Many of you asked to get more information about building a virtual team and setting up your Team Code. Recall that the Team Code of Conduct has to do with the details that comprise the operational procedures and communication modes of daily work situations. Team members decide, for example, on how they will conduct phone calls, handle email and deal with a variety of issues that naturally arise in the average workday. There is a code for acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that guide every aspect of team life (communication, conflict management, problem solving, decision making, meeting deadlines, team building strategies, resource deployment and more.)
Building a virtual team requires a more detailed Team Code than an onsite team because Team Codes specify behaviors about the intangibles inherent when building your virtual team in virtual situations that are less important when you can walk over to someone’s workstation. For example, when to use email, phone, texting, team short hands.
Issues Team Code Should Explore When Building a Virtual Team
- How often we will communicate?
- What issues require what kind of communication?
- Who will be notified? When? How?
- When is it appropriate to escalate issues?
- When should we use telephone, video, audio and other technology tools?
- What is the etiquette and protocol for participation? When someone is speaking, when should the mute button be used to give people from other cultures additional time to gather their thoughts?
- How does the team want to keep everyone informed (who takes and distributes minutes, do roles rotate)
- When will the agenda be distributed (X hours or days prior to the meeting)?
- Who will take meeting minutes – note taker- (action items, agreements); where will they be posted (team website or distributed another way); when will they be posted? (hours/days after the meeting)
- Which meetings are mandatory? Which ones are not? Can a certain number or percent of team members attend or are meetings rescheduled?
- How does the team handle different time zones?
- What are acceptable time frames for online communications: returning emails, telephone calls and rescheduling?
- What are the guidelines for using email (when to use it, when not to)? How to structure messages? What to flag? What to write in the Subject Line?
- What is the appropriate time to respond to requests?
- What technology may be used by team members to stay connected?
- How do we handle time lags and delays of asynchronous messages that constrain communication and might make it difficult to form group consensus or reach conclusions?
- What procedures exist for scheduling meetings using group-scheduling software?
- How do we handle trust breakdowns and communication gaps and stay focused?
- How will the work be reviewed? Who reviews the work? Who approves the work?
- How do we hold each other accountable for using our TEAM CODE guidelines so communication is reinforced and our communication mechanisms/methods don’t break down?
These questions around building your virtual team should be explored (ideally) during the Team Setup in person meetings and then posted publicly for current and future team members to understand operating norms. You and your team can decide how you want to publicize these and hold people accountable. Some teams choose to communicate more informally while others create a Team Code List that they post on their shared drive or shared work space and refer to it when needed. Good luck, and please share your success stories with your team building strategies.