Virtual Teams Project Management Myth or Reality? Virtual Teams Can Function Best If Left Alone

Welcome to the final installment of the Five Myths and Realities of Virtual Teams Project Management. This week we explore Myth #5.

Virtual Teams Project Management Myth #5: Virtual teams can be left alone and will function appropriately.

Reality: Virtual teams need to establish ground rules around how and what is communicated, how minor conflicts are managed before they derail team efforts and what processes are in place to deliver results. For example, leaders should make clear that he, or she, expects regular updates around key milestones and when any important action is being planned. The flow of information is critical to the success of virtual teams, as managers and employees do not have the ability to pop into their coworker’s office and ask them a question directly. This may present a challenge if you work in Stockholm and your team is located across the world, but high performing virtual teams have planned for this type of situation.

Advice: One interviewee, a Virtual Manager at a Pharmaceutical Company, told me

“Having people in different locations is hard because you have no direct control. You need to be on top of it – push sometimes and be proactive, reach out, touch base with team on a regular basis. You must be very proactive. You can’t sit back and expect people to do things because virtual teams allow them to slack off because ‘out of sight, out of mind.”

Here’s another suggestion from a Virtual Manager at a Global Humanitarian Organization:

“Although things might be slower on virtual teams because you can’t walk down the hall and have a chat, people need to build allowances for their planning because they are virtual and they still have a team that needs to function. So don’t leave them alone! It is important to have a PURPOSE and DELIVER OUTCOMES.”

We hope you enjoyed the Five Myths and Realities of Virtual Teams Project Management!

For more myths and realities about the virtual business office, please check out the rest of this series:

Myth #1: Virtual teams are similar to onsite teams with people located in different places.
Myth #2: Virtual teams will work if they have the best people.
Myth #3: Technology on virtual teams is most important.
Myth #4: When you don’t see someone regularly, it is difficult to manage their career progression.
Myth #5: Virtual teams can be left alone and will function appropriately.

Posted in Virtual Management