6 Factors that Contribute to Successful Online Collaboration

6 Factors That Contribute to Success

We just didn’t throw this list together. We dug deep into the research. We read the material. Now, this is our book report. This is our version of Cliff Notes from the top online collaboration books/publications on the market.

Here are our findings on the 6 factors that contribute to successful online collaborations.

  1. Select the right virtual team leader. Think you’ve got what it takes to lead a virtual team? Let’s see. Debbie DuFrene and Carol Lehman (authors of several web collaboration books) believe it all starts with leadership. In their book Managing Virtual Teams (2012), they identify several key attributes of a qualified virtual team leader.

    They include:

    • the ability to leverage team talent
    • promote inclusion
    • provide required information at the right time
    • foster trust and collaboration
    • support healthy discussions
    • manage conflict
    • communicate (verbal/written)
    • demonstrate cultural awareness
    • create processes that enable individual and collaborative work
    • provide resources that support the team in accomplishing their goal

    Not expressly stated, but implied are exceptional interpersonal skills. DuFrene and Lehman’s book contains a Virtual Leadership Assessment to help you identify if you’ve got what it takes to be a great virtual team leader.

  2. Select the right virtual team members. Maybe you want to or have been asked to join a virtual team? Let’s see if you’ve got what it takes. DuFrene and Lehman identify 12 characteristics that define a great virtual team member.

    In general, these people are tech savvy, possess exceptional interpersonal skills that they can use to work collaboratively with others, and are able to manage themselves and focus on tasks without direct supervision. (No surprise here.)

  3. Prepare the team. Once the right people are selected, the team must ensure everyone has the skills needed to collaborate. The most important, critical, crucial, matter of life or death (no, I can’t emphasize this enough) is communication skills.

    Learn them, use them, and require everyone to practice good communication techniques in all team interactions. No exceptions. Make their use a requirement and document it in the team charter (see below). Other training needs may include: teaching the technology the team will use to collaborate and teaching how to communicate with people of different cultures in your market.

    Along with training, team members will need to meet each other and get to know one another so they have a foundation for interaction. DuFrene and Lehman write “research indicates that high-performing virtual teams spend half their time in the first 2 weeks exchanging social information as a means of building initial trust”.

    If possible, the first meeting should be face-to-face with everyone gathering in one location. After, face-to-face meetings should happen as often as possible during the first year of work. This can also be done via video conferencing.

    Organized team activities that support building trust and cohesion can help. It allows the team some time to get to know one another rather than cracking the whip and forcing them to start collaborating immediately.

  4. Create team charter. The team charter is as critical as possessing and using communication skills. This advice comes from Leading a Business to High Performance. This document states what the team will accomplish and how it will work together to achieve its goal.

    The team charter is created by the entire team and includes: the team’s goal, the roles and responsibilities, connections (important working relationships), procedures, and success criteria. Procedures include how often the team meets to check status (and by what method e.g., video, phone, face-to-face), the backbone agenda used for all meetings, methods for how team will generate ideas/make decisions/take action, and “red-faced” tests (or how often the team will check it’s progress against the goal.)

    The procedures may be expanded to include agreements on how quickly one must respond to email or phone calls, what situations trigger the need for direct contact (i.e., face-to-face, video, or phone call) instead of indirect contact (i.e., email, text). Success criteria are important because they enable the whole team to evaluate progress as they work towards the goal.

  5. Document and monitor progress. Successful teams systematically document and share all work completed by the team including meeting minutes, action plans, decisions, etc. Systematically means documentation happens at regularly scheduled intervals or as needed using a specific technology or method.

    Further, teams check their progress towards the team goal, document that progress, and make adjustments as needed. This helps keep all team members apprised of progress of the overall project and how their individual contributions support the overall outcome – something that may not be as evident when members are dispersed.

    By the way, WE have a great tool for you to do this with ease. Try our online collaboration platform for free.

  6. Recognize achievement. If possible, celebrating the end of a successful project and providing specific recognition to each team member personally (face-to-face) is best. When impossible, the team gathers via video or conference call to recognize their achievement. Even better, reward that achievement with a day off, dinner out, or a creative gift.

Online Collaboration Light Reading

Interested in diving deeper into the above success factors. Here are a couple resources to add to your collection of virtual team building – Eight ways to build collaborative teams and The handbook of high performance virtual teams: A toolkit for collaborating across boundaries.