3 reasons virtual teams fail
Managing teams and getting the most out of your employees will always be a challenge. However, each evolution of the workplace environment brings on new challenges. This is particularly apparent with the rise of virtual teams (also known as remote teams). When teams are separated by time, distance and even corporate or national cultures, common issues are amplified. And often no one knows there is a problem until the project is behind budget or fails completely. Even though virtual teams have been around for a while, they‘re still failing at an alarming rate. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. The people don’t know what to do
Not knowing what to do does not mean you’ve hired incompetent people. What it could mean is that they are working on outdated assumptions and data. They may not be aligned with the company’s vision, particularly if they are temps or new employees. Or the virtual team members don’t know each other, don’t have experience with the team leader, or don’t understand what is expected of them. You can solve these problems through training, strategic communication and technology such as webcams, file sharing and the telephone.
2. Systems don’t work- or leaders don’t know how to make them work
Virtual teams rely on technology. Therefore, the team and leader must be competent in their knowledge of what tools are available and when to use each for maximum efficiency. A team that communicates only by email might save time in the short term. But they’ll find themselves bogged down in misunderstanding in the long term. Or managers that hate communicating over distance might save everything for the weekly conference call or web meeting. But they will find themselves overwhelmed in that one meeting. Without training, coaching, reinforcement and reward, any tools cannot be used to their full potential.
3. Team member priorities aren’t in line
Good people frequently make decisions that work against you and, unfortunately, virtual teams compound this issue. The main problem regarding missed deadlines and poor work in virtual teams is that people have to decide where to invest their time and mental resources. Too often their investment is not with the project you want them focused on. There are many reasons this is the case, but to avoid problems keep communication lines open.
Addressing these issues is reasonably simple. For a start, employ new people or re-train your existing staff. Ensure managers create an environment of open communication and trust. But also make sure you give people the right tools to get the job done.