properly then you can add other people to the team bit by bit. I mentioned before that it may make sense to work with teams instead of individuals because the various nodes of the network will then be in themselves more stable. For example, anybody is going to go on holiday or be ill from time to time and so forth and if there is a team in each location it is easier to address these issues.

Another way of doing it is to take an existing organization and consciously turn it into a virtual team or certainly have much more virtual activity. One way of doing this is to bring people’s attention to the ground rules which were probably written in an environment where they were co-located so actually developing and revising the ground rules in itself is a team building activity to help people move in the right direction. This can be reinforced by using live meetings wherever possible, maybe piggybacking on other events that are happening within the organization where people would be meeting in any case, but certainly it can work much more easily if people actually have the opportunity to meet each other from time to time.

So that’s the last of the videos. Thanks very much your interest and if you want to follow through on any of these, please be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn or through any of the other ways. Thanks very much.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

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How to make your Virtual Team work – Part 2

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This is the second short video based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Chapter Project Society Conference in Belgrade in September 2015.

In this section we’re talking about personal experiences of virtual teams and I’m presenting five of them: the first one involved a research team where everybody was in one city. We used to meet from time to time and in fact physically whenever we could. What was interesting was that when somebody was absent, they joined the meeting by Skype. One time one of the participants instead of being in Switzerland was in China and I hadn’t been notified in advance. I turned up to the meeting, asked where he was and someone said “oh that’s all right; he’ll join in anyway”. With that sort of environment where people are very used to using their smartphones, the interactions and the development of the project can be really very speedy, very fast compared to the old way of doing projects, where people used to hold their decisions until they actually met face to face.

A second format that I experienced involved bringing people together in the chapters of the Project Management Institute over all of EMEA, in other words from South Africa right up to Finland, which involves about a hundred and twenty countries. But this turned out to be particularly difficult because I think the people did not know each other. They spoke different languages, they had different cultures but there were also technical issues, for example some people preferred to join a meeting by telephone, others said yes, that was too expensive but they were quite happy with something like Skype. If you were on telephone, then you couldn’t share the slides and it took a lot of effort even to get consensus on things like how long the meeting should be, how often it should take place and what technology it should use. So that was a very challenging environment.

Another one that I’ve experienced involves PMI volunteers located globally.These people do in fact know each other and they meet each other once a year precisely to get to know each other. It’s called a planning meeting but it would be very hard to work if the people didn’t really know each other. It involves interviewing people and so that coverage can be offered globally.There are three people in each team and any two of them can usually make a meeting, regardless of where the applicant is.

Another format that I worked with was by having all the members of the team in one country.This meant that they shared language, time zone, legal environment and this made the contract issues easier.  From time to time there were face-to-face meetings but the international working was limited by the choice of language. If a project is going to be global, it really needs a global language or one that is at least spoken by the vast majority of the people involved.

And a fifth environment that I’ve had contact with was a network of teams. In the previous example it was a network of individuals but this has a disadvantage that if one person is away, than their skill-set drops out and they don’t really have anyone that they can brief. But by having contacts along the same lines but with teams means that when something needs to be covered, then another person in the team can be briefed and brought in. Also if there are problems or challenges or arguments, then it’s easier to change the people involved because there are more people there and that makes it easier to resolve.

However a feature of this type has been commercial differences an some of them very much unexpected. For example, between Europe and the United States there are very different ways of using banks. United States people use checks a lot; in Europe they have been superseded by electronic transfers completely. People publish their bank account number because all you can do with it is put money into it. In the United States there is a preference not to publish bank account numbers. So those sort of things can mean that the commercial interaction is that little bit more difficult.

So if you wish to discuss any of your own project issues with me please, to connect through all the usual methods either through our website at scatterwork.com and email phone, call or connecting by LinkedIn. I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

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Living with diverse culture in Virtual Projects

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Hello! This short video from Scatterwork focuses on living diverse culture in virtual projects and presents three survival hints.

The first is to recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch between, for example, people in different offices in different countries or different parts of the world is very, very high.

I’ve got here seven features that you might have which are different between two different offices, for example different delays between speaker and response.

In some cultures, when you speak you have to wait until the other person is finished and then you answer. And if you don’t they get a bit annoyed. But in other cultures the response comes and people talk at the same time. If these response habits don’t match, then you can have an uncomfortable situation.

Or maybe they use different dialing codes for telephone for international codes or different ways of writing the number down with plus and zero and so on.

May be different times of the year for changing between winter and summer time (that’s between winter time and daylight saving time). If it’s not at the same time of year you have a chance that meetings will not work properly because the time coordination wasn’t good.

So I’ve got seven features that may differ between two offices. Just imagine that there were five options for each of these, then we have have seven times by 5, that is 5 by 5 and so on combinations that could occur between these two offices, 78,000.

The point is that there are so many different options that you’ve got a good chance of hitting one of them and of course you always hit it by mistake.

So then the next survival hint is if this happens not to react immediately to an unexpected response. If you get something you don’t expect and you react immediately then you have a good chance the other person will not be very comfortable. But if on the other hand you delay your response,, they might think “why isn’t he answering?”. A delay is less likely to end up in a conflict situation.

And I remember one time long ago presenting an unexpected situation to a friend of mine and instead of reacting, he just stopped for a few seconds and then he said “…………..O.K.”.

By doing it that way you avoid the row.

And then the third survival hint is to introduce extra process steps for improved reliability. For example don’t just rely on an email
“please send me so-and-so” but then follow it up with a phone call and read through the email together and listen.

It may be that was said or what was written down wasn’t exactly what you thought or maybe maybe the right thing was written down in you misinterpreted it. So by having two steps you have a
better chance of compensating for this complexity.

So there you have it: three things:

one is recognize that the chances of cultural mismatch are very, very, very high;

and then if you get some sort of funny response or something you’re not expecting, wait give yourself a bit of time before reacting;

and then the third one is to introduce extra process steps for reliability. Don’t overdo it but don’t assume that what works in the single culture environment will actually also work in a multicultural environment.

So if you’re interested in discussing your own project issues, please connect with me by any of the usual methods: through the website at scatterwork.com, newsletter, LinkedIn, telephone, email and so on.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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Strategies for Virtual Team Building – Part 1

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Hello, this series of short videos is based on the keynote presentation to the PMI Serbia Project Society Conference, Belgrade 2015. It’s broken into five sections each of them corresponding to one video and as presenter I’m a project consultant who in fact have been involved in projects for effectively my entire career.

Project teams don’t usually share a single location but they operate virtually, at least in part. The more widespread the team members are, the greater the cultural and environmental diversity. This means that virtual team building is very challenging and the strategies which were used a generation ago need to be reviewed and developed so in this presentation we examine some strategies based on experience of working in this environment.

Let’s start with collocated teams, that’s teams where everybody is in the same place. This is required in some situations, for example military or emergency services and when people have to work very focused together then they can work in one place. However that’s not always possible because the skills or the resources e.g. the technical resources may be scattered and indeed these days they might be global. These days a lot of teams are increasingly dispersed and not only are they virtual but they are international and global so all of those features make them a little bit harder to work with.

Now there are benefits of working on this basis; one of them is a choice of staff. For example you may want people with a different language for a help desk during your night but it might be during the day of another person. When people are working virtually you don’t have to provide them with a desk with some employers may take responsibility for the cost of the access.

People don’t need to travel, for example visas and getting visas and traveling and so on can take a lot of effort and this can be avoided by involving people on a virtual basis and if people are ready they can even start there and then.

People who work on their own tend to be very committed. This has been shown by lots of studies and may be surprising – you would think if people were left to work on their own they would drop out but once they got involved in the work then the results can indeed be better than if they work together in one place. Before moving on to virtual team building itself it’s a good idea to just remind ourselves how far the technology has come.

For example there is a speedy shop available from the railways in Switzerland where people can choose their groceries through their mobile phone and then it’s placed in a locker and when they turn up, they show a bar code on their phone and the locker opens. The goods have already been paid for through their card.

This has been introduced on a pilot basis without any great training of the general population – people just know how to do it. So if you wish to discuss any of your own project issues with me please to connect through all the usual methods, either through our website at scatterwork.com, an email, phone call or connecting via LinkedIn.

I look forward to hearing from you, thank you.

Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.

Email: deasun@scatterwork.com

Tel: +41 79 692 4735 Talk to me

LinkedIn: Connect with me

Please share with colleagues, who also get 10% off their first booking.

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