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Three Critical Core Skill Areas For Successful Virtual Projects

Posted on the 07 November 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

As Project Managers, we are not at a loss for the fact that the world is shrinking. Virtual projects are all around us, and the influence on our daily activities will vary depending on our location, industry, function, and a host of other factors. However, the fact remains that the more skilled we are with the basics of building teams in any environment, the better equipped we will be to handle any challenges that come our way in our rapidly changing “virtual” world.The 3 critical core skills for successful virtual projects are:1. Project Team Building2. Project Communications3. Strategic OutsourcingIt might seem a little odd to include 1 situation-specific skill, strategic outsourcing, with the two soft skills of team building and communications, but in my estimation outsourcing is important, pervasive, and new enough at this point in time to deserve this special attention.Project Team BuildingTeams of existing in multiple locations, and this often has the unintended consequence of creating “multiple teams.” The project management challenge is to create an environment of “inclusion”, or making sure all team members in all locations feel they are part of the team.Here are a couple of ways to do that:a. Introduce everyone–hold a kickoff meeting with every location participating and explain what everyone’s role on the project isb. Create a team identity – usually by a common goal and a common “place”, and these produce some level of common identityc. Nurture informal relationships outside just the project – “virtual water cooler” like newsletters that highlight personal lives; virtual parties at the same timeWe need to remember that teams need to CHOOSE to work together – and that includes each and every individual team member to consciously deciding to be a part of the team.Project CommunicationsStudies show that a project manager needs to spend upwards of 85 percent of his or her time communicating in order to be effective. Conventional wisdom also says that over-communicating is nearly impossible, asserting that worry about over-communicating usually kicks in when we are getting close to communicating enough! Many teams with remote members tend to rely more heavily on e-mail or written communication. This often results in differences in being informed and in touch between on-site and off-site groups, and it is our job to find ways to raise the level of being informed for the off-site components of our team.Much can be solved by extra effort at documenting and disseminating. *putting even more thought and planning into our communication than we ordinarily doStrategic Outsourcing:While Outsourcing is extra challenging, it is also extra interesting for many project managers. While language, time zones, and connection quality present potential issues, the people and cultural side presents a whole new set of interesting challenges. The continuing transition to Outsourcing, and trying to arrive at the proper balance, especially presents stumbling blocks for many US based companies that are, based on their history, very US-centric in their operations, management, and decision making.Behavioral flexibility, for example, is necessary to get the best out of staff in various countries. Our project management background may have ingrained in us the importance of rapidly reporting and raising issues proactively. However, many cultures seek to avoid bad news or conflict, which often prevents individuals in these cultures from engaging in such proactive reporting and communication as we might expect.Bringing It All TogetherDeveloping our skills in the core disciplines is always important and can help us to be more effective in today’s changing “virtual project” environment. My suggestion is that Project Leaders and Team Members consider core soft skills training in Project Teambuilding and Project Communications (especially International Communications. I also recommend specific training on Virtual Teams and Outsourcing, such as High Performance Onsite and Virtual Teams and Managing Software Project Outsourcing.Author: John Reiling PArticle Source: EzineArticles.comProvided by: Guest blogger

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