The team must develop a system for sharing information so that nothing relevant to solving the problem is lost" (p. 360). This level of collaboration can be challenging even with traditional teams, though, but Roebuck et al. emphasize that what may appear irrelevant to one team member may be the key to achieving the team's goals. Therefore, it is important for team members to become accustomed to sharing as much information with each other as possible so that a cohesive whole can be created from the disparate pieces. While this level of knowledge sharing may appear to be unnecessary, Roebuck et al. suggest that this is one of the most important elements in creating an effective virtual team. (Roebuck et al., 2004).
Addressing the Challenges of Virtual Team
While the challenges are significant, they can be resolved in part through the use of the tools and technology that characterize most virtual teams today. For example, most virtual teams depend on communication and information technologies, including organizational intranets, team conference calls, e-mail exchanges, video conferencing, and groupware applications to provide the collaborative forum for information sharing (Kerber & Buono, 2004). In addition, many virtual team members still meet on a face-to-face basis from time to help iron out any problems they may be experiencing and to help forge improved relationships and levels of trust ( (Kerber & Buono, 2004).
Other ways that can be used to help overcome the challenges associated with virtual teams include the following:
1. Teams need to establish ground rules to help the team members interact and determine what kind of behavior is expected. These ground rules will assist in preventing misunderstandings and disagreements.
2. Team members should determine some criteria for virtual dialogue, such as when to check e-mail and how often to respond to e-mail messages. The team should also set up how to exchange documents from meetings and when to hold mandatory meetings.
3. Standing behind the team and all of its members is vital to the trust relationship. Responses need to be given to all members of the team in the same amount of time. This builds integrity within the team by ensuring that no one believes that he or she is being left out or ignored by other team members. This also allows everyone to check and correspond with each other if any controversial items come up.
4. It is important to know other team members on a personal as well as professional level to understand their difficulties and work around their special needs.
5. Trust means that one has faith in people's competence; only then can one rely on the results of their work. To demonstrate competence takes time and in virtual teamwork it takes even more time to show one's competence. Proficiency is more difficult to verify at a distance.
6. People working in a virtual team must trust information and information channels. Partial, incorrect, misleading, and late sources of information are all sources of mistrust (Roebuck et al., 2004, p. 360).
The research showed that virtual teams are also known as distributed work groups and are distinguished from traditional teams by being separated by space and in many cases time as well. Although some virtual teams meet on a face-to-face basis from time to time, the research showed that the vast majority of their work is accomplished through telecommunications technologies. The research also showed that virtual teams are becoming increasingly commonplace and more has been learned about how to maximize their effectiveness by addressing the challenges that accrue to this type of teamwork format. Some of the most important challenges identified in the review of the literature involved communications and how best to achieve collaborative outcomes when team members do not have the ability to discern nonverbal clues. In the final analysis, virtual teams are becoming an important part of many organizations' approach to making the most of the human resources they have available for achieving their goals, and the supporting technology continues to improve.
Eom, S.B. & Lee, C.K. (1999). Virtual teams: An information age opportunity for mobilizing hidden manpower. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 64(2), 12-13.
Kerber, K.W. & Buono, A.F. (2004). Leadership challenges in global virtual teams: Lessons from the field. SAM Advanced Management Journal, 69(4), 4-5.
Management: Via E-Mail How to Successfully Manage Virtual Teams. Contributors: Marcia A. Reed-Woodard - author. Magazine Title: Black Enterprise. Volume: 38. Issue: 5. Publication Date: December 2007. Page Number: 76.
Using a Simulation to Explore the Challenges of Communicating in a Virtual Team. Contributors: Deborah Britt Roebuck…