A new era of virtual teams
Most organizations today are trying to find new and innovative ways to be more competitive and efficient, and it is hardly surprising these often involve the use of new technologies. Without question, the emergence of new information and communication technologies has dramatically altered the way most organizations function. As organizations change the ways in which people communicate with one another, how they actually do their jobs changes as well. The workplace of the 21st Century is a quite different place than that even a few years ago.
Virtual teams=teams+electronic links+groupware
Virtual teams operate without the physical limitations of distance, time, and organizational boundaries. They use electronic collaboration technologies and other techniques to lower travel and facility costs, reduce project schedules, and improve decision-making time and communication.
On the other hand, it is also true that like any group, virtual teams can become dysfunctional because of a variety of factors. It is clear that problems with communication and lack of trust can disrupt any group including virtual ones. Sometimes, virtual teams will run into trouble because of misunderstandings or misapprehensions regarding the nature and quality of virtual groups and how they function. It is not uncommon for people to have beliefs and feelings about things that they don’t fully understand, and some of the myths that have grown up around virtual teams clearly demonstrate this.
Advantages or disadvantages?
there are some aspects of virtual groups that make them uniquely advantageous. For example, they allow for efficient communication with people all over the world at any time. Some people even find that there is an intimacy among members in a virtual group that is very special, and perhaps this stems from interacting with one another in more comfortable settings and at particularly convenient times.
Since communication in virtual teams is very fast and efficient it is easier to get information where it needs to be, and it is also easier to spread “best practices” among workers. Further, it becomes far simpler to connect “islands of knowledge” into self-organizing, knowledge-sharing networks of professional communities and fostering cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration. It also becomes simpler to initiate and contribute to projects and to communicate across organizational boundaries.
Some tips for a good performance
When considering the management of virtual teams it is tempting to first think about the technology, and while this is important it must be remembered that virtual teams like any other team is first and foremost a social system.
Therefore, regardless of the communications technology or the hardware and software that the group uses to do their work, the success of the team will still depend upon the quality of the information available, how it is communicated and used, and how the team members work together with this information to complete their tasks.
It is clear that using virtual teams is a major commitment and one that is worth making sure that it will be effective and functional in a timely manner. To do this the right way will depend on getting the right people on board, spending money on the appropriate hardware and software, attracting and training the right people, and designing a management structure and reward system that will guide the work and recognize and reward the contributors. Too often, organizations will try to do too much too soon without adequate support and then blame the technology or the teams for not being successful when they did not have much of a chance to begin with.
Starting a virtual team is not always easy to do. There is research and experience that supports the idea that when these six rules are followed the virtual teams are more effective, but also that team members were more likely to report being satisfied with their experience on the team and with their interactions with other team members.
Nydegger, R., & Nydegger, L. (2010). Challenges In Managing Virtual Teams.
Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER), 8(3).