Slowing down to speed up is the best practice for any team, but even more so for virtual teams. In practical terms, this means taking the time upfront to set expectations. Create processes for how the team will interact, put in place the appropriate technology and tools. Spend time learning how things work at each site that will help and harm the ability of the team to work seamlessly together.    

  • Does each team member have access to the same technology and tools?   
  • What are the working hours, norms, and holidays of this site?
  • Are team members separated by time zones, cultural barriers, or differences?
  • What cultural opportunities and challenges will the team have to deal with?

There are many more areas to get curious about. This list is from our workshop:

  • Time: Zone, vacations, workday/hours
  • Site: City, country, commute, other companies
  • Layout: Cubes, offices, décor, café
  • Resources: Office supplies, computers
  • Information: Sources, newsletter, website, gossip
  • Organization Structure: Paper, real
  • Languages Spoken
  • Cultures in Country
  • Politics and religions
  • Sport and current events
  • Values and beliefs
  • Stereotypes
  • Interesting and unknown facts
  • Local regions (e.g., New England)
  • Work ethics: late to start, work late, overtime?
  • History (Country, Area, Product, Company)

Document relevant findings and create and use the communication plan and operating agreements to address how these work for the team. Slow down to focus on handling site specifics. Slowing down builds trust. Trusting teams allows for faster results, even in time, must be invested before work can begin.

Practical Tip:  Depending on the purpose of the meeting and situation, allocate time for free forming and checking in. Some estimate 10% and the other 50% of the time. Depending on the rate and amount of changes and the emergency level of the tasks.

This was excerpted from the article, Virtual Teams Best Practices