Leading Dispersed Team – An Art or Science or a piece of Luck in your journey of excellence

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:

  1. Keep the team informed of long-term organizational changes
  2. Ask the team for input on critical organizational issues
  3. Encourage personal contact and communication among all team members
  4. 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:

  1. Assess the readiness of the organization to work with dispersed teams
  2. Create a goal / vision – communicate the vision
  3. Kick off with a face to face meeting (a take photograph and share it with the team)
  4. Plan how communication and Information sharing would happen
  5. Usage of standard tools and techniques
  6. Define cadence for meetings and other schedules
  7. Are there HR policies in place to deal with dispersed teams
  8. Kind of infrastructure required for effective communications
  9. Plan PTOs
  10. Identify local holidays and events and plan for them in the cadence
  11. Give authority for local decision making
  12. Are lower level employees empowered for decision making?
  13. Define approaches for conflict resolution
  14. Regularly recommend a get together of the whole team
  15. Approach to introduce new member to the team? – The How part?
  16. Develop guidelines for conflict management – Remember it is not one size that fits all
  17. Make space for cultural differences, respect all local rules of the game (still keeping the big picture in mind and view)
  18. 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 or …

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