Friday, July 22, 2011

Exploring Virtual Teams

Connecting with people from all over the world is as simple as a click of a button. This significantly impacts our social lives and we are seeing more and more the result this has on business. The virtual team, or geographically dispersed team (GDT), is a relatively new organizational strategy but the quantity of businesses that have embraced this tactic has grown significantly in the past few years. You may be asking yourself if it right for your business.

The idea that the level of productivity corresponds directly to the amount of face-time a team receives is a misconception that is falling to the wayside. Managers are noticing that an individual’s motivation, the dynamics of the group, and the capabilities of each person can have a much more significant impact. Virtual teams support more selectiveness when building the team, as location isn't a factor. A manager can then find people who compliment each other and are self-motivated through the bettering of their personal careers.  Virtual teams can be a blessing to managers because of their productivity and the fact that they require less direct managing.

Virtual teams are not realistic for industries and companies that require physical interaction, however for companies thatdo not require physical proximity, implementing teams that interact remotely is not only feasible but can enhance their processes. If you are considering the use of virtual teams in your business here are some items to consider.

Advantages

  • Recruitment based on competence not proximity
  • Team members can work during the times when they function most efficiently
  • Teams are comprised of members that are self-motivated and self-driven
  • More accommodation for team members’ personal and professional lives
  • No commuting time or cost
  • Reduced overhead, because there is no physical location
  • IT expenses are reduced as most teams use web-based tools for collaboration
  • Managers can better examine the team’s performance as there are less social pressures


Disadvantages

  • Less social interaction, which can be a demotivator for some people
  • Loss of trust among team members if there is not assurance that everyone is pulling their own weight
  • Creativity could possibly be stifled, as the physical dynamics are lost
  • Team members may overwork themselves as managers can not physically see the length of time each task takes
  • Managers may lose track of the team’s progress, i.e. out of site out of mind


Online technology is the primary way that virtual teams interface with one another, including email, audio conferencing, and file sharing programs. Here is a list of a few websites and products that facilitate teams that interact virtually.

  • Go to meetings – a relatively inexpensive way to have remote conferences
  • Yammer – a private social network for companies that enables quick communication and interaction
  • Drop Box – a free way to share files
  • Second Life – allows for interactive meetings with the use of avatars


If you want more information on virtual teams in action, check out the articles below: 
http://www.theanywhereoffice.com/mobile-work/telework-viritual-teams-midmarket-companies.htm
http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/19/virtual-teams-meetings-leadership-managing-cooperation.html
http://www.openforum.com/articles/7-effective-tools-for-managing-a-virtual-team

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