The secret behind effective virtual teams

Researchers have found the key to explaining the dynamics behind virtual teams. The team members must be willing to continuously to work together and find advantages in terms of their personal development.

This was able to “demystify” professors Alain Pinsonneault, Olivier Caya and Mark Mortensen in a study that made a splash in the scientific world and could have the same effect on the management of your virtual teams.

Increasingly common in large enterprises, “virtual teams” usually consist of people who are in different geographical locations or working remotely.

These teams must rely on information technology to communicate, collaborate and divide the work in order to achieve common goals.

The study, Virtual Teams Demystified: An Integrative Framework for Understanding Virtual Teams and a Synthesis of Research, has pulled together all research that dealt with virtual teams and found that none existed when it came to overall factors that contribute to or detract from the effectiveness of those teams.

Criteria that influence its effectiveness
The study highlights the three criteria which ensure the effectiveness of a team:

  • Productivity: that is to say, whether the results of a team meet or exceed expectations, including factors such as the quantity and quality of output, efficiency, timeliness and creativity.
  • Sustainability: the extent to which the members are satisfied with the work and experience being accomplished, as well as the intent to continue to work together. In other words, members should see benefits in being part of this team and wish to continue the collaboration.
  • Personal development: whether a member feels that he is learning from his experience, whether through the expertise of others or through lessons learned.

However, the criteria of sustainability and personal development have rarely been considered in analyzing the effectiveness of virtual teams. The analysis of previous research has revealed, among other things, the production quality depended on the following factors:

  • The degrees to which each member’s particular expertise compliments the team;
  • The collaborative and sharing culture that prevails in the team;
  • The common understanding of the team’s purpose, work process and culture;
  • Trust and team cohesion;
  •  The frequency of communication between team members through various methods, such as email, telephone, video conferencing and meetings.


In sum, although an employer may see productivity gains and cost savings in forming virtual teams, these will be doomed to fail if team members … don’t feel good about it!


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