Working with dispersed teams can be a challenge. Multiple obstacles can get in the way of communication and collaboration, from time zone differences to limited face-to-face time.
But there are also some real advantages to working with dispersed teams. With the right tools and strategies in place, a remote team can be highly effective and productive.
The challenges of managing a dispersed team
Some of the challenges of dispersed teams include:
- Communication difficulties
- Coordination challenges
- Trust and accountability issues
- Social isolation
- Cultural mismatch
One of the biggest challenges of dispersed teams is communication. When team members are in different locations, it can be difficult to stay in touch and keep everyone on the same page. Time zones and cultural differences can exacerbate this problem.
There are a few ways to overcome communication difficulties:
- Use collaboration tools
- Schedule regular check-ins
- Encourage informal communication
- Document decisions
Another challenge of dispersed teams is coordination. It can be difficult to coordinate schedules and ensure that everyone is working on the same tasks. This may lead to several people completing the same work and wasting their time, or the opposite - gaps in crucial processes, which could easily be filled if only the right people took over the right tasks.
There are a few ways to overcome coordination challenges:
- Use project management tools
- Schedule regular check-ins
- Appoint project owners
- Prioritize communication
Trust and accountability issues
When team members are not in the same location, it can be difficult to build trust and hold each other accountable. It is often not a matter of distrust or maliciousness, but mismatched expectations and a lack of communication. When people are not sure what needs to be done when, and, most importantly, who depends on a given task being completed, issues can arise very quickly.
There are a few ways to overcome trust and accountability issues:
- Use collaboration tools
- Schedule regular check-ins
- Encourage transparency
- Set clear expectations
One of the risks of working remotely is social isolation. When team members are not in the same location, they can feel isolated from each other. Their every-day interactions tend to be all about work without casual office chats.
There are a few ways to overcome social isolation:
- Encourage video calls whenever they are practical
- Set the right example and engage informal communication on public channels
- Plan social activities
When remote team members are from different cultures, there can be a cultural mismatch. This can make it difficult to communicate and collaborate effectively, or lead to unpredictable misunderstandings that prevent team bonding.
There are a few ways to overcome cultural mismatch:
- Provide educational materials
- Encourage respectful conversations about any arising conflicts
- Respect cultural differences and look for compromises that satisfy both sides of the conversation
- Organize team building activities
The advantages of remote teams
There are also some advantages to remote teams. When allowed to, a remote teams can be highly effective and productive.
Some of the advantages of dispersed teams include:
- Increased flexibility
- Access to talent
- Reduced overhead costs
- Increased productivity
- Improved work-life balance
One of the advantages of a remote teams is increased flexibility. With team members in different locations, there is more flexibility in terms of schedule and working hours. This can be a great advantage for team members who have other commitments outside of work.
Access to talent
Another advantage of a dispersed team is access to talent. When team members are not limited by location, organizations can tap into a global pool of talent. This can help organizations find the best people for the job, regardless of where they live.
Reduced overhead costs
Another advantage of a remote team is reduced overhead costs. With remote work allowing team members to operate from wherver they choose to, organizations can avoid the costs of renting office space and providing other on-site amenities.
Dispersed teams can also be more productive. When team members are not limited by location, they can work from wherever they are most productive. This can lead to increased efficiency and output.
Improved work-life balance
Finally, remote work can improve work-life balance. With more flexible working arrangements, team members can better manage their time and commitments. This can lead to improved work-life balance for the entire team. To achieve this, it is important that the organization openly acknowledges the importance of personal life.
To make full use of these benefits, it is necessary to use good management techniques and strategies.
4 tips for managing a dispersed team
1. Make use of technology
There are a number of great tools out there that can help a remote team stay connected and collaborate effectively. Video conferencing, project management software, and instant messaging platforms can all be hugely helpful in keeping dispersed teams on track.
2. Practice clear and concise communication
Without face-to-face meetings, it is even more important to communicate clearly and concisely. Everyone on the team should know the organization's goals and their own ability to influence them. Additionally, working digitally means that many people are constantly bombarded with information via emails, chats, phone calls, task management tools, and online meetings. Their attention is already stretched to the limit, and concise communication can help them improve their productivity.
3. Schedule regular check-ins
Remote teams can often feel disconnected from one another, so it is important to schedule regular check-ins. This can be a weekly video call, an email exchange, or even just a quick chat on instant messaging. Checking in regularly will help keep everyone on the same page and prevent misunderstandings.
4. Encourage social interaction
Just because your team is dispersed does not mean they cannot socialize with one another. Encourage team members to interact socially, whether through online chat groups or social media, or even just informal conversations during check-ins. Getting to know one another on a personal level can help build trust and collaboration.
5. Share responsibility
Dispersed teams thrive with a flat hierarchy. In other words, everyone on the team should feel like they have a say in decision-making. This can be accomplished by using a variety of methods, such as workshops, brainstorming, or building a culture of proactivity.
6. Set goals as a team
When remote teams set goals together, it creates a sense of ownership and buy-in. Everyone on the team should have a clear understanding of what the organization is trying to achieve and their own role in achieving it.
7. Celebrate successes together
Dispersed teams should celebrate successes together. This can be done digitally, through video conferencing or instant messaging, or even just by sending out a group email. Whatever the method, celebrating successes together helps remote teams feel connected and motivated.
8. Build solid documentation
Good documentation is essential for companies that focus on remote work. With team members in different locations, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page. clear and concise documentation can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is always aware of the latest updates.
9. Encourage creativity
Remote teams should encourage creativity. With talent from around the globe, there is a greater diversity of perspectives and ideas. Encouraging creativity can help dispersed teams find new and innovative solutions to problems.
10. Be patient
Finally, it is important to be patient when managing remote teams. Rome was not built in a day, and dispersed teams often require time to gel. By being patient and using the tips above, you can help remote teams thrive.
Remote team members need common values and a sense of ownership to work together effectively
Without every-day casual interactions, the "glue" that brings remote teams together has two ingredients: company values that everyone can agree on, and a sense of ownership of one's work. When a dispersed team is brought together by a set of strong values, they can work effectively even if they never meet in person. And when team members feel ownership of their work, they will be more engaged and motivated to do their best.
Of course, these two things are not always easy to achieve. But if you can build a remote team that has common values and a sense of ownership, you will have created a powerful force that can accomplish great things.
Managing a dispersed team can be a challenge, but it is definitely doable with the right approach. By using technology, being clear in your communications, scheduling regular check-ins, and encouraging social interaction, you can help remote team members work together effectively.