Teamwork is a cornerstone of everyday life – for businesses, in education, but also in your personal relationships. What makes a team successful has been studied and is well documented.
While ideally everyone contributes equally to teamwork, every team needs a good leader – a leader, that is aware of how to motivate the other team members, that knows how to assign tasks according to skill sets, and that has an eye on whether goals are reached on time.
Important for successful teamwork is also the existence of clear rules. If a team is aware of not only rules, but also of shared values and goals, working towards that goal together happens almost by itself.
However, communication is the single most important factor in successful teamwork. This means that team members are encouraged to share information, and that their input is valued, allowing everyone to be aware of their own and the others’ contributions towards the common goal.
But how do we translate this advice into the virtual environment?
While technological innovation has spread, new management tools have been designed, and better video conferencing software has been popularized, virtual team building and teamwork has not worked as well as many had hoped. From technological issues, to low productivity, to cultural differences, to different time zones – virtual teams face an abundance of potential obstacles.
This claim is backed up by research. A study discussed in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that only 18 percent of the seventy virtual teams assessed were found to be highly successful – more than 80% were unable to achieve their goals.
But what causes these disruptions? And how can they be overcome?
Despite these difficulties, more and more educational institutions and businesses are opting for virtual teamwork– sometimes out of necessity, for example, if team members are spread around the globe.
A study from MIT on the success of virtual teams conducted by, among others, Yossi Sheffi, has analyzed which factors allow virtual teams to succeed.
Using our business simulation, The Fresh Connection, 20 teams of students participated in the research. Teams consisted of four to five students, that have never met before, and are from different MIT SCALE campuses around the world.
While individual abilities (such as analytical reasoning) undoubtedly contribute to the overall success of a virtual team, one factor in particular stood out: Team Trust.
In analyzing all data, “Intra-Team Trust” surfaced as the only statistically significant predictor of team performance. An up to 9% increase in performance was observed when trust among team members was high.
Luckily, there are several strategies that can help to increase trust, making the most of virtual teamwork. A first step is always to outline goals and objectives, ensuring that all team members are on the same page.
Setting clear goals goes hand in hand with assigning clear roles, making sure that every team member is aware what their tasks are, when they need to be done, and with whom they need to cooperate in order to get the task done.
Lastly, trust is about communication. Clear communication does not only mean that information is shared, and questions can be asked, but it also means that channels of communication and times for exchange need to be made very clear.
Teamwork always offers potential for friction and disagreements, even more so in virtual teams, as misunderstandings happen easily, and productivity might slack off.
Know you know that clear leadership, goal setting, task distribution, and communication are essential elements for successful collaboration. These are needed to foster trust, the single most important factor for successful virtual teams!
Inchainge’s business simulations can be played online and in person – in both scenarios, we make sure that you have the best support to execute successful teamwork!