Guidelines for communicating with remote and virtual teams

Image: Make Something Cool Every Day

Here is the full list of guidelines, as cited in my research paper and as originally published by Melcrum Publishing as part of their report, “Building a Strategy for Remote Communications.”

  • Create opportunities for people to get to know each other on a personal level. Create a closed website that introduces members and their families. Have photographs that are not just of head and shoulders, but of them with their normal work team, their family, or playing their favorite sport. Make the interactions human and personal.
  • Have a clear system for recognizing and managing misunderstandings. Make it a part of the rubric that anyone who feels upset or uncomfortable about e-communications from other virtual team members has a responsibility to share that concern openly, with a view to building greater understanding.
  • Have clear rules about when and how to contact colleagues out of (normal working) hours.
  • Keep the team relatively small — no more than eight to 10 people. The larger the virtual team, the more likely it is to fragment into uncoordinated smaller groups.
  • Have clear and frequent processes for reflection and review. Ask what they have learned as a group and what individuals have learned, achieved, and struggled with over the past weeks.
  • Be very clear about the team purpose. Review activity together frequently according to this purpose and the team values.
  • Be very clear about what roles each member of the team should play and why. Be prepared to exchange roles.
  • Have a clear policy about how the virtual team will capture its learning and share it, with new members, and with other teams. Maintain an electronic record of the team’s learning.
  • Value differences of opinion within the team as an opportunity to explore issues in more depth.
  • Hold virtual team meetings on a regular basis, just as you would with a face-to-face team.
  • Maintain a team diary.
  • Do not overly rely on e-mail. Expect people to talk in person, by telephone or video conference, at least once every few weeks.
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