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How to Manage Virtual Teams

You know, I have had a lot of experience in managing disparate virtual teams in multiple competencies. In fact, when I pioneered the first electronic digital musical instrument (keyboard) solely built on a Windows operating system with COTS parts, it was with a team based throughout the U.S., Europe and Taiwan. Bringing software developers, manufacturing, sourcing, marketing, sales, R&D, components, etc. together as a multi-disciplined team working toward a common goal I think was enhanced by the fact that we were virtual. It forced us to communicate regularly, effectivly and clearly. Also, remember this was before all the cool stuff we have now on the web and Web 2.0 collaboration solutions.

But early on and before this time, one of my more infamous motto’s was; “You can manage remotely, but you can’t lead remotely”. Over time and experience, I have come to think differently. Not only can disparate virtual teams be effective, but they can be led by strong leaders to accomplish enormous tasks productively and effectively. I have seen this both on a regional/national and global scale.

In today’s “connected” market and work place, there is no excuse for lack of productivity and success if you have a strong leader, clear communications and buy in from all constituents. Remember, some people need to have social “live in- person to person” interaction on a daily basis. They do not make good virtual team mates. Regardless, I read this article and found it to be spot on and very relevant in today’s connected market. Hope you enjoy it!


How to Manage Virtual Teams
By Frank Siebdrat, Martin Hoegl and Holger Ernst
July 1, 2009
Dispersed teams can actually outperform groups that are co-located. 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 co-locate 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.

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 throughout a project. But dispersion is not only a matter of degree; it is also a matter of kind. Most teams are dispersed on some level. They can be spatially separated (from “across the hall” to “scattered worldwide”), temporally separated (spanning different time zones), configurationally uneven (for example, five members in one location and two in another) and culturally diverse. And as past research has repeatedly shown, even the smallest degrees of dispersion, such as working on different floors in the same building, can greatly affect the quality of collaboration.1 In our own study, we have investigated the performance of 80 software development teams with varying levels of dispersion, including those with members in different cities, countries or continents. Such geographically distributed teams have commonly been referred to as “virtual” teams,2 but that label is something of a misnomer, because these groups are very real with respect to the work they can accomplish.

We found that virtual teams offer tremendous opportunities despite their greater managerial challenges. In fact, with the appropriate processes in place, dispersed teams can significantly outperform their co-located counterparts.


: http://sloanreview.mit.edu/the-magazine/articles/2009/summer/50412/how-to-manage-virtual-teams/


Written by David Frederick

September 29, 2009 at 7:08 PM