Communication and the Virtual Team
The successful passing of information creates an important bond between virtual team members. “Without creating the connections, a virtual team can’t do what it needs to; function as a cohesive unit” (Thompson, n.d., Introduction section, ¶2). Information should be specific to the task at hand with a common goal in mind. Complete and accurate information not only helps a team reach its goal, but it also avoids problems and conflicts that arise between members. The importance of clear, concise information in a virtual team can not be stressed enough; however, timing should also be considered when sharing information. Information not received in a timely fashion also jeopardizes the cohesiveness of the team.
The methods of communicating for a virtual team consist of different tools than used by a traditional team because “…awareness of others’ activities is more difficult and requires some degree of technological intervention” (Fussell et.al., 1998, p. 276). A virtual team needs to use alternative tools because it has members working from different geographical areas and possibly at different times. A traditional team meets face to face, whereas a virtual team needs the use of technology to operate and interact efficiently. Teleconferencing, video conferencing, faxing, e-mail, and instant messaging are some of the tools available to a virtual team.
Teleconferencing gives a team the convenience of sharing information in real time. When meeting in this manner, team members are able to receive instant feedback. Other members can also listen to the tone and inflection of the member speaking. Telephone conferencing involves minimal cost but requires that team members be available at the same time. In addition, members out of range of the microphone may not be heard.
Video conferencing gives a team the same advantages as telephone conferencing with the added benefit of being able to interpret body language and facial expression. However, members not within sight of the camera will not be seen and possibly not heard clearly. Unlike teleconferencing, “…videoconferencing [sic] rooms are quite expensive to set up and maintain” (Parker, 2003, p. 187).
Faxing is practical if printed information needs to be passed to a member without access to another technology such as e-mail. The use of faxes can be a faster form of communication as opposed to entering the information into a computer or sending data via another method. However, several disadvantages exist, such as the clarity of the transmitted document, the recipient may not receive the entire document, and the sender may encounter a busy fax line.
E-mail is an excellent tool in communicating ideas and thoughts. Correspondence sent via e-mail can be sent anytime an idea comes to fruition and it can easily be recorded to a computer file or printed for future reference. Composed messages that are proof read and carefully thought out are...