Final Project Essay

Brandt, V., England, W., & Ward, S.. (2011). Virtual Teams. Research Technology Management, 54(6), 62-63

In this article Brandt, England, and Ward define what virtual teams are, they state “virtual teams are individuals working together who have never met each other in person and probably will not meet face-to-face during the assigned project (Brandt, England, Ward 2011).” The next part of the article is used to define what virtual teams consist of. Virtual teams mainly consist of members from different locations working together on a specific project. Although some members of the team may meet each other at some point, they will never see each other on a frequent basis. In the main body of the article Brandt, England, and Ward give 6 common dimensions of successful virtual teams, they are as follows:

1. Trust-Trust generally develops from a history of interpersonal interactions through which people come to know one another. In virtual teams, trust must be established through other means since team members may have no past experience to draw on and no future to reference (2011).

2. Cultural Differences-Cultural and language differences become magnified in virtual teams because it is much easier to hide errors and problems and make wrong assumptions. Unintended non-inclusive behaviors based on cultural norms can be interpreted as rudeness or intimidation. Fostering cultural understanding breaks down the barriers that can hamper success and leads to more effective virtual teams (2011).

3. Communication-Communication issues for virtual teams include both the tools or technologies for communication and the rules of engagement. Both are critical for virtual team success and what works well for co-located teams is generally not effective for virtual teams. Shared electronic workspaces such as shared websites on an intranet are preferred communication tools for virtual teams (2011).

4. Social Skills-Use caution when assembling virtual teams solely on the basis of people’s expertise and availability. Social skills should be considered as a major prerequisite for good teamwork within the virtual team. If the team is unable to establish a basis for the effective exchange of know-how, performance will suffer (2011).

5. Mission and Goal Clarity-While all teams need clear missions and goals to be effective, virtual teams have more opportunities for diverse assumptions about the team’s mission and goal to take root. Clarity comes from discussion among all team members to reach a common understanding of the team’s deliverables. Another key requirement for the virtual team is the need to highlight the expertise of each member of the team and how that expertise relates to the team’s goals (2011).

6. Rewards and Recognition-Finding appropriate ways to compensate virtual teams with global membership require creativity. The diversity of the individuals on the team along with local rules and regulations makes a common reward for all approach difficult to execute. Incentives for both project and personal performance need to take into account the diversity of the team (2011).

While all of these dimensions of virtual teams are important to their success, it is also noted that all virtual teams are not the same. The importance of each dimension can vary from team to team and each separate component should be emphasized more or less depending on the team make up, assigned task, and time permitted.

Wally Bock. (2003). Some rules for virtual teams. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 26(3), 43.

In this article Wally Bock describes what the best uses for virtual teams are. Virtual teams are best used for problem solving, quality assurance, product development, information sharing, and a variety of other team related activities. Within the concept of virtual teams it is important understand how the team is going to work together to accomplish the activities that are assigned. In today’s modern company virtual teams are interacting in different ways tan with traditional physical teams. Bock lists three ways virtual teams are getting their assigned activities accomplished, and what the company must provide for them to be successful.

1. Meetings-Virtual meetings will be the primary way to handle specific, narrowly focused issues quickly on these types of teams; however, virtual teams that are working on long-term projects will benefit from occasional physical meetings-especially in the early stages of their work (Bock, 2003)

2. Virtual Conferences-These interactive discussions offer an effective way to bring in an expert or to allow one team member to make a presentation to others without having to gather all participants in the same place (2003).

3. E-mail Groups-A team leader or manager can use the grouping, nickname, or list making feature on a company’s email software to increase the effectiveness of a virtual team. This ensures that when any member of the team sends any communication about the project, all of the other members receive it. For most virtual teams email is the primary means of communication (2003).

The essence of this article is noting the fact that virtual teams are only going to be effective when technology is involved. When virtual teams first started, there wasn’t much effective meeting technology available, but now there is. New technology allows virtual teams to be on the same page, stay in constant communication with one another, can keep the team organized, increase the ability of each member to make contributions, and can also decrease the expenses associated with physical meetings. Bock also notes that “using the available technology allows virtual teams to be more innovative, and more successful than their physical counterparts. (2003).”

Dobson, Sarah. Canadian HR Reporter. Toronto: Oct 10, 2011. Vol. 24, Issue. 17

In this article Sarah Dobson gives reasons and facts why many companies are increasing their virtual team workforce. In today’s tough economy companies’ are focusing a lot of attention to cost cutting. In a survey conducted by Dobson she found that “over 50% (56%) of companies are planning on using more virtual teams, as a direct relation to cost cutting (Dobson 2011).” Another reason for the spike in virtual teams is the widespread downsizing that has been seen globally. By hiring workers in less costly markets and managing these new employees as virtual teams, companies have seen a drop across the board in expenses related to labor, travel, real-estate, and taxes.

Dobson goes on to talk about the advantages of virtual teams. “One of the advantages is having the ability to move in quickly and work with people from almost any location, having a broad pool of people to pull from allows a company to get terrific team members no matter where they were located (2011).” The notion of being able to pull employees from any part of the world is one of the key success factors of virtual teams. There are many multinational organizations growing rapidly in emerging markets such as China and Brazil fueling, the abundance of talent, demand for new skill sets, and a more distributed and diverse workforce.

Although this article is heavy on the importance and advantages of virtual teams in today modern workplace, Dobson also points out that a virtual team can pose many challenges to other parts of a corporation. As a result of her survey Dobson found “66% of HR professionals need to do more work with virtual teams with the top three challenges being additional training, communication issues, and time zone or distance issues (2011). HR’s role in building and supporting virtual teams is extensive, this includes selecting the right people, understanding the skills and capabilities required, enabling policies over great distances, and getting separate departments such as IT working together. It’s a balancing act for HR in managing budgets and ensuring the sustainability and growth of their companies, said Dobson (2011).

Mancini, Dale J. (2010). Building organizational trust in virtual teams. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 2, 1-5. This article contends that trust is the root of any team’s success and states that cross-cultural understanding and communication play significant roles in building organizational trust.

People’s sense of trust is developed between every interaction with each other. Trust cannot be forced into an organization or group. A virtual team, brought together to complete a major task, does not already have a foundation upon which trust already lies and therefore starts its project without established trust. Organizational trust can be hampered by cultural and communication difficulties. When team members originate from different cultures, the cultural differences in communication can create major obstacles that need to be overcome. To help foster communication in a virtual team that consists of members from different cultures there must be knowledge of each member’s national culture, which can help with understanding expected behavior in a variety of situations. If an understanding is not apparent within the team there may be a lot of unintended miscommunication which can derail a project from the start. Mancini notes that “protocols, appropriateness, monitoring, and feedback mechanisms must all be dynamically adjusted in this unique communication environment (Mancini, 2010).”

Trust is defined as reciprocal faith in others’ intentions and behavior. When dealing with a multitude of cultures in a virtual group it is important to understand that each culture has its own unique characteristics that function as a moral compass guiding the way they meet the challenges of life. Each group member must not judge but understand each of the beliefs of their fellow group members to help establish clear goals, a commitment to open communication, and trust and accept the rules and procedures of the virtual team. Only when all parties involved in the virtual team “seek not to judge but to understand (2011),” can real success begin.

Naish, Richard. (2009, October). Take the virtual lead. E. learning Age.

This article talks about being an effective leader in a virtual team. Nash notes a 2001 study among students by Kayworth & Leider that found the most effective leaders demonstrate mentoring skills, understanding for others and empathy (Naish 2009). This is import to note as being a leader in a virtual team requires a different leadership technique than the traditional command and control style utilized in many co-location teams. Leaders must use trust over control in these virtual team environments because in many cases with the team members being in separate locations it will be difficult for a leader to oversee what is going on with the group at all times.

The second part of this article is used to define the different stages of trust that develop in a virtual team. Initial trust comes from team members personal characteristics, this type of trust can be re-enforced by team members sharing information about them. Naish notes a 1999 research study that found “high-performing virtual teams spend up to half their time in the first two weeks exchanging social information (2009).” Over time initial trust can erode in a virtual team, the next phase of trust in a virtual team is cognitive trust which will take the place of the eroding initial trust. Cognitive trust is based on people’s experience with each other. It is a kind of trust that is earned not given. In a virtual team cognitive trust can be earned by prompt replies to emails, sticking to deadlines, attending virtual meeting on time, and following up on all of the promises that are made in a group.

Neish concludes his article by giving three tips for being a successful leader on an effective virtual team. “A leader must develop awareness of similarities and differences in the team members (2009). Virtual leaders need to encourage team members to share information. This allows members to see how similar they are even though they are working far apart. “A leader must watch out for misunderstandings (2009).” Face-to-face meetings are important at the beginning of the project and at points during; this allows a mutual understanding to develop and allows team members to build relationships with others. “A leader must give appropriate skills and support (2009).” Virtual leaders need to ensure all team members have essential virtual team skills: self-management, communication skills, and inner-personal awareness. Leaders must also monitor performance, reward team outcomes, and make sure team member have the resources they need to be successful. It is a balance of all of these skills that make for an effective virtual leader.

Stephen Morris. (2008). How to get real results from virtual teams: Recognize that people, tasks and technology are different but equal. Human Resource Management International Digest, 16(4), 33-35.

This article is all about making sure each member of a virtual group has the proper training with the technology used to make a virtual team successful. Stephen Morris first notes that while technology is very important it is not an end all solution to having a functional virtual team. Technology can only work properly when it is put to proper use by the people using it; Morris says “people who have had no formal telephone or e-mail training can find themselves in a world where they spend hours dealing with the issues of technology and not focusing on the project at hand (Morris 2008).”

It is important for group members to have the proper training on the technology they are using to help the virtual team function. In many instances virtual teams are put in pressure situations, in these types of conditions, if a group leader has made the assumption that all members have had proper training the affect can be detrimental to the group. When team members are physical present with one another, especially in high pressure situations, they tend to monitor the impact of communication. In the fast-speed communication of the new digital age, people often transmit communication without taking into consideration the impact it may have.

Morris next talks about intent versus impact, his definition of intent is as follows, “Most virtual teams probably have an urgent need–intent. We are surrounded by technology, feeling under pressure and often isolated. If no thought is applied, off go the e-mails like rockets–we are under pressure to deliver, right? There is little time for small talk here. Telephone calls are to the point. ‘‘They have to understand that I am in a hurry.’’ But if we treat virtual-team members as ‘‘human doings’’ and not ‘‘human beings,’’ they often delay the work flow (2009). The important thing to understand here is even thought technology is driving the work that is being done in a virtual team situation leaders can’t view the people using the technology as technological pieces themselves. A successful virtual leader assures that all participants have the proper training in all of the technology used; they can then balance the people, tasks, and technology usage, and recognize they are all different but not equal.

While technology may not be the savior it is thought by some, it is not the demon seen by others, it simply is what it is. The human element brings it to life and defines its use and impact on the world. With a little care it can be turned into the most amazing enabler for co-creation and collaboration. With a very little carelessness, it can create total disconnect.

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