How to Prepare Your Virtual Teams for the Long Haul

Article from HBR by Mark Mortensen & Constance Noonan Hadley, Published May 22, 2020

Before CoVID-19 there was no playbook on how to transition a team to 100% virtual (in a matter of days), no one has ever done anything like this before. Yet this year its been done by companies all over the world and some found their Business Continuity Planning (BCP) had some gaps, some teams and individuals have found the transition easy and successful other found it extremely hard.

This article points out that Teamwork has Gotten Harder – having a sense of the connectedness across teams is crucial. “Teams that have unclear missions, inconsistent social norms, low common identity, unclear roles and unstable membership – are recipe for team disasters.” The result a lack of productivity, low levels of engagement and frustration.

Mark & Constance offer some guidance. Start with Triage – identify the critical team problems that pose a serious threat to the team survival.

  • Are the team’s objectives or work still relevant and aligned to the new reality?
  • How is the team’s interpersonal foundations working?
  • Are teams resources effectively or is it uncoordinated?
  • How are individuals coping with being part of multiple teams?

After Triage move to Stabilisation – address the critical issues, review team objectives to ensure the relevancy of the work, look for any toxic dynamics within the team and form new teams that have a solid foundation. Ensure that the resourcing is appropriately set to deliver the priorities of the missions. Reduce multiple team member ship wherever possible and look at what norms such as communication and collaboration tools you consistently use across teams.

Sustainably healthy teams require ongoing attention and preventative care – Virtual teams need just as much attention, sometimes even more.

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