In my years working on IT projects, I have gone from going into the office every day and seeing my team mates to working mostly from my home. I still have great teammates and we instant message or call each other daily to catch up on the day’s goals or work over a problem. I realized that having open conversations, building trust, and effectively communicating in a team are essential to a project’s success but what is the best way to do that in a dispersed team?
According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people who telecommute multiple days per week in the US has grown nearly 80% since 2005. Not only are people working from home but project teams are becoming globalized with team members from countries such as the US, Germany, and India all working together. Besides making sure normal communication happens in a team, like functional leads talking through requirements with developers, we have to thrive with the challenge of a remote workforce. We need to implement ways for effective and open team communication as the number workers who telecommute grows each year.
After thinking about my remote working team and hearing other people’s stories, I have determined the top areas to focus on to bring the human element back to a virtual setting.
3 Tips for Virtual Team Communication:
- Use tools in the cloud and promote visualization. Visual artifacts are a great tool for promoting communication whether the team is co-located or remote. Use of visual artifacts in the cloud help teams be collaborative and provide transparency into the work being done do to the cloud’s nature of being available at any time, on any device, globally. In one project, where our team was split at the office and at the Go Live site, we used an online Kanban board to visually display the work to be done. Other beneficial collaboration tools in the cloud are file hosting that lets teammates edit documents online or your company’s own enterprise social network (http://ascent.atos.net/2014/05/27/atos-zero-email-enterprise-cultural-change-beyond-social-collaboration). An enterprise social network encourages teammates to be self-motivated communicators and allows of real-time collaboration.
- Create communication rituals. One example is hosting a daily “stand up” when the most time zones overlap. Each individual team member describes their goal for the day and raises any challenges they are facing. This will not only clarify the work being accomplished between global team members but inspire individuals to reach out and help their teammates.
- Encourage healthy conversation: Creating healthy conversation across functional units, such as functional roles and developers, promotes partnerships where team members can work towards a common goal without fighting over their “side’s” values. When I work as a business analyst, sometimes I find a feature that doesn’t quite work from a user perspective. Instead of going directly to the defect tracker to log it as a design issue, I ping my developer partner and we talk about the feature together, decide on a change and implement it. These types of conversations grow trust between team mates and an understanding that the goal is a great working program.
How do you collaborate when working remote? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @lilyotron to what websites, apps, and tools you use work virtually while staying connected to coworkers."Team Communication in a Virtual and Mobile Workforce",