Years ago, people working together on teams worked in the same office or at least within the same building or corporate campus. In today's workplace, team members may never meet face-to-face or even be in the same country! In my 20+ years working with clients, I've seen how technology has propelled the explosion of virtual teams in private, public, and nonprofit sectors.
A virtual team is defined as "a group of people working together across time and space, using electronic communication technology." Team members may be working with each other in very different cultures, time zones, and/or environments. One of the key benefits of a virtual team is that organizations can select the best talent from anywhere in the world. Virtual teams also save organizations money by reducing office space requirements, as team members can work from home, client sites, or shared workspaces.
Virtual team life is not problem-free, and in order to be as effective as possible, they have to overcome challenges, such as:
Based on our research and experience with clients, here are 8 tips for anyone leading and/or participating on a virtual team:
There are many books written on the topic of virtual teams and what makes them successful. I recommend Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance by Darleen DeRosa and Richard Lepsinger.
For more information about teams, check out my Psychology Today (January 23, 2010) Smart@Work blog, "Identity Crisis: Are we a TEAM or a WORKING GROUP?"
What has worked well with virtual teams in your organization?