Virtual teams are here to stay. Some teams work well while others seem to fumble or fail.
Dr. Karen Lojeski and Dr. Richard R. Reilly provide a useful framework to identify factors that could determine the success virtual teams.
“Virtual Distance as the perceived distance between two or more individuals, groups, or organizations that is brought on by the persistent and pervasive use of electronic versus face-to-face
The 11 Factors That Comprise the Virtual Distance Index are:
Physical Distance Factors
Geographic Distance: The degree to which team members are separated by physical distance. Temporal Distance. The degree to which team members are separated by time zone differences or work schedule differences. Organizational Distance. The degree to which members of the team work for the same organization or for multiple organizations.
Operational Distance Factors
Team Size. The number of members the team includes. Face to Face. The extent to which the team meets face to face versus electronically, especially at critical junctures in the project or through the course of work. Multitasking. The extent to which members are facing competing demands from multiple projects and have multiple deliverables due at the same time. Technical Skill and Support. The extent to which members are able to use the technology tools at their disposal, and their access to technical support in using those tools.
Affinity Distance Factors
Cultural Distance. The extent to which team members share cultural values, similarities in communication style, and attitudes toward work. Interdependence Distance. The extent to which team members feel interdependent on one another for their own success. Relationship Distance. The extent to which team members have worked together before or know some of the same people socially. Social Distance. The extent to which each team member’s status is derived from his or her hierarchical position in the organization and contribution to the team or the work effort.
While issues such as Cultural compatability and technical skill and support have received a fair share of attention, other factors identified play a dominant role in a virtual team’s success yet often are rarely factored while setting up virtual teams for specific projects or initiatives.
“The degree to which members of the team work for the same organization or for multiple organizations”, “the extent to which team members feel interdependent on one another for their own success” or “the extent to which members are facing competing demands from multiple projects and have multiple deliverables due at the same time” are issues that need to be studied while setting up virtual teams. Much is at stake to ensure that virtual teams succeed in organizations.