Distributed teams have to make additional effort, compared to collocated teams, in communication and organization. That much is clear – distributed teams can perform as good or better than collocated teams, but only if the people rise to the challenge of creating and maintaining continuous and clear communication within the team.
Many teams are distributed only part-time, or consist of several collocated groups, or even almost entirely collocated with an exception of a lone remote member. When one team member decides to work from home one morning a week – that makes the team a distributed team. When a person who joins a team is located on another floor, or in a different state – that makes the team a distributed team.
And in a distributed team, in order for the team to gel, everyone must put in the effort to keep the team in sync and communicating – not just the person who is temporarily out of the team room. This is a tall order, especially since very often the decision to make the team distributed is made inadvertently, by the management rather than the team, and without full consideration of what it will take to run a successful distributed team.
When a team becomes “slightly distributed” for the first time, the pressure to “make it work” is usually on the person who is remote. But in order to succeed, all of the team members need to pull together and figure out new ways to communicate, to work together, to build bridges and have water cooler-type conversations for the entire team, including the team members not physically present.