Dispersed teams have members who are not in the same place, they come from different countries, cultures and time zones. Simply out, a dispersed team brings out elements where human-technology interactions, teamwork and communication among people separated by time, culture and distance. Dispersed teams have started to gain importance in organizations because of influence of international markets.
Coordinating the efforts of team members across differences and at the same time maintaining and boosting team effectiveness make up the challenge of leading a dispersed team By default all successful teams need to be well designed, that would include purpose of the team, building project management expertise, defining clear roles, setting clear and crisp direction towards completing the work as planned or assigned.
Team work and trust both are important facets of building a great team and dispersed team is no alien to this concept.
Some elements to be taken into account would include:
- – Keep the team informed of long-term organizational changes
- – Ask the team for input on critical organizational issues
- – Encourage personal contact and communication among all team members
- – Hold face to face meetings (as much as possible and where required – Not do compromise
Dispersed teams require more direct and careful maintenance than local teams to reach their potential, for example one advantage of dispersed team would be working around the clock and thereby serve the customer with a greater degree of efficiency and effectiveness. Dispersed teams can be a richer source of innovation than a local team, Insights from team members / colleagues around the globe brings new dimensions to the work, influence how the product would be developed and delivered to the client.
Dispersed team should be encourages to:
- – Learn new communication approaches and technologies
- – Get exposed to new ideas and learning methods
- – Learn about different cultures
- – Develop capability to resolve problems in a 24 x 7 model
There is decent amount of challenges in managing a dispersed team:
- Becomes more difficult to schedule common meetings
- Identify overlapping hours
- Robust infrastructure problems in effective communication
- Members do not feel aligned to Org goals
- Members feel or have not authority for decision making, too much politicking with internal stakeholders
- Overall project management would be difficult
When launching a dispersed team, take care of the following:
- Assess the readiness of the organization to work with dispersed teams
- Create a goal / vision – communicate the vision
- Kick off with a face to face meeting (a take photograph and share it with the team)
- Plan how communication and Information sharing would happen
- Usage of standard tools and techniques
- Define cadence for meetings and other schedules
- Are there HR policies in place to deal with dispersed teams
- Kind of infrastructure required for effective communications
- Plan PTOs
- Identify local holidays and events and plan for them in the cadence
- Give authority for local decision making
- Are lower level employees empowered for decision making?
- Define approaches for conflict resolution
- Regularly recommend a get together of the whole team
- Approach to introduce new member to the team? – The How part?
- Develop guidelines for conflict management – Remember it is not one size that fits all
- Make space for cultural differences, respect all local rules of the game (still keeping the big picture in mind and view)
- Ensure you appoint a team member across location for logistics coordination / technology coordinator
Identification of team members to work in dispersed teams:
Team member would be willing work in a team environment
Are good self-starters and are self-directed
Are highly motivated
Have tolerance for the unexpected
Are open to experimentation
Are curious and exploratory
Seek out relevant information
Are willing to learn and un-learn
Are willing to play multiple roles (when the demand arises)
Are careful listeners
Are risk takers
Can build upon ideas of others
Enjoy working collaboratively
There is no standard recipe for a successful dispersed team, one would have to inspect and adapt, Issues will be there, it is how you respond to these issues, that will make or break a dispersed team concept successful.