Act Global, Think Local
Although quite different in makeup and operation, dispersed teams and local teams share some important characteristics. All successful teams need to be well designed. That includes defining the purpose of the team, building in project management expertise, defining team member roles, and setting a clear direction toward completing assigned work. Perhaps most important, there must be clear and measurable goals and objectives that are understood by all members. To be effective, both kinds of teams have to coordinate and interweave a series of complex tasks.
The importance of team composition is another shared characteristic. Leaders pay careful attention to individual and team-level attributes and how they combine to form the team. Those attributes include things such as competence, the desire to work on a team, and whether members have similar jobs and interests.
Teamwork and trust are other attributes essential to both dispersed and local teams. On effective teams, members work together on tasks. Communication—sending, receiving, and interpreting information—and interpersonal relationships play a large part in determining the success of both kinds of teams. Both kinds meet regularly to report progress and refine tactics.
If dispersed and local teams are so similar, you might ask why it takes special attention to lead a dispersed team. The answer lies in their differences, which paradoxically can appear in the same areas as their similarities. When it comes to team design and structure, for example, scheduling difficulties can create significant project management challenges. Timelines and agendas, budgets, physical distance, time differences, and other factors can affect team member roles and make it more difficult to maintain a clear direction.
Differences in team composition also come into play. Because the members of dispersed teams have greater cultural differences, more awareness and tolerance are required when it comes to interpersonal relations. Without that awareness and tolerance, teamwork and trust are adversely affected, making it more difficult for the team to communicate and make decisions.