Virtual teams have become increasingly popular over the past few years. At present, organizations create virtual teams specifically for innovative projects and new developments. This paper explores the benefits of geographically dispersed teams for new product development compared to co-located teams, such as their ability to implement up-to-date business and technological insights. It also elaborates upon the challenges organizations face in managing virtual teams successfully.
Virtual teams are particularly useful when it comes to working on short-term projects. The virtual teams that have a short-term established goal perform better than the ones working on a continuous ambitious project (Ford et al., 2017). Consequently, it is reasonable to gather a virtual team to develop a new product. Indisputably, it is imperative to know the advantages and disadvantages of geographically dispersed teams before assigning tasks.
As for virtual teams, geographic dispersion is both their advantage and disadvantage. On the one hand, it allows the company to reduce spending on transportation, directly involve the current technological advancements and knowledge from all over the world, and gather new perspectives to enable innovation. On the other hand, team members can live in different time zones, speak different languages, and have different cultural backgrounds, which might hinder communication. Therefore, the geographic dispersion of virtual teams’ members encourages innovation, but it also creates obstacles for management.
Fortunately, effective management strategies can tackle the peculiarities of geographically dispersed teams. First, according to Lauring and Jonasson (2018), it is essential to construct the team out of members who are comfortable with language diversity. The scholars find that diversity awareness is necessary to establish trust and effective communication between virtual team members (Lauring & Jonasson, 2018). Another mandatory skillset for a cross-cultural team is related to organizing and executing (Krumm et al., 2016). It includes the ability to monitor one’s progress, define personal goals, and work in a structured way (Krumm et al., 2016). Indeed, in the context of limited face-to-face interactions and a lack of shared physical workspace, it helps to have team members whose personal qualities compensate for structural challenges.
Second, in order to motivate workers, a team leader should create comfortable conditions for them. The main goal should dictate the structure of the work and the team (Ford et al., 2017). The manager should build a link between the virtual team and the organization, especially in informal ways (Ford et al., 2017). That is necessary because virtual teams have limited opportunities to connect to the company outside of work. Moreover, informal activities help create trust between team members and the organization (Ford et al., 2017). The manager leading the virtual team should regulate the structure of work and working conditions according to the team’s peculiarities.
Finally, it is vital to find a management style that benefits the geographically dispersed team. According to Lauring and Jonasson (2018), the most effective management style, in this case, is inspirational motivation leadership. Such leadership establishes a common goal connecting team members and is useful in teams with high member dissimilarity (Lauring & Jonasson, 2018). Most importantly, teams working under such leaders are active and productive even during the leader’s absence (Lauring & Jonasson, 2018). Therefore, inspirational motivation leadership may alleviate the problems of communication and effectiveness in geographically dispersed teams.
To conclude, virtual teams can be highly effective in creating innovative ideas and products. However, the approach to management, construction, and structure of such teams must differ from those of co-located ones. The main tools mitigating the challenges specific to virtual teams are appropriate leadership, establishing trust within the team and between the team and organization, and selecting team members with diversity awareness and organization skills.
Ford, R. C., Piccolo, R. F., & Ford, L. R. (2017). Strategies for building effective virtual teams: Trust is key. Business Horizons, 60(1), 25-34.
Krumm, S., Kanthak, J., Hartmann, K., & Hertel, G. (2016). What does it take to be a virtual team player? The knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required in virtual teams. Human Performance, 29(2), 123-142.
Lauring, J., & Jonasson, C. (2018). Can leadership compensate for deficient inclusiveness in global virtual teams? Human Resource Management Journal, 28(3), 392-409.