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Monday, November 14, 2011

Do Not Go Virtual Without a QB or Coach!

Startups usually began with a single entrepreneur or a few working together.  One way to manage expenses and keep burn under control is using a virtual or semi-virtual work force.  This works great in many cases but requires more attention for the in-house management team. But sometimes, the in-house team is just YOU!

It is possible to run a company and develop products with a check book and a rolodex.  The business plan done well can provide a road map for the direction of the company on a 30,000 ft level. The real day-to-day activity takes more monitoring and hand holding; especially with a virtual team.

There are a can be advantages for having a virtual team.  Here are just a few:

·       The cost can be cut on a moment’s notice simply by canceling a contract

·       A highly experienced team can be assembled quickly with minimal risk.  Removal of personnel does not require firing people and having to deal with following personnel issues that are related to the removal

·       A change in direction is managed by alteration in agreements or retaining new people

·       Teams are assembled to fit project needs and go away when the project is over.

 A more important issue in having virtual teams is managing the programs the team is involved with.  This is not so much an issue as it is for you to know what is needed and how to deal with the virtual team.  There can be problems with any personnel and virtual teams do not eliminate this possible event.  Cost containment with virtual teams can be a concern, because contracts have overrun clauses that protect in case the scope of work exceeds what was originally requested.  Management of the programs requires careful monitoring just as if the people were in house.   The only problem is if you or the in-house team is missing a quarterback or a coach type person, you will not have enough experience to know what is to be done and when.

If you are considering having a virtual or semi-virtual team, the following is a list of items you may want to consider:

1.     Have a quarterback or a coach type in-house:  Regardless of the activity to be performed, someone in the company needs to know and understand most aspects of the  activity.  Developing a program and having a team means identifying the path to the goal and setting down objectives.  Then making sure the team is working toward the goal and completes objectives in in a timely manner.

2.     Have some type of project management software or method: It is possible to write down the timelines and objectives.  Assign the tasks to personnel and have them report back using paper and pencil.  There are software applications that can do this and use of such a method may be a bit easier to manage over a wide geographical area in which the team may reside.  Having the timelines and goals and the team reporting back by clicking on DONE, can be helpful in between calls or meetings. 

3.     Have REGULAR meetings or calls: The coach or QB really needs to monitor progress in real time and have regular discussions and reviews.  Problems can come up.  Having the calls can allow for adjustment of timings or changing path to achieve the goals.  Remember, if you do not understand and know the processes or tasks, the team can be doing things all wrong.  You may just end up unhappy and this will partly be your fault.

4.     Make a big deal over accomplishments or lack thereof:  The team needs to know how important the objectives and goals are.  Not meeting them or exceeding expectations is something requiring the right type of recognition.  Let them know when they have done a great job and when they have not.  If you are Coach or QB, remember that this is part of the job.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon