How to Turn Virtual Teams Challenges into Opportunities

10/18/2018
8 min read time
Virtual work can help you build the dream team. Each day, virtual teams cross boundaries that were only recently beyond the bounds of possibility. Dispersed work experts outshine their local counterparts. Remote work is the new standard. overcome virtual team issues  

Balancing Virtual Team Pros and Cons

Making an unprecedented growth spurt over the last three decades, virtual teams are the now and the future of work. If you’ve ever sent an email, you’ve been a member of a virtual team, at least for a short while. But if you are the average global telecommuter, you have probably worked away from a conventional office at least once this last week.   Research indicates that though cross-cultural differences can create poor communication and lack of trust in virtual teams, with the right virtual team management tools, they can be overcome and turned into opportunities.  

Typical Virtual Team Challenges for Employers and Employees

Working remotely, workers can cherry-pick inspiring projects, build connections hundreds of miles long, and achieve the ideal work-life balance. Managers have a smorgasbord of international talent to choose from. In the perfect scenario, projects flow with ease. They get done in a jiffy and within budget. At the project’s end, everyone is happy with how have things turned out. In practice, virtual teams challenges often turn this ideal picture into a product launch made too early, a gross unforeseen expenditure or three months over a six-month deadline. For employees, typical challenges in virtual teams include poor job role clarity and sleepless nights. A confused and a tired team member lacks focus and determination. Skills suffer. A promising project quickly turns into a half-baked product or service. Don’t forget about bonds created by face-to-face communication. It’s an ingredient that can boost team performance up to 67 percent. Lack of close contact is a typical problem for virtual teams. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve had your fair share of virtual team issues. Who hasn’t? In a dream world, things run smoothly. We get only the best of new technologies, transformed organizations and the changing face of the job market. Truth is, you’ve most likely recognized yourself in at least one of the above stories.    Can we find a simple solution to common virtual team challenges? Is it possible to make the peculiar virtual team dynamics work for us? The short and simple answer is yes. Although this “yes” can sometimes come with a sting in the tail, there is a way out.  

The Challenge of Extracting Experts from the Crowd

Let’s face it – the dynamic nature of digital transformation poses daily challenges Once you thought you solved crucial virtual team weaknesses, a new one crops up. Such a pace pushes you to stay constantly vigilant and enthusiastic. Alertness and a go-getting attitude come as second nature for most managers. But for employees, it’s tough to always find compelling work which challenges them to invest their best into each project stage. Experts in virtual teams often work in isolation. It’s difficult for project managers to scale up a project in which each team member gets stimulating work and, at the same time, sets apart from the crowd. You know the drill – if you are in charge of a project in a leading role, you must adopt a wider view that can help you see projects by person, but also isolate units. You must be able to swiftly jump from person to person and build a new unit or group as one expert drops off a project and leaves others hanging in midair. How can you do this?  

1. Change in Perspective

Most virtual teams challenges can be surpassed by shifting the perspective. What you see as a challenge can become an opportunity. It’s taking the “glass-half-full” approach. Let’s take the definition of virtual teams as an example: “A virtual team can be defined as a group of individuals who work across time, space, and organizational boundaries, and interact primarily through electronic communications.” The best of the virtual teams can easily turn into the worst of virtual teams unless you learn how to gauge the virtual team pros and cons scale in favor of advantages. Factors like language variety, poor collaboration tools, and team fluidity play a role in pulling out virtual team weaknesses. This has been the exact challenge of the Bright Solutions team. Lack of a rapidly deployable and scalable team structure was the biggest frustration for our CEO Manuel Pistner, too. “Even if you have all the software skills at hand on your team, the abundant diversity of projects on the virtual team market makes it difficult to source out quality experts.”  – Manuel says. But, a change in perspective is not always sufficient.   Luckily, science comes as a helping hand. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed researchers amassing just enough research to kick many virtual team challenges to the curb, many of which we have managed to overcome with FlashHub. We welcomed flash teams as the new building blocks of geographically dispersed work.  

2. Making Scalable Virtual Team Management Tools

Time, space, and lack of boundaries transform into opportunities once you find a way to implement a proper team structure. In the digital world, where we lack traditional organizational hierarchies, we have to rely on electronic tools to help us out. So what is so special about flash teams? How the flash team concept injected enough zeal into our own dream team to nudge it into finding a solution to common problems we have faced working remotely as experts for many years?   With the right virtual team management tools, team members can work independently and interdependently as they chew upon tiny or large project bites of their choice.  

3. Computational Crowdsourcing

Flash teams are created with computational crowdsourcing. This means that we finally have adequate tools to compose flexible and dynamic on-demand expert teams. Instead of hand-picking experts, we let algorithms do the work. Like it or not, you have to give the thumbs up to computers! They have a remarkable ability to handle large data volume, much faster than humans.     Flash teams and flash organizations help turn unstructured virtual teams with a lack of focus into functional groups of dedicated professionals. To be clear, flash organizations are organizations generated by sourcing flash teams from the crowd. Throw several flash teams into the mix and you come up with an equally effective flash organization!  

4. Dynamic Distributed Leadership

Flash teams enable gathering dynamical ensembles of geographically dispersed experts from the crowd. Expert levels vary across the globe. People have a different understanding of short-term and long-term planning. But we can all agree that an expert is a person who gets the job done with stellar results. We can also agree that it’s difficult to rapidly compile successful on-demand expert teams. The successful teamwork recipe usually requires adding up new knowledge or replacing one expert with another.   If we put virtual team challenges into this context, the flash team methodology can help you solve the “role confinement” challenge by building structural blocks in which team members use the computational structure to flow between fluid project roles.     

5. Common Goals as Binding Blocks

The challenge of expert isolation, which results in a lack of a clear understanding of the shared goal and each person’s responsibility within a task is solved with an example of a distributed leadership model. In flash teams, you assign leaders by task-specific blocks. Blocks are dynamic to let you stretch and grow virtual teams as needed. Here is an example: an Android developer who used to be a team member for an advanced gaming app can switch to a project lead once he jumps on board for simpler similar applications. Variations in joining blocks are endless.  

6. Flexible Task Direction

Another benefit of flash teams is the lack of rigid structure characteristic for conventional organizations. Many project management methodologies, even when carrying the tag “agile” lack the ability to expand and scale on demand. In a flash organization, you don’t need to rely on someone from the upper echelon to complete a task so that you can begin with the one at hand. Flash teams see the vertical, as well as the horizontal task direction as necessary only until it serves a greater purpose.   On-demand expertise is almost impossible to create in traditional work environments. Flash organizations dilute and build boundaries between virtual teams created by time, space, hierarchies, and management structure. Flash organizations are the common denominator for solving most virtual teams challenges. At FlashHub, we like to help you create a new vision for the future of virtual work. Join us to discover a fresh way to tackle common virtual team weaknesses!