The current trends in most multinational organisations is to create regions and sub regions as a way to create an organisation’s structure that consists of few reporting levels as well as a matrix structure. The core functions of organisation have several reporting lines in the region, sub region and the headquarter while the non-core function (facilitating and compliance) is centralised. With this form of arrangement, we see introduction of virtual teams.
Virtual teams are groups of individuals who work together from different geographic location and rely on communication technology such as email, audio conference and video conference service to collaborate.
For such teams to perform well and be successful they have to collaborate and not cooperate. According to John C. Maxwell in his book “The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player he states that cooperation is working together agreeably while collaboration is working together aggressively.
The team leader needs to build a cohesive team irrespective of the distance and different time zones, by removing barriers such as negative perception. The team members have a strong notation that colleagues in the regional office are not ready to listen to other ideas and comments and simple want to impose on them how things should be done. The other perception the team leader needs to remove is that team member are not competitors they are there to complement each other. Collaboration is enhanced by sharing information with the team in detail and not giving them the impression that some information on team activities is shared selectively.
Trust is another crucial aspect in collaboration, the team should be able to trust each other and any information shared in confidence should remain confidential. Building of trust is created gradually by the team leader’s ability in creating an atmosphere of team cohesiveness. This can be done in the beginning of each meeting where the team leader exchanges greetings with individual members and refers to them on first name basis. This can be further enhanced by the team leader asking the members on their opinion when assigning tasks and telling them in case of any clarification or support he/she is always there for them.
Virtual teams need to be focused on the goals and objectives of the cell/organisation. Often times this is derailed in most meeting as membership is inclusive of management officers who end up creating distraction by checking their emails, typing on laptops and checking messages on their mobiles. It is better for the team to copy the management in the minutes of the meeting than inviting them to the meeting per se. In fact, most bosses are better giving advice on emails.
For collaboration to be better it is important to be considerate of the time zone differences, punctuality to meetings and monitoring the duration of meeting. When the team leader practise this he/she gives the impression to the members it is not about one person but about the entire team members as there is a consideration to their private lives.
Collaboration in virtual team creates the sharing of “Best Practices” within regions and sub regions and contribute to win-win situation.