Communications technology only plays a small role in the success or failure of a virtual team. In truth, many of the factors which can allow a virtual team to succeed are based on things that cannot be measured in terms of computers or Internet connection speed. In contrast, the success of the team is based on the psychology of the members that comprise it.
All the technological tools in the world mean nothing if the team is not coordinated and cohesive. Studies show that while many people attempt forming virtual team, at least 80% of these teams are not successful in completing their projects. The reason for this has a lot to do with the members of the team.
Each member of the team must see themselves as being a unit which makes up a large organism. If any units within this organism have a problem, the organism itself has a problem. It is at this point that the team is in danger of following apart.
The first tip for having a successful team is to establish communication protocols early on. Make it clear that people must consistently and quickly answer any messages which are sent to them, and they must do so in a short period of time.
It would be ridiculous to send an email to a team member and then having to wait three days for them to get back. If you are working on a time sensitive project, and it takes this long for your colleagues to respond, then the project will not likely be completed in time.
This is something that must be avoided at all costs. Everyone must use the same communication protocols, and there should never be any exceptions to this. Each member of the team must also have a great deal of discipline.
In fact, the virtual manager should test all prospects before allowing them to become official members of the team. For example, a virtual manager who is overseeing the development of an online application could test programs prior to hiring to make sure they are competent and disciplined enough to take on the project. It is also essential for team objectives to be established early, as this gives the entire team something critical to focus on.
Establish Objectives at the Beginning, and Remind Team Members of It Periodically
A team that does not have an objective is a team that will fail. With virtual teams, it is more difficult to compartmentalize the members, unless you have multiple managers who are well coordinated.
Everyone on the team should know what they are working on, and if they are to benefit beyond mere pay, then it would not hurt to explain to them "why" the team is working on this objective. This will build up the morale of the team members, and this will allow them to work at a faster pace.
It is also important for virtual managers to consistently remind the team members that they are indeed a part of a team. Because the group is spread out in different geographical locations, it is easy to forget this simple fact.
Everyone on the team should understand that they should always ask for help if they need it. Make everyone understand that there is no such thing as a one man army, and each person must collaborate and communicate with everyone else if the team is to remain cohesive as well as coordinated. It is also essential that rules are established at the beginning of the project.
A team without rules is a team that will run into conflict. For instance, if the virtual manager knows that there is something he does not want the other team members doing on the project, he or she should make this clear to the other team members well in advanced. Remember, making assumptions is dangerous.
Use the best technology so that team members can socialize. The more technology you use to enhance the interactivity of your team, the more powerful this team will be.
Chat rooms, video conferencing, email, and message boards are just some of the tools you should use when collaborating with your people. When it is easy and quick to communicate with you, this means that your team can operate at a high level of efficiency.