Five tips for your virtual team

Author: Alan Mellor, almellor

We’ve worked as a virtual company since 2006 at Yuuguu.  It is different working as a virtual team as compared to working in an office – but we’ve learned how to adapt.

Here are five tips that I’ve observed have been useful in keeping the team running well.

1. Keeping moving with Show and Tell

It’s important for projects to keep moving forward. We do this by holding show and tell meetings. The whole team holds a web conference, and using Yuuguu technology, each of us will share our computer screens and show off the latest feature – or problem – to the group.

Doing this creates a sense of urgency and forward motion. It ties in well with our project management approach of setting small, achievable milestones. It’s also invaluable for rapid feedback, support and advice from the people we work with.

2. Hold a regular meeting

I would normally discourage this in an office: for goodness’ sake, there are enough dull, pointless meetings in the world without holding more. The conventional wisdom would be to only meet when there is something to discuss that requires some outcome: ACID – Action, Clarification, Information or Decision.

But working virtually, there is always a point in having a regular meeting – and that is simply to get that human contact, and build that team spirit. Whether it is a project-critical ‘acid’ type meeting, or more of a watercooler chat, we find that meeting once a week on yuuguu keeps us moving together.

3. The Virtual Pint

I must do a full post on this one day. Basically, we use yuuguu at the end of a week to socialise. If your team doesn’t socialise reasonably well, it isn’t going to work particularly well. And the added alone-ness that can come from working in a home office will only amplify that in a negative way. So socialise. Build that right in to the fabric of running your virtual team – it is actually essential for the running of your business!

4. Have an ‘Open Messenger’ policy

We run yuuguu at all times as we work together. If one of us is particularly busy, we use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature to let the team know about that. Otherwise, the ‘open messenger’ policy is the equivalent of an ‘open door’ office policy. We encourage each other to ask questions, ask for help, offer help – just get involved.

Often, I can ask Mike a PHP question, or Neil a marketing question and get an answer faster than I could google it. And of course, the answer comes through the filters of their practical experience, making the most of the wisdom in our team.

It’s all about creating a culture where helping one another is encouraged, and knowledge is shared. Again, that is all about minimising the sense of isolation that can arise in a virtual team.

5. Enjoy the flexibility

I’ve read a lot of articles on managing virtual teams that essentially suggests using time tracking and monitoring tools. I think that’s a load of rubbish, borne out of a lack of experience – and fear.

What you are after is *getting stuff done* not *getting hours clocked*. By using the four tips above, you get the visibility – in a collaborative, empowering way – that you need to succeed. So knowing precisely where staffer X was at 16:13 last tuesday is neither here nor there – the real question is ‘can we ship that work item?’.

Virtual work is really good at empowering people to get stuff done AND create flexibility during the day. Enjoy it! It certainly makes for a better working environment, a better team, and better end results. With employee loyalty increased as a free bonus.

What tips would you share from your virtual teams?

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