A framework for managing virtual teams

Undoubtedly the new situation calls for new skills. Virtual teams management now being enforced by the pandemic is defining a whole new way of doing things, which is sure to be lasting. This is known today as the “low touch economy” which from the point of view of managing work teams entails performing digitally.

This will certainly also endure when the current situation changes, creating new habits and demanding new skills.

Leading a digital team requires from management, a new way of doing things so that the group of people we coordinate performs well. Being a digital leader implies putting new skills into practice. Here we will specifically concentrate on management, by sharing a framework we developed to then highlight the key aspects that make sure we, as digital leaders, do not lose sight of the individual and group needs of our team members.

The key factors for virtual team management

Management cycles should be shortened to a week or a fortnight at most. It’s like putting milestones on the road, doing signoffs, and giving feedback in shorter stints, so the team and each individual can feel results are being achieved and that their contribution is “perceived and recorded”.

  • Trust in the digital team is generated from meticulous touchpoints at the individual and group levels. These touchpoints are thorough meetings or documentation deliveries. The fulfilment of promises (e.g. the start time of a meeting) are experienced as signs of engagement and commitment.
  • The digital team leader’s focus must be kept balanced between two essential variables for higher calibre results: the task and the people.
  • In turn, the focus on people must consider two variables: the individual approach (focused on follow-up, development, and recognition), and the group approach (focused on the generation of esprit de corps and team consolidation).
  • The management cycle, both weekly and fortnightly, passes through three moments: Initiation, 2. Follow up, 3. Closure and Recognition.

We have called these moments as follows:

1

Initiation

JUMP

2

Follow up

PUSH

3

Closure and recognition

PRIDE

The essential variables and moments in the management cycle are brought to life with our key tool: conversations. Such conversations in the digital environment are characterised as precise, concise, and trigger immediate action.
 
A management framework
 
Modelling the management cycle and determining the different conversations we should have to ensure a higher level of performance in our teams, allows us to act rigorously and effectively.
 
The diagram below shows the Management Framework and key moments, which proceed from conversations. On the vertical axis, the 3 key variables are: Task (Management) and People (Team and Collaborator). On the horizontal axis, the three moments of the management cycle: Jump, Push and Pride.
 
Next, we will define the focus of each of these “matching points”.
           
 

1

The cycle begins with reinforcing the purpose and working together to explain the specific objectives.

Here it is also important to focus on possible obstacles or barriers, to work on their antidotes right away.

2

Go over the rules of the game with the team. Work on which group value we will focus on in this cycle. Break it down to observable behaviours, examples, cases.

3

With the person, focus on the challenges for the next cycle, their individual contribution, the impact of their work on others. Detect whether the person needs support to achieve their individual goals. Teach and provide tools.

1

For the group, identify the progress in achieving objectives to be able to take action against deviations.

2

Work with the team to strengthen ties and to promt cross-fertilisation and collaboration for undertaking the most complex tasks. A space for exchange is created.

3

With each person monitor their progress and motivation to be able to offer help or resources. A conversation is created for exchanging ideas to provide support, while strengthening ties.

1

The cycle is closed with a snapshot of achieved and pending milestones that the team has co-created. A feedback session is held (a meeting in which we analyse what we achieved and what we didn’t, and we critically analyse how we should have done it). Recognition is given for objectives achieved and unexpected results.

2

We give recognition to the team and dedicate a timeslot for the celebration, using digital group methods. We strengthen the esprit de corps.

3

An exchange is set up for discussing individual achievements, learnings, challenges for the next period. This closure meeting is used for giving recognition.

 

Each of these “matching points” during the management cycle gives leaders an excellent opportunity to make adjustments and strengthen ties. The biggest challenge is to maintain a balance between focusing on the task and focusing on the people.

Those who coordinate digital teams and succeed in improving their management skills will not only achieve higher calibre results in the short term but will also generate a large competitive edge that will contribute to their personal brand.

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