The speed of communication among team members can be described as one of the most important aspect of communication in a virtual team. Far too often, virtual teams fail to reach their objectives simply because the members of the team fail to communicate with each other.
The issue of communication can be a technological phenomenon, but in many cases, it is a problem that occurs because of poor communication skills on the part of the team members. An example of a communication lapse is when different members of the same team do not speak a common language, it is bound to cause some serious problems.
When a virtual team is formed, each member of the team must understand that they are together an entity which is working towards the achievement of a specific goal. This means that every person on the team must have the same goals as all the other members.
When any members of the team begin having goals which are alien to those established by the virtual team leader, this is bound to cause problems. In order for communication to be properly maintained within the team, there must be one recognized leader, and this leader must have the final say in all affairs which are related to the project. The individual goals of each member of the team should always mirror those of the leader.
When this is not the case, problems will inevitably occur. On the virtual team, insubordination cannot be tolerated. If you have a rogue member of your team that is not following directions, this will create a domino effect among the other team members, a chain reaction that will eventually lead to the demise of the project.
Renegade team members must be removed from the team "before" they are allowed to have an effect on the other members. The issue of virtual team communication has less to do with technology and more to do with human psychology. The best and most rapid communication tools in the world are useless unless team members can be kept in line.
Additional Factors to Consider
The issue of language should not be a problem on a virtual team. The best way for virtual team leaders to deal with this issue is to ensure that every member of the team speaks the same language as the virtual team leader.
For example, if the virtual team leader speaks Russian, it does not make sense for them to put together a team of people who speak German or Chinese, regardless of how skilled they are technically. At the most basic level, the ability for team members to speak the same language should be mandatory, especially if the team is to become a success. Any team that makes the mistake of hiring a group of people who do not speak the same language is destined for failure.
Another important part of effective virtual team communication is making sure that the details of a project are clear up front. Good virtual team leaders should never make the mistake of allowing themselves to make assumptions about anything, and neither should the members of the team.
For example, if a team member is not clear about the details or instructions for a project, they should feel free to contact that the team leader and get more details about this. Asking a lot of questions up front can prevent a lot of headaches later on. Many projects fail, not because of the individual members of the team, but because of the assumptions or poor instructions given by the leader.
Providing Clear Instructions
A person who does not know how to give clear instructions for a project should not be leading a virtual team. Many team leaders are lazy when it comes to instructing the other members. They provide cookie cutter or generalized instructions which are open to interpretation, and then become upset later on when the members of their team produce results that do not meet their expectations. Instructions must be clear and concise.
Effective virtual team leaders should make it clear to their subordinates that they have an "open door" policy, meaning there is no such thing as a wrong question. If the members of the team do not fully understand something, they should not have any fear of approaching the team leader for clarification.