While project managers often talk about building a virtual team, they rarely discuss disbanding one. I recently adjourned the virtual team I'd led for the past four years. As a dispersed team, we initially experienced some issues around cultural differences. But we came together eventually and produced the expected results for the organization. When the time came to close the project and disassemble the team, a different kind of challenge arose.
The first issue I encountered was that some team members didn't want to leave the team. Over the life span of the project, we'd built a strong bond. And there was another layer of complexity as team members' cultural traditions and values informed how they expressed their disappointment.
As I helped the team to reach closure, I discovered the more "face-to-face" time, the better. I tried to reduce the distance that separated us with video conferences. During these meetings, I would explain that team adjournment wasn't a loss, but rather an opportunity to meet new people and take on new tasks. With some team members, an impromptu call before the adjournment meeting worked fine. With others, I scheduled a conference before and after the meeting to ensure they would be okay.
The second challenge was preparing team members for their next project assignment. During the transition process, it was important to see their reactions, so video conferences were helpful here as well. I also tried to keep the focus on how team members could leverage their experiences in our project for their next assignment. Finally, I introduced some team members to project managers in need of skilled resources. Two of my former team members joined projects this way.
In the end, the team members understood that our strong bond wouldn't end just because the project did. We're always just an e-mail or a phone call away.
As a virtual project manager or team member, what challenges do you face during team adjournment?