Planning is a crucial part of the process

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2007, 12:00am

Careful analysis is needed to determine whether your organisation is ready to put in place a dispersed team. As a starting point, make sure you have:

a clearly articulated business strategy

support from top executives

policies to ensure all team members feel included

user-friendly technology to make communication easy from each site

team members who are motivated, self-directed and have good project management and communication skills

clear goals, timescales and benchmarks

When you are ready to start work, it is critical to hold a first meeting to set the stage. This is an important step for promoting teamwork and

trust, establishing communication channels and laying the groundwork for managing future tasks effectively.

If possible, get everyone together in one place for this meeting.

People who have met in person are more likely to rely on each other and less likely to argue about issues that could adversely affect team performance.

For subsequent 'meetings' about ongoing developments, you should consider the following:

Use the most appropriate technology. For less urgent matters, you can correspond by e-mail. For the more time-sensitive issues, use videoconferencing, internet meetings or teleconferencing.

Take account of time zones. This can be tricky, especially if you have team members in Asia and North America. If you can't avoid the inconvenience of asking someone to take part in a meeting in the middle of their night, at least don't make it a regular occurrence.

Promote full participation. Differences in time, location and culture, as well as language difficulties, can mean that some members of the team never really participate fully. Avoid this problem by making sure each person understands that

their contribution is important and, if necessary, find alternative methods to help them participate as required.