Virtual project collaboration: frailing or failing?

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Virtual project collaboration occurs when employees and staff work together to complete a common goal while being geographically dispersed.

Virtual project collaboration seems like an easy feat, peripherally, especially when project managers are certain that goals are communicated to employees (virtual team members). What tends to occur during employee engagement is ambiguity around their team expectations, no set goals for the team, inactive management manifestation, team members not working to their strengths because no skills assessment is provided, and no proxies when team members go MIC Missing in Cyberspace.

Empirical data from my book, Working at a Distance: A Global Business Model for Virtual Team Collaboration (VTML), revealed that participants had worked in virtual teams yet did not particularly enjoy their experiences. For example, some of the main causes of not enjoying virtual team experiences were lack of participation from all team members, understanding of project goals and expectations, and lack of management supervision.

Project managers could very well assume that their expectations for the team project are cogent, communicated, and achievable. However, unless there is reciprocated understanding from each team member regarding the project, the performance and communication gap expand and the distance collaborative team project is at risk of frailing or failing.

The VTML offers practical approaches for virtual teamwork. The main premise consists of management defining goals, objectives, tasks, and deliverables. Each component reflects the previous one with goals being the foundational principle. Goals explain desired outcomes for a project. Objectives then define specific team members allocated for project completion. Tasks demonstrate specific steps that virtual team members will complete in a collaborative effort. Once tasks are established, deliverables are developed. Deliverables are tangible or intangible items that virtual team members present as evidence that goals, objectives, and tasks are met.

Here are other specific, viable concepts that enable management to lead virtual team project collaboration from the VTML.

People-driven not object-driven: A good concept that management should apply is to remember that people are executing the distance work. Technology is only the vehicle. At some point(s), there must be voice contact with employees working remotely to express concerns and deliverable status.

Hierarchical for Virtual Team Collaboration: Employees must know how to resolve issues or where to request help from in an ordered fashion. Proxies must be setup in the event of life issues that causes slow progression of project deliverables. Employees need consistent support throughout the duration of the distance project.

Clear Process Standards: Vital to virtual project collaboration is management developing and understanding process standards to disseminate the information to employees. Process standards reflect guidelines to be accomplished during project development that mirror the companys mission(s) and goals.

Assessment Capabilities: Managers should have assessments in place to evaluate project effectiveness and critique employees project performance. Assessments should also allow employees to provide feedback about the distance project.

Working remotely requires a concerted effort that begins with management and trickles to employees. Management is the model that virtual employees will look to for answers and guidance for virtual project collaboration.

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Posted by Cassandra Smith on 16th Jun 2014

About the Author
Cassandra Smith is an online instructor and instructional designer. She has been writing for over twenty years and teaching in the online environment for eight years. Smith has taught several courses online and facilitated virtual teams. She has written web-based courses and trained online faculty. Smith is the author of Who Let this Disaster in My Classroom - an online facilitator’s course guide, and Ethical Behaviour in the E-Classroom - a textbook for online students featuring ethical theories as they relate to working in the online environment along with critical thinking concepts. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the University of Mobile and a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Adult Education and Distance Learning from the University of Phoenix. Cassandra Smith is a doctoral candidate in the Postsecondary and Adult Education discipline.

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