Read “Building Virtual Global Teams” on pages 314 and 315 in your text. What is a virtual global team? Is it harder or easier for virtual team members to work together than teams whose members meet face-to-face? (25 points) (A 1½-page response is required.)
A virtual team is a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology. In a virtual team environment, work is not limited to the traditional 9-5 work day and product or services can be created in a way that result into faster time to market of products, technology and services. This also enables companies to compete on a global scale by bringing together people with different types of knowledge into ‘online’ meetings from around the globe.
The availability of electronic communication such as e-mail, audio conferencing, web-based meetings and video conferencing has made such virtual teams feasible. Working in electronic space and free from the constraints of geographical distance, members of highly distributed teams can do the same things in computer networks as do members of face-to-face groups: share information, make decisions, and complete tasks. The highly distributed team environment makes it possible to:
- Form teams of people from the same company who live in widespread geographic areas,
- Add special expertise to a global team even though the expert is not in the same geographic area,
- Incorporate employees who work from home offices,
- Form teams of people who work different shifts or hours,
- Include people with mobility limitations or disabilities, and
- Move forward with projects that would have been ignored due to travel expenses.
It can become harder for virtual team members to work together than teams whose members meet face-to-face if proper management and communication planning is not carried out. It becomes increasingly important in a highly distributed team environment. Additional time may be needed to set clear expectations, facilitate communications, develop protocols for resolving conflict, include people in decision-making, and share credit in successes. Today global managers operate in a global environment and work on projects characterized by cultural diversity. Team members often have diverse industry experience, multiple languages, and sometimes operate in the language that is a different than their native one. The global management team should capitalize on cultural differences, focus on developing and sustaining the global team throughout the global life cycle, and promote working together interdependently in a climate of mutual trust. Developing the global team improves the people skills, technical competencies, and overall team environment and global performance. It requires clear, timely, effective, and efficient communication between team members throughout the life of the project.
In addition, discussions and information shared among team members can also be electronically stored for continuous access and historical record keeping. Many of the downsides to highly distributed teams occur for the same reasons they do in other groups. Members of virtual team can have difficulties establishing good working relationships. Relationships and interactions among highly distributed team members are different from those of face-to-face settings. The lack of face-to-face interaction limits the role of emotions and nonverbal cues in the communication process, perhaps depersonalizing relations among team members. Meeting teams quite often is practically not possible. There are times where the major decisions are made remotely. Management plan in a virtual team environment would involve the following:
- Define and distribute team goals and individual responsibilities across the team
- Develop a sense of familiarity with the team members — use tools such as video conferences, periodic calls and e-mails to encourage interaction
- Have a clear cut communication plan with the right point of contact defined at every location
- To have regular global team meeting and maximize the number of meetings to create awareness on global happenings
- Adjust according to the time differences
- Define processes and develop back-ups to handle emergency scenarios
- Define conventional terminology and ensure it is understood by all the team members.
There are challenges, however, inherent in the virtual team concept. It is difficult to build trust and to manage conflict when team members lack the ability to interact face-to-face. Communication is often more challenging, particularly among global virtual teams, which can also make it more difficult to overcome cultural barriers (http://onlinemba.unc.edu/).