When virtual teams are part of an organisations strategy, say, to build a global footprint without too much unnecessary duplication of skills, the organisation has a vision that includes the use of their virtual teams and as such personnel forming part of those teams know the value they bring and readily buy in to the approach.
When the virtual teams are formed for a short term target, even though the organisation may profess to have a vision that includes these remote team members, that vision is usually more to do with the outcomes expected and potential savings to be made than the approach its self, and can leave the team members uncertain of their role, or feeling like a cheap source of labour to be discarded when no longer required.
Building a Shared Vision For the Long Term
With long term virtual teams established as part of the corporation’s strategy, members are often able to spend the time they work together bonding and growing together and defining their own understandings of the organisations vision and direction. With short term, more ad-hoc virtual teams this opportunity to bond and share experiences rarely presents its self and as often as not the team is presented with a charter and set of goals and values they are expected to sign up to, often without being involved in their definition.
This ‘fait accompli’ approach poses a number of issues in a virtual team environment. The vision statement is typically written from a monocultural perspective and as such may well not consider the cultural views of all parties involved in the work, some cultures and some individuals may resist having the vision imposed on them without any consultation and may choose to rebel and develop their own version.
Regardless of whether there is a charter or such like in place, establishing a vision and a common set of goals is critical to aligning the whole workforce on the task at hand, they will need to know how their contribution is helping the organisation toward its goals and what is required of them, even if this could be a small part of the overall.
To establish this shared vision in the team then I would recommend that, as the team is formed the members are engaged to solicit their views, get them to consider the overall aims of the business and how they can help, then to agree what their role is, what the timing of their engagement is and what their accountabilities are. As new teams join and others leave the overall virtual team this process should be repeated to ensure an ongoing engagement of constituents.
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