Virtual team

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

A virtual team — also known as a geographically dispersed team (GDT) — is a group of individuals who work across time, space, and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. They have complementary skills and are committed to a common purpose, have interdependent performance goals, and share an approach to work for which they hold themselves mutually accountable. Geographically dispersed teams allow organizations to hire and retain the best people regardless of location. Members of virtual teams communicate electronically, so they may never meet face to face. However, most teams will meet at some point in time. A virtual team does not always mean teleworker. Teleworkers are defined as individuals who work from home. Many virtual teams in today's organizations consist of employees both working at home and small groups in the office but in different geographic locations.


[edit] Why virtual teams?

  • Best employees may be located anywhere in the world.
  • Workers demand personal flexibility.
  • Workers demand increasing technological sophistication.
  • A flexible organization is more competitive and responsive to the marketplace.
  • Workers tend to be more productive; i.e., they spend less time on commuting and travel
  • The increasing globalization of trade and corporate activity.
  • The global workday is 24 vs. 8 hours.
  • The emergence of environments which require inter-organizational cooperation as well as competition.
  • Changes in workers' expectations of organizational participation.
  • A continued shift from production to service/knowledge work environments.
  • Increasing horizontal organization structures characterized by structurally and geographically distributed human resources.
  • Proliferation of fiber optic technology has significantly increased the scope of off-site communication.[1]

[edit] Benefits of virtual teams:

  • Some members of virtual teams do not need to come in to the workplace, therefore the company will not need to offer those workers office or parking space.
  • Reduces traveling expenses for employees.
  • It allows more people to be included in the labor pool.
  • It decreases both air pollution and congestion because there is less commuting.
  • It allows workers in organizations to be more flexible.
  • By working in virtual teams, physical handicaps are not a concern.
  • Allows companies to procure the best talent without geographical restrictions.[1]

[edit] Problems with virtual teams:

  • Difficulty in managing the performance of the team.
  • Misunderstanding in communications is the leading complaint among members of virtual teams.
    • This problem is magnified when working with teams across cultural borders because of nuances in the English language[2]
  • Working on a project over the virtual workspace causes lack of project visibility.
  • Difficulty contacting other members. (i.e. email, instant messaging, etc.)
  • Differences in time zones.
  • It can be difficult for team members to fully comprehend the meaning of text-based messages.
  • Building trust may be challenging because mechanisms different from those used in face-to-face teams are required to build trust[3]
    • Distrust can also be incurred due to insecurities of job retention if the offshore team members are less expensive and more proficient at the task at hand.[1]
  • Members fail to take 'ownership' of project[4]
  • Specific nuances such as facial expressions and other subtle gestures can also be missed through virtual communication as opposed to meeting face to face.[1]
  • A virtual team presents unique challenges for a virtual team leader. According to Hambley, O’Neil, & Kline (2007) "virtual teams require new ways of working across boundaries through systems, processes, technology, and people (Duarte & Snyder, 1999), which requires effective leadership...despite the widespread increase in virtual teamwork, there has been relatively little focus on the role of virtual team leaders" (p 41).

[edit] Tips to ease communication problems for team members:

  • Allow the team members to get to know each other by arranging occasional face to face meetings. This can also be accomplished using webcams and video conferencing which may or may not necessitate that all team members use the same hardware and/or software applications.
  • Allow team members to get an idea of where the overall project is going. This way each member will know how they fit into the project.
  • Create a code of conduct. This will avoid delays and will make sure that requests are answered in a timely fashion.
  • Do not allow team members to disappear. Have a calendar for each team member so that everyone's schedule is available to view.
  • Develop trust among the team.
    • Incorporation of team member details such as family life and mutual hobbies are proven techniques for building trust.[1]
  • Store charts, diagrams, etc. on the internet so that the whole team can see them.
  • Create a 'face book' which includes information about background, interests and helps team members get to know each other better. Individuals choose the information to share. Connections and trust are built through relationships.[5]

[edit] Who are the members of virtual teams?

  • Members can either be stable or change on an ongoing basis.
  • Members can be in the same company or from various companies.
  • Members can live in the same community or in different countries.

[edit] Basic types of virtual teams

  • Networked teams consist of individuals who collaborate to achieve a common goal or purpose; membership is frequently diffuse and fluid.
  • Parallel teams work in the short term to develop recommendations for an improvement in a process or system; the team has a distinct membership.
  • Project or product-development teams conduct projects for users or customers for a defined period of time. Tasks are usually nonroutine, and the results are specific and measurable; the team has decisionmaking authority.
  • Work or production teams perform regular and ongoing work usually in one function; the team has clearly defined membership.
  • Service teams support customers or the internal organization in typically a service/technical support role around the clock.
  • Management teams work collaboratively on a daily basis within a functional division of a corporation.
  • Action teams offer immediate responses activated in (typically) emergency situations.
  • Offshore ISD outsourcing teams - Setup in which a company subcontracts portions of work to an offshore independent service provider to be worked in conjunction with an onshore team.[1]
    • Offshore ISD is commonly used for software development as well as international R&D projects.[1]

[edit] Reasons for virtual teams in the workplace:

  • Allows for people in different parts of the world to come together to work on a project.
  • Creates alliances and mergers between organizations.
  • Extends the market to different geographical locations.
  • Reduces costs for an organization.

[edit] Nine key steps to developing virtual teams:

  • Secure a project-based idea conducive to collaboration.
  • Build a business plan to include the team vision, purpose and goal.
  • Identify critical players to support the project.
  • Select people who can contribute their core competencies to the project.
    • Enlist their service.
  • Establish an initial meeting with members to lay down the groundwork,set guidelines and processes.
  • Strategically align all members to the projects goal.
  • Set a timeline.
  • Monitor activities and progress.

[edit] Critical success factors of virtual teams

  • The existence of availability standards.
  • Ample resources to buy and support state-of-the-art reliable communication and collaboration tools for all team members.
    • Increased success of such tools are highly dependent on proper proliferation of high speed fiber-optic transmission which best suits high density transmission.[1]
  • The existence of corporate memory systems such as lessons learned databases.
  • The existence of written goals, objectives, project specifications, and performance metrics; results orientation.
  • Managers and team members with a better-than-average ability to accurately estimate.
  • A lower-than-normal ratio of pushed to pulled information.
  • Team communication is prioritized by the sender.
  • Human resource policies, reward/recognition systems as well as career development systems address the unique needs of virtual workers.
  • Good access to technical training and information on how to work across cultures.
  • Training methods accommodate continual and just-in-time learning.
  • There are standard and agreed-on technical and "soft" team processes.
  • A "high trust" culture; teamwork and collaboration are the norm.
  • Leaders set high performance expectations; model behaviors such as working across boundaries and using technology effectively.
  • Team leaders and members exhibit competence in working in virtual environments.
  • Effective division of work that plays to each team member's strengths.[1]
  • Facilitate effective dissemination of knowledge. Tacit knowledge possessed must be shared in a manner deemed explicit enough to be efficiently rendered and cross-referenced amongst team members.[1]

[edit] Aiding software for virtual teams

Virtual teams are often spread all over the globe, ranging from different offices to different cultures; so how is it that they can remain on track with objectives and come together to achieve goals to contribute to the organization? The answer is that they use collaborative technology--in particular they use software that allows virtual teams to be as efficient as same-location teams.

Software that aids virtual team functioning can be separated into two main categories--software that provides ease of communication and software that provides task and document organization.

Software that improves the ease of communication often includes features such as presence awareness, instant messaging, and web conferencing. These tools allow team member to be accessible to their teams 24 hours a day. Members can have real time conversations and do not have to follow lengthy correspondence as dispersed teams have had to in the past, which leads to greater efficiency.

Software applications that organize team tasks and documents also improve their teams' efficiency. These programs consist of a central location where all members can access important documents to the team, track progress made, assign tasks, and even provide calendars with key dates and timelines to keep all members current.

There are many software programs for virtual teams, such as Lotus software by IBM, NetMeeting by Microsoft, by, Thinktank by GroupSystems, and many more. Software of this type is a fast-developing area, so organizations should look often for software programs that suit the size and functionality of their teams.

[edit] Examples of collaborative software

  • Virtual world software: Ongoing research is indicating that virtual worlds, such as Second Life, can help with virtual team collaboration. However, virtual team leaders should think beyond mimicking reality to foster successful collaboration.[6]
  • Other software titles, including MetaTeam, provide a team framework that models group structures, interactions and processes in a way that enables dispersed team members to participate more fully

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Vlaar, P. (2008). Co Creating Understanding And Value In Distributed Work. MIS Quarterly, 32, 227-255.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Southers, C,.Parisi-Carew, E, Carew, D (2002). The Virtual Teams Handbook. San Diego, Ken Blanchard Companies.
  6. ^

[edit] External links

Personal tools