Create Your Virtual Team Operating Agreement

Clarify expectations and reduce conflicts with a virtual team operating agreement

 

One of the most important actions a virtual team can undertake is to create a documented Team Operating Agreement (TOA). The TOA serves as the guidelines and ground rules that help virtual team members collaborate at their best. Geographic, functional, and cultural differences impact how individuals and teams operate. Honoring these differences is vital for clear, honest, trustworthy communications.

Creating a TOA clarifies expectations and reduces conflicts when team members commit to the agreement and hold one another accountable. A TOA can also serve as a checkpoint for members who have been working together awhile. It helps members identify team strengths and areas to improve.

 

 

Developing a TOA opens discussion about team members’ values and reinforces the team’s purpose. It fosters strong team member relationships as they learn to collaborate, communicate, and build trust – from a distance.

 

Every TOA is unique and should be adapted to the specific needs of your team. Yet, there are important key elements. Your team may not use all of them, so adapt as needed. The template provided guides your team to create its own unique TOA. Select, edit, and add anything that applies to your team.

 

Whether your team is just forming, or it’s been together for a while, Never assume everyone has the same understanding of the components of the team operating agreement.The TOA is a living document and should be updated periodically.

 

The TOA is one component of the Partners in Development Long Distance Leadership Model™ and other resources to assist your virtual team and remote workforce to excel.

“We need to work together as if we were all in the same room,

even though we’re not.”

 

One of the most important actions a virtual team can undertake is to create a documented Team Operating Agreement (TOA). The TOA serves as the guidelines and ground rules that help virtual team members collaborate at their best. Creating a TOA clarifies expectations and reduces conflicts when team members commit to the agreement and hold one another accountable. Below, are several components of a typical TOA. In addition, it’s recommended that you also attach your team’s mission, vision, and goals.

 

Make the TOA your own by customizing it for your team.

 

  • Team Values (standards for how we agree to behave toward others e.g. respect, fairness, etc.)
  • Trust and Participation (ways we demonstrate respect, share our skills, how we participate as a team)
  • Communication and Collaboration Technology (tools and protocols the team uses e.g. document sharing, video conferences, etc. Include protocols team members will follow for team meetings, response times to emails/text, etc.)
  • Meeting Management (meeting responsibilities, schedule, agendas, technology, recording, etc.)
  • Decision Making (how decisions are made and documented e.g. by the leader, delegated, consensus, etc.)
  • Conflict Resolution (protocols for dealing with conflicts e.g. first attempt to resolve the issue directly)
  • Review Team Effectiveness (how we’ll evaluate our progress (results) and effectiveness (process and relationships; dates we’ll conduct a team review; following the review, we will adjust and update our TOA)

 

If would would like to receive the PDF of this TOA post please contact our team 

 

Author:  Lee S. Johnsen, CPT, CPLP, SPHR, is an international leader in the fields of virtual team management, leadership development, and performance improvement. He is an expert at helping global teams and their leaders navigate the challenges and opportunities of working in a virtual world. He has spoken internationally on this and other topics that engage audiences to expand their thinking and leadership practices.

Lee has a 30-year record of successfully guiding organizations toward improved productivity and work relationships. He has unique expertise helping virtual staff and their leaders navigate the challenges of working in a virtual world. He has the international distinction of being one of only a few who is certified by three international human resources organizations—Association for Talent Development (ATD), International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)