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#449: Beware of the Three "Vs" of Virtual Teams

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Thursday, December 2, 2010
Updated: Thursday, December 2, 2010
My firm has been asked to support a major trade association on the biggest initiative in their history. However, although everyone is excited about it, the project doesn't seem to be getting any traction. How can I help them the way they expect me to?

The first thing to consider is the structural difficulties projects like these present. They are not like a typical corporate initiative where the normal planning and management practices would apply. Consider the "3 Vs" of your situation"
  • Virtual: It is much harder to manage virtual project teams. Most virtual team management practices assume the team is bound by history (they know each other) or culture (they work for the same company) or contractually (they are bound by a contract). A virtual team assembled from various organizations will likely lack common communication practices and infrastructure, etc.
  • Volunteer: Your team has other priorities, such as their regular jobs. As committed as they are to your project, their "day jobs" come first.
  • Vigor: Passion may be high at project start but, again since this is not their income stream or vocation, their interest may wax and wane.
Your project management plan would benefit significantly by addressing each of these constraints.

Tip: New collaboration technologies (e.g., Oovoo, where you can simultaneously videoconference up to six people, and Central Desktop) are the kinds of tools that will create efficient operations and streamline culture. Managing a virtual volunteer team does require more high touch effort, and you should build this into your project management plan. Finally, reach out to similar professional associations to see how they have managed their major volunteer-led initiatives.

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