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Building a team is one of the most difficult challenges any project or new organization will face. Not only is difficult to find all-stars to join the team, but keeping them engaged, motivated and dedicated so that they effectively execute organizational goals is an art that must be mastered.

Working in an environment with really tight timelines and limited (or nonexistent) virtual contact can be both demoralizing and frustrating. Although everyone on the team is building new skills and are all learning tremendously, it is still important that they feel connected and are part of a bigger picture. Moreover, even if every member of the team is focused on their individuals tasks, it can be detrimental to the organization's overall goals if everyone works in silos. Being a virtual team, we don't have the luxury of walking by someone's desk to ask a quick question, water-cooler chats to share random ideas or have a coffee to learn more about what the other team members are doing.

During the early brainstorming days of the design process, we facilitated multiple skype video chats. Since Skype's video chat service is only free for 2 people, we got creative and had multiple calls on different laptops set-up in the same room.

For the rest of the team, facilitating a conference call has been even more demanding. We are spread across multiple time zones, and due to everyone's summer schedules it has been virtually impossible to find a time that everyone can sit in on the same call at once. This week's call had 6 people who have varying internet connections and diverse background sound-effects. You can imagine how cumbersome this can be, which forces us to have limited team meetings.

Alas a solution I hope will get the entire team a bit more connected to each other and SoJo. Using Google Sites, I created a virtual workspace that includes everyone's tasks at hand, shared responsibilities, a discussion board for links to articles or ideas, a reminder announcement board and shared calendar with important dates. If used and populated regularly by all team members, this virtual dashboard has potential bind the team and ultimately get us closer to achieving SoJo's organizational goals.
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There are many advantages to not being limited to physical space, including reaching out to different networks, attracting more talent to your team and  reduced costs.  If building a virtual team makes sense to you, don't see it as an obstacle. Rather, recognize the challenges (and potential threats) it poses and find some creative solutions to address those issues.
 


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