How to Manage Virtual Teams

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By Frank Siebdrat, Martin Hoegl and Holger Ernst

June 30, 2009

Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are colocated. To succeed, however, virtual collaboration must be managed in specific ways.
Teams are the typical building blocks of an organization: They provide companies with the means to combine the various skills, talents and perspectives of a group of individuals to achieve corporate goals. In the past, managers used to colocate team members because of the high levels of interdependencies that are inherent in group work. Recently, though, more and more companies are beginning to organize projects over distance, with teams increasingly consisting of people who are based in dispersed geographical locations, come from different cultural backgrounds, speak different languages and were raised in different countries with different value systems.

The leading question

What do managers need to know about virtual teams?

  • The overall effect of dispersion (people working at different sites) is not necessarily detrimental but rather depends on a team’s task-related processes, including those that help coordinate work and ensure that each member is contributing fully.
  • Even small levels of dispersion can substantially affect team performance.
  • When assembling a virtual team, managers should carefully consider the social skills and self-sufficiency of the potential members.

Over the past 10 years, various studies have investigated the differences in performance of colocated and dispersed teams, quietly assuming that members of the latter never meet in person and members of the former work together in the same office… To read the complete article, login or sign-up using the form below.

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