Virtual teams are composed of employees who are physically dispersed throughout the nation or around the world. They are linked by various forms of electronic technology. Face-to-face contact is usually minimal or nonexistent. Virtual teams face several challenges: time zone differences, which make quick information exchanges difficult, and cultural miscues, which can cause misunderstandings. When teams don’t meet in person, its less likely they will develop the kind of chemistry common to productive teams that have face-to-face meetings. Many virtual teams are in continuous danger of becoming dysfunctional. Choose a few team members who already know each other. This will speed up the process of building networks among team members. Invest in online resources that help all team members quickly learn about one another.
Ensure the task is meaningful to team members and the company. Assign tasks that are challenging and interesting.
The virtual team should include “boundary spanners,” persons who have many connections to useful people outside of the team.
Develop a team mission statement along with teamwork expectations, project goals, and deadlines.
Create an online site where team members can collaborate, exchange ideas, and motivate one another. The team should have a shared online workspace that all members can access 24 hours a day.
Encourage frequent communication and try to reach agreement about preferred communication tools.
If you are a virtual team leader, find ways to mark team progress toward goals.
1. Which of the five dysfunctions of a team (in figure 12.3) would be the greatest barriers to virtual team productivity? Defend your answer.
2. What can be done to avoid information overload when the virtual team is made up of 25 to 30 members?
Figure 12.3: Absence of trust: trust is the foundation of teamwork.
Fear of conflict: teams that lack trust are not capable of engaging in open, unfiltered debate.
Lack of commitment: when team members fail to voice their views openly during passionate debate, they rarely buy in and commit to decisions.
Avoidance of accountability: without commitment and buy in, team members are often hesitant to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
Inattention to results: failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where team members put their own needs above the collective goals of the team.