Succeeding in virtual collaborations
Since last time the blog focused on the theoretical perspective and studies conducted in the field of virtual collaboration, it is important to now focus on the practical aspects to be considered when it comes to ensuring success in virtual teams.
In order to do that, firstly the relevant challenges have to be considered.
But what are those challenges actually?
• Team formation: necessary to take into account the individual skills, availability and personal characteristics
• Time zone differences: to be considered when choosing communication media and time due to member location all over the globe
• Performance appraisal: lower level of transparency to management and harder to access individual performance
• Feelings of frustration and isolation: harder to avoid or spot due to the nature of the communication, which is primarily conducted virtually
• Trust building: might take longer than usual; often requires additional time and effort
• Cultural differences: result from different nationalities, traditions, work and personal habits
• Conflict management: a common approach to spotting conflicts in time and dealing with them is often missing or its importance is underestimated
• Language difficulties: result from different level of language skills, different accents as well as abilities to explain technical issues
• Training (technology skills): due to age, origin or interests the level of technology skills may vary
• Team cohesiveness: often hard to establish due to the nature of the communication and unclearly communicated team roles and deliverables
• Team communication: primarily conducted virtually, thus physical expressions, gestures, etc. are often not available or misinterpreted. Thus, a proper media choice is crucial.
• Team capabilities and task distribution: often challenging for the team lead to distribute tasks, if he or she is not familiar with the skills of the team members
• Knowledge sharing: knowledge, experience and skills within the team are not shared due to a missing tool or practice to do so
So, how can enterprises approach these challenges in reality?
Organizations can make use of their technical and physical resources by ensuring a suitable knowledge sharing platform, where a pool of best practices and lessons learned can be realized. Examples of such practices include:
• Getting to know each other in person
• Stating roles clearly
• Communicating tasks, change requests and expected deliverables
• When info is received, it should be passed on immediately
• Doing reviews as often as possible
• Visualizing/sketching concepts instead of simply explaining
• Taking notes during meetings
• Doing regular updates on client expectations
• No skipping in face-to-face meetings and checkpoints/gates
• No quick dismissal of team members due to temporary idleness
Ensuring knowledge sharing contributes to the overall flow of information within organizations and facilitates all team participants as well as management in dealing with the challenges mentioned above. Furthermore, additional materials such as virtual project management and cultural guides, tailored to the needs of the particular company, turn out to also contribute positively to virtual team collaboration.
The study was conducted by Veselina Ashminova, M.A in International Product and Service Management at the Ansbach University of Applied Sciences.