Managing Virtual Teams
When and how often do team members need to meet face-to-face (FTF)?
Maznevski et al found that FTF interaction is instrumental during the “forming” stages of team building, especially if team members do not know one another. However, it may also be advantegeous for team members to have completed some initial virtual meetings before meeting in person (team members can then focus on task-related expertise before any potential biases are introduced, and the FTF meeting can be used to establish team work practices).
Maznevski and Chudoba also found that teams which have repeated FTF meetings at predictable times/ intervals often outperform those who choose to meet as “needed”. Regular, predictible meetings promote effective time management, and enables individuals to reserve any complex/delicate issues for in-person interactions.
What is the best technology solution for virtual teams?
Telephones and email provide simple, reliable, and accessible communication.
How can managers coordinate work among dispersed members?
A study by Cramton found that dispersed team members often lack a common, shared understanding. Hinds and Mortensen’s study on virtual teams also found that when people are distributed they tend to engage in relatively little of the spontaneous and informal “water-cooler” communication that promotes shared understanding and is often the vehicle for adaptation.
Managers of virtual teams must shift their teams’ work practices towards more structured coordination. Clear team-level work processes, output requirements, and group norms reduce the complexity of virtual team coordination from coordinating efforts across multiple sites to aligning one’s efforts with a single, consistent set of expectations. Second, managers must also work to support and facilitate dynamic adjustment when it’s required by promoting and encouraging informal interaction.
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