The Problem-Solving Checklist for Distant Teams

While there may not be much divergence in resolving problems between face-to-face meetings and virtual teams, the logistical intricacies of working in a geographically scattered team – such as differing time zones and other limitations – can pose substantial challenges.

If you’re unsure about adjusting your current approach to problem-solving for virtual teams, we at Works are always here to help. Feel free to reach out to us, and we’ll gladly make any required modifications to ensure that your problem-solving process is optimised for remote teams.

The American Society for Quality has outlined four key phases of problem-solving: identifying the problem, generating potential solutions, evaluating those solutions to narrow options, and finally implementing and monitoring the selected solution. Every step is crucial in achieving an efficient and effective resolution.

In order to guarantee the efficacy of remote teams, it is crucial to provide unambiguous instructions on the hierarchies and procedures to be followed in case of any issues. Other intangible factors, such as team culture, can also affect a team’s capacity to overcome challenges. Thus, it’s imperative to take these elements into account when constructing a framework for virtual teams.

Below is a comprehensive guide that covers how to efficiently work in a virtual team to address problems.

The Problem Statement

To resolve a problem effectively, it’s crucial to have a thorough understanding of what the issue is and how it’s impacting your project.

  • The Nature of the Problem

    Identifying who should be involved and determining next steps can be simplified by comprehending the type of problem at hand (whether it’s technical, process-specific or decision-driven). For instance, a discussion between the team leader and designer over whether a squeeze page or sign-up form would be more fitting could be helpful. Prior to switching to a new programming language, it’s essential to obtain approval from both customers and management.
  • Cause vs Effect vs Chronicity

    If the symptoms of a problem are severe, it’s crucial to tackle them promptly. On the other hand, if there’s ample time, identifying and resolving the root cause may be more advantageous. Typically, any issue that reoccurs has an underlying cause behind it.
  • Emergency Reporting Mechanism

    Regarding issue classification, it’s advantageous to establish a system for disseminating alerts in case of emergencies when team members are not all present in a single location at the same time. That way, whether it’s a critical situation that demands everyone’s immediate attention or something less urgent, the team will be informed.

Structured Hierarchy and Proper Etiquette

If a manager, team lead, or subject matter expert (SME) is unavailable to address urgent issues in a virtual team, it’s crucial to have a dependable protocol in place to maintain order, communication, and clarity. This protocol is non-negotiable and must be adhered to.

  • Communication Methods

    For virtual teams, using online chat rooms such as Slack is vital to stay connected and efficient. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that all team members have access to the same communication tool, particularly during critical situations.
  • Tools for Remote Management

    Successfully addressing issues often involves making several attempts, modifying specifications, delegating tasks, and managing time efficiently. Two popular remote project management tools that can be utilised to track each step of the process are Asana and Trello.
  • Division of Labour

    Working within a cross-functional team under agile conditions requires clarity on which aspects of an issue should be tackled by each team member. Employing analytical and innovative strategies like lateral thinking and breaking down the problem into smaller components can help make considerable strides towards discovering a resolution.
  • Time-bound Virtual Teams

    Considering that members of a globally-distributed team may not be accessible simultaneously, it’s crucial to agree on a predetermined response time. This will help ensure that all team members are on the same track and enable them to optimise the available resources when addressing any challenges. Without this commitment, finding effective solutions would be difficult for the team.
  • Emergency Signalling Code Red

    During times of crisis, an alternative set of protocols must be implemented to enable the remote team to reach a resolution quickly and efficiently. To achieve this, it’s crucial to establish emergency communication methods, reduce response times, and ensure that both the project team and the client’s primary contact know who to turn to for support.
  • Unforeseeable Complications

    It’s critical to plan ahead and be ready for any possible emergencies. In software development, unforeseen events like the demand to add a new feature or extend the deadline can occur. By anticipating such potential challenges, the remote team will be aware of the necessary actions to take should they arise.
  • Note-taking

    To maintain organisation and accountability, it’s recommended to record any modifications, adjustments, and comments in the project management software. This will help ensure that the project runs as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Generating Alternatives and Selecting the Most Efficient One

The virtual team should be well-aware of whether they will be involved in the problem-solving process before it commences.

  • Small Group Discussions and Brainstorming

    It’s essential to consult all project team members when a problem needs to be resolved. A discussion among the team may result in a more comprehensive solution, as it allows for the synthesis of multiple viewpoints. For a virtual team, video conferencing through tools such as Skype or Zoom is an effective means of facilitating such discussion.
  • Autocratic Decision-making

    If the problem at hand is not of significant importance or there is insufficient time to consult all parties involved, the project managers and specialists will strive to create possible solutions.
  • Essential Success Metrics

    The best-suited solution can be selected based on criteria like the duration needed for execution, its impact on other goals and sub-objectives, and the resources needed for its completion.

Implementing the Optimal Plan

To ensure the plan’s successful execution, it may be required to reassign certain tasks or pull personnel from another team. To ensure the team’s success, everyone must be aware of and comprehend their new roles and responsibilities.

  • Who’s Involved?

    Not everyone will need to participate in executing the solution. However, guidance on job and time management may necessitate their services at times.
  • Timeline

    To ensure that the solution is implemented within the desired timeframe, it’s crucial to set a timeline that aligns with the project’s overall deadline and its connection to other objectives. This will help ensure the project is completed as scheduled.
  • Task Reassignment

    Team members responsible for the solution may have to oversee other project areas to ensure its timely completion.

Social Environment of a Team

Establishing a constructive and encouraging team culture can be the first step in resolving any problem, even if the team is not directly involved in the problem-solving process. To address an issue while working as a virtual team, one should consider the following suggestions:

  • Encourage individual thinking.
  • Endorse diverse thinking and exploration.
  • Instead of constantly intervening, allow for some autonomy.
  • Cultivate Collaboration
  • Provide guidance to new, remote members on the essential procedures.

A checklist for problem-solving can be a helpful tool in organising and simplifying the process of addressing an issue. By having a well-defined plan, the team can concentrate their joint effort and attention on the task at hand, rather than focusing on the steps needed to complete the process. This can aid in reducing the amount of disruption and chaos that may typically arise in such a scenario.

Although checklists can be beneficial, there are often subtle aspects to a problem that require further attention. To ensure the success of a remote team, it’s vital to recruit staff who can think on their feet and adjust to evolving situations while dedicating the necessary time and effort. We are delighted to assist you in finding qualified candidates who can work during your preferred business hours by sourcing suitable candidates; please notify us when you are ready to begin.

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