Virtual Teams Best Practices
Holding a short daily scrum is the single most important best practice for the success of virtual teams. Call it a video conference, scrum, stand up, touchpoint, meeting, or anything you want but having a daily group event goes a very long way toward addressing the major challenges faced by virtual teens.
The challenges faced by virtual teams – communication, trust, accountability, and productivity are all reduced when you have a brief 15 to 20-minute videoconference each day.
The agenda for a daily scrum should be extremely simple. It should consist of a quick roundtable where each team member indicates what they accomplished yesterday and what they intend to accomplish today. The other useful discussion item is mentioning what challenges they think they will face. The challenges should be structured in such a way that other team members can offer advice or assistance.
This simple agenda creates a communication channel, improves accountability, enhances trust, and generally keeps the team on track. Do not allow the scrum to become a full-blown meeting. If there are items that need discussion or a more in-depth hearing you should schedule another meeting for that purpose.
There are some specific protocols in rules of etiquette that make for an effective scrum. Every person is required to participate. Everyone must have their web cameras turn on to provide for a fully nuanced conversation. Being on time for the start of the daily scrum should be rigorously enforced. Each team leader will have their own approach to enforcing timeliness and overall meeting efficiency. With new virtual teams, the leader might start each meeting off with a reminder that each member will take turns indicating what they did yesterday, with a plan to do today, and what challenges they are facing. Other members should be encouraged to interject to offer assistance to any challenges that another member is facing. Each member should be over for their presentation into two minutes or less which will keep the overall scrum under 20 minutes for 10 members. Ways to encourage timeliness range from religious adherence to starting on time every time in chiding team members who show up late.
For new virtual teams, the leader should also consider starting each scrub with an icebreaker to encourage team bonding. The icebreaker can range from a simple “What’s your favorite movie?” to “What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend?”. Nearly any question that reveals some mildly personal information makes a good icebreaker and will go a long way toward improving team trust and accountability.