While a vision develops a picture of where the team is going and creates a shared sense of going somewhere specific together, your team charter will help you to more effectively collaborate across boundaries and borders, set expectations, design performance management systems and provide a mechanism for evaluating your virtual teams. However, the charter is not the end of the process. The charter is the launch point for creating useful dialogue that will ultimately facilitate the team creating it’s mission statement – the coming together of the virtual team’s vision and charter.
The vision, charter and mission are critical for all teams, however when leading virtual teams they become vital to your success. Because you work with teams that do not work in a shared physical environment with cues acquired through daily interactions, it is critical that your charter provide explicit guidance on overall expectations.
The formation of a charter is the most effective when developed by the team, creating a joint focus and buy-in to the overall contents of the charter. Work diligently with your virtual teams to develop each area of the charter. Similar to how the vision provides a desired destination in living color for your virtual teams, the charter will provide a clear road map to guide them toward that final destination. In addition, by working through the components of the charter together, the team will be focused on their joint objectives and common path. It provides a significant opportunity for you, as their leader, to help your dispersed teams come to a common purpose, ensuring everyone has a shared understanding of where they are going and how they will get there as a team.
The formation of the charter creates a graphic, detailed picture of the vision – clarifying roles, boundaries and communications processes. The most important aspects of the charter are:
- Roles: Develop and assign roles centered on the teams purpose and how it will organize around it’s work. Cleary define and explain individual roles to virtual team members. Everyone on the team should understand the criticality of their own role (as well as that of each of their virtual teammates) to the overall purpose of the team and the organization as a whole. This is one of the most significant activities you can engage in with your virtual teams.
- Measurable Behavior Standards: Decide which 5 or 6 categories of performance are essential to both the short and long term success of the team. Describe specific, measurable behavior that constitutes high performing behaviors in each category. Define the boundaries of behavior for team members and specify how you will respond when an individual has not met the teams expectations, as well as the corrective action that will result.
- Expectations/ground rules: Set ground rules that are explicit, measurable and targeted at developing high-performance virtual teams. Address expectations such as attendance, timelines, notification, conduct, participation, role/task performance, preparation, etc.
- Policies and procedures: Develop explicit policies with your virtual teams that address key performance indicators, are enforceable and will facilitate your ability to lead effectively in a dispersed environment. Establish specific processes that align to organizational procedures, but are tailored for your virtual teams. Think about how specific processes may need to be adjusted for virtual environments: procedures for submitting work products in a consistent, fair and timely manner; regular and ad hoc communication standards; how you expect virtual team members to handle procurement or expenses; how to address sales leads (where appropriate); global client escalations, etc. The team will need to specify how they will enforce the agreed policies and procedures. In addition, make sure the team considers local, as well as global, impacts to changes in policy, process or procedure.
- Goals: Establish both task and process goals that are SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). Be sure you emphasize those goals focused on the core purpose of the team and the goals related to how the team will organize around the specific tasks.
- Timelines and project plans: Divide the “project” into specific tasks with timelines and completion dates. Assign tasks to specific team members, agree specific process checks and checkpoints.
Once your virtual teams have worked through the charter, they will need to create a virtual team mission statement that will align with the organization’s mission, fulfill the requirements in the agreed upon charter and meet the expectations of various stakeholders – customers, organizational leadership, matrix managers, and the virtual team itself.
An effective mission statement will include: 1) The virtual team’s core purpose 2) the team’s distinct characteristics 3) what the team is to accomplish 4) products or services 5) the team’s basic beliefs, values and aspirations and 6) it’s principle stakeholders.
The dialogue should start with the virtual vision, evolve through the team charter and solidify with the development of the Virtual Teams mission. By combining these three aspects into your virtual team’s development process, you are creating a sustainable sense of shared identity that is often difficult to establish in virtual environments when teams are spread across time zones and cultures. Your ability to strategically connect your virtual teams will have a direct impact on the team’s – and the organization’s – ability to succeed.
What is your plan to strategically connect your virtual team members to drive success?
Please engage the discussion and let us know how you connect your virtual teams. Always feel free to contact me at Sheri.Mackey@LuminosityGlobal.com or by visiting our website at www.LuminosityGlobal.com. Check back next week for the next installment of Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders, when we will continue to discuss the complexity of virtual teams.