Practical tip: A table-keeping value in a place that the entire team can access is the simplest form of a communication plan. It must be included: Name /meeting goal, Who, Date/Time/Frequency, Where (phone, Skype, Zoom), Expected Results, Notes. The team should also have a list of contacts and roles. The interaction of team members within an assembled team is often considered established and it is assumed that competent team members will be able to communicate effectively. While they can be used for personal teams, two best practices are even more important for virtual teams to improve understanding, a communication plan and team operating agreements. As a professional corporate coach, who has supervised more than 1,000 project managers across North America, I have found that the most effective starting point for opening lines of communication is to create a team enterprise agreement. Virtual best practices are different, but the ultimate goal of delivering results is the same. In a virtual team, the focus is on interaction with the team, the communication process itself. Virtual being eliminates physical proximity, which removes everyday interactions, behaviors and unconscious habits. Studies show that understanding can be improved by 55% or more when one is face to face. Many teams use video sharing tools to make their communication more efficient during meetings.
A TOA can be as complete as a team chooses. The more inclusive it is, the less likely it is to be miscommunication, conflict and missed opportunities. Ideally, the TOA should be created at the beginning of a project or when creating forms for a new team. The communication plan and team operating agreements improve understanding and improve team interaction. In-person teams create organic working cultures, while members spend time together, creating common standards and understanding of how to meet challenges. For virtual teams, communication plans and team enterprise agreements create a link to a virtual culture that supports results and removes emotions and puzzles from resolving disagreements between team members. To work, they must become living, understood, realistic, used, updated and shared documents by all team members. Globalization has changed the way businesses operate.
What has not changed are the conditions for success. A dedicated team of qualified employees, led by experienced executives, is essential for each company. Communication comes first, now more than ever. Bringing together a flawless business team on the ground is a challenge in itself. Trying to bring together collaborators from remote residents can, at best, be discouraging. A successful “virtual team” can bridge the gap, but with each team – virtual or traditional – communication is the key to productivity. The communication plan defines the communication process. It describes who will say what to whom and how many times. It clarifies the intent of the communication and where it comes from. It also indicates which media should be used in different circumstances.
A good communication plan can be reused for many teams and adapted if necessary. In the virtual world, the focus is first on the “how” they communicate, not on what. Communication plans and enterprise agreements are tools that support the “how” of virtual communication, read more in this article.