A number of organizations are increasingly using virtual teams to improve teamwork in situations when the employees are set apart by geographical constraints.
The far-flung teams are particularly used because of their ability to reduce relocation, transport, and other business related costs. This practice especially involves organizations that need to develop their global presence, outsource their operations, or need some influential skills from personnel in other places. Similar fundamental principles direct virtual teams as in traditional teams.
However, instead of the team members communicating face-to-face with one another, they depend on special communication devices supported by the modern technological advancement. Because of more limited communication channels, the success and efficiency of the far-flung teams depends on their ability to follow three rules for their guidance.
The first rule is about exploiting diversity of the various team members. Virtual team members should be chosen on the strength of their differences. Although they may be speaking the same language, the languages of their various disciplines may not be the same. This is because every subgroup may have a different style of working and giving solutions to problems. The clash of perspectives that may arise because every team member has his or her own area of expertise should be used to produce productive results rather than disagreements.
The team leader should encourage as much conversation as possible from the participants in order to root out their varied traits. Other team members must not disregard the opinion of any member. To help overcome differences in communication styles, every member should engage in inclusive conversations that remind the other participants about his or her personality traits. The teams should take advantage of their diversity for their benefit.
The second rule appertains to the use of appropriate technology to simulate reality. A number of technologies exist that are poor in processing and communicating information, for example, the use of E-mail and videoconferences. Participating in a teleconference is less problematic as it enhances the collaborative effect.
Team members can rely on virtual workspaces to post their work and check the progress of their counterparts before the start of teleconferences. Any other disagreements that arise should be handled in direct conversation. The workspaces should be accessible to everyone at any time as it is the place where the group is reminded of its key decisions, rationales, and commitments.
The use of threaded discussions is the best way of holding virtual conversations. These discussions are to be organized by topic to give the participants ease of locating every thread. To encourage participation, the conversations should be run in this order: a bit of news, a provocative question, and a self-propelling ending. Every participant ought to adhere to the set protocols governing the online conversations, for example, how quick to post a reply. Summaries of heated discussions should be posted regularly.
The third rule appertains to ways of holding the team together. Since members in a virtual team are separated by distance, every effort should be made to keep them together.
The team leader should engage the individual members in phone conversations as regularly as possible. Before the team starts to engage in serious work, it should adopt a common language conversant to everyone. The team leaders should create coherence when bringing the diverse backgrounds of the members together by allowing them to adopt beneficial elements from one another.
The creation of sub teams increases the interaction of the members. Proper arrangements should be made with the members’ home offices to avoid causing any inconveniences. The team leader should recognize commonalities within the group members that can assist in establishing their loyalty to the group.