Today’s work is rarely carried out at only one location. Geographically distributed teams have gone from being an anomaly to being the standard. Despite that, our theories of work organization and supervision come from the days of direct supervision and close coordination. How does “distance” affect work? How do teams coordinate tasks? What are the effects of distribution on motivation and performance? How does a team unite around a common purpose? Ultimately, what part does technology play in rectifying the situation? This paper demonstrates that technology helps to solve many issues that arise in the geographically distributed team. II. Introduction
Geographically dispersed and other such nontraditional teams are becoming ever more common as corporations cut down on real estate costs, offer employees flexibility, and tap into expertise from anywhere and everywhere (Hyatt, 2008). Smooth coordination in distributed teams develops from an informal hierarchical structure. These flatter, organic organizational structures enable workers to deal more effectively with dynamic and uncertain environments.
Effective teamwork is essential in today's world, but companies can't expect a new team to perform seamlessly from the very beginning. Team formation takes time, and usually follows some easily recognizable stages, as the team journeys from being a group of strangers to becoming a united team with a common goal (Mind Tools, 2012).
A key aspect of team effectiveness across geographical distance is communication. Without effective communication, teams cannot maintain the focus needed to achieve a goal. Distributed teams heighten the need for clear, timely communication between sites. There is increased complexity due to multiple time zones, language barriers, and cultural differences (Kaberwal, 2013). A necessary part of team participation, collaboration, requires identifiable tools for efficient work to happen. Many questions arise in consideration of distributed teams. Are distributed teams difficult to manage? Are they failing to meet some expectations? Are employees having trouble working as a team? Is team morale a problem?
Many of the highest-performing teams are distributed teams (Author, 2013). Productivity is increased through asynchronous work flow. Company culture is tighter regardless of location because of local culture fit. Employees are more deliberate about technology use, facilitating better communication (Author, 2013).
Distributed teams are of particular interest to me. I have participated in distributed teams on many projects across my thirty-three years of professional experience. Some of this experience happened far enough in the past that computers were not yet in use by the company for which I worked, while other, more recent experience, involves the set-up, maintenance and usage of computers to facilitate such collaboration. This paper draws on past experience, but focuses mainly on the last distributed team on which I worked. III. Distributed Teams
A long time ago – before the days of videoconferencing, intranets, and email – teams generally needed to be in the same physical location in order to work effectively. But those days have passed. Now, many of us work regularly with colleagues based in different buildings, cities, countries, and even continents. Team members may be in different time zones, speak different languages, and be part of different cultures (Mind Tools, 2013). Having participated in distributed teams has deepened my appreciation of the set-up, maintenance and usage of computers to facilitate such collaboration.
Teams pass through various stages of development. Each of these stages has unique challenges. Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first came up with the memorable phrase "forming, storming, norming, and performing" in 1965. He used it to describe the path to high-performance that most teams should follow. Distributed teams abide by the same pattern as…