A virtual team offers many powerful advantages, but its weaknesses must be addressed. While virtual teams are truly powerful and robust in many ways, they are not without their drawbacks.
Understanding the disadvantages which are inherent in virtual teams can allow the team to become more successful and efficient, particularly by avoiding the many mistakes which lead to failure.
The first disadvantage that comes with virtual teams is a reduction in communication efficiency. A number of studies have consistently shown that much of what humans communicate to one another is not based on their verbal language, but on non-verbal language. Some studies show that as much as 30% of communication is non-verbal.
Of course, on the Internet, you are severely restricted in terms of how you communicate. It is next to impossible with current technology to read the non-verbal signals being sent by the people you deal with online. For example, if someone sends you an email where they apologize for their action, all you see are the words on the page, and there is no way for you to know for sure whether or not they are sincere.
In contrast, when dealing with them in person, you can analyze their body language in order to determine whether or not they are truly legit. Because of this lack of non-verbal communication, failures in communication are common on virtual teams.
In fact, in if someone asked me what was the leading cause of failure among virtual teams, my answer would be a lack of communication. When you are not working with someone face-to-face, it is absolutely critical that you be able to communicate with them, because if you cannot, your project will never get of the ground.
Your emails should be clear and concise, and nothing should ever be assumed. In the world of virtual teams, assumptions lead to disaster. Not only must virtual team members be able to communicate clearly and concisely, but they must also be able to communicate quickly. A failure to communicate quickly can lead to frustration, which then leads to failure.
Poor Leadership and Management
While poor leadership will cause any team to fail, whether it is physical or digital, the issue becomes much more sensitive when you’re dealing with virtual teams. Many virtual managers are poor leaders and poor communicators. They don’t know how to get their message across, or they’re indecisive when it comes to choosing the ways in which they want the project to function.
A true leader is someone who knows exactly what they want, and they know how to properly communicate this to the members of their team. They are able to help the members of their team on any issue they may be having, and instead of trying to simply give out orders, they know when to get their hands dirty.
At the same time, effective virtual managers are individuals who know not to micro-manage. When a leader decides to begin micro-managing his or her team, this leader will inevitably fail. A leader is a person who can set their members on the right path, but they don’t have to walk them to their destination step-by-step.
The quality of the leadership for a virtual team will play a key role in its success of failure. However, the members play a crucial role as well. In order for a project to become a success, everyone in the organization must know their role. They must be skilled in their area of expertise, but under no circumstances should they challenge the head of the project.
Incompetent Team Members
Virtual Team members must all be competent. If the members of the virtual team are not competent, then the project is doomed to failure from the start.
If the team members are lazy, or slack off from their assignments, this can have a detrimental effect on the rest of the team. This is why it is critical for team leaders to be cautious in who they choose for the project at the very beginning, because if they are not, this could lead to serious problems down the road.