In this technological age, many individuals work with people from various locations. More often than not, challenges arise when the people that you are working with are not located in the same office. Distributed teams pose a major challenge to organizations as they rely on good communication to thrive.
A distributed team can be defined as people who are working in one group but are separated by their geographical locations. It can be in a different time zones, a neighboring city or even in a different building. The links of a distributed team are strengthened by reliable webs of communication technology.
There are several challenges that distributed teams on a global scale face on a daily basis, the notable ones include the following:
1. Lack of In-person Interaction
Distributed teams make it extremely difficult to judge the body language, have one-on-one conversations or even stop by a colleague's desk. In addition, it is not possible to read emotions, pick up clues or even feel the energy inside a room beyond the scope of a colleague's webcam. Generally, effective online communication and the development of authentic relationships with other people becomes increasingly difficult.
2. Time Zone Mismatch
Globally distributed teams usually have people across several time zones. This means that there is a time overlap for productive meetings, this is the case, especially for distributed teams that are many time zones away from one another. Furthermore, the time zone mismatch has a psychological aspect as well. This is because the mood and attitude change throughout a day, most people are more vigilant and alert in the morning and more thoughtful and emotional in the evening.
3. People Come from Various Cultures
This is a very difficult hurdle to overcome. Cultures differ dramatically, they have different work ethics, communication styles, values and context. These affect real-time collaboration in many ways and with serious repercussions.
4. The Black Box
Remote team members are normally far away and people do not see what they are up to or who is working on what project. They simply operate by requirements being sent in and an output is expected.
5. Non-native Speakers
Distributed teams that comprise of non-native English speakers normally experience challenges. This is because some members of the team will be shy to speak up. This might lead to lack of effective communication that might be costly to the team in the long run.
6. Us Versus Them
This is normally a big problem for geographically distributed teams. It develops underneath the surface with people unawares. People become friends with those at the office and sideline those are not around. It is a mindset that deteriorates collaboration over the course of time.
7. Product Delivery Issues
When the design/requirements team is distributed, the process of requirements delivery can be challenging. This is because teams are left with large design specifications that are difficult to read. When the functionality and features are distributed via piecemeal, the members of a distributed team risk losing track of the designs and context.
The following are some of the solutions to the challenges faced by distributed teams.
1. Video Chat over Calls
It is recommended that during conference calls, distributed team members should use video chat such as ezTalks Cloud Meeting. It is a video conferencing solution for remote collaboration and communication. This allows people to easily read the facial expressions of remote colleagues and that is invaluable for communication.
2. Employee Rotations
Members of a distributed team should be rotated between different locations. Moreover, the entire team should meet in a single location for quarterly/annual meetings, rallies and retreats. This allows them to know each other far from the work environment. This eliminates any existing barrier between members.
3. Expose Distributed Team to Clients
Most distributed teams suffer from a low exposure to clients and the market. This greatly improves the productivity of distributed teams.
4. Alliances between Teams
Animosity between members of a team usually results from a lack of understanding. This is why it is important to forge alliances between different distributed teams so that they learn to respect and support each other.
5. Common Vision
Having a common vision for all members of a distributed team will unite and align them. This works well against the us vs them mentality that was earlier mentioned.
6. Connect People in a Creative Manner
When people are connected in a creative manner outside a typical video conference call, the culture barrier can be easily overcome with little difficulty. This can be over a social event where people can talk.
7. Story Sized Sections
Parsing the requirements into convenient story-sized sections and consequently sending them out as storyboards can solve the problem of requirements delivery process for distributed teams.
Globally distributed teams can easily overcome some of the challenges that they face, especially with effective and robust tools for distrubuted team for remote collaboration and communication like ezTalks Cloud Meeting.