This paper examines the operation of virtual global teams vis a vis heterogeneous groups from a single culture. The paper kicks off with an introduction explaining the difference thereof between global virtual teams and the latter. A general overview of the unique challenges typical for global virtual teams follows. Throughout the paper these challenges unique for global virtual teams form the pillar for the development of the skills needed to manage the teams.In this part, the challenges facing global virtual teams but are absent in the heterogeneous groups from a single culture are closely examined, citing the managerial skills needed by the virtual team managers to carry out the management functions in those teams. An insight on the future of the global virtual teams as a factor of the emerging technology is discussed.
International Managers Working With Virtual Global Teams
Emergence of global virtual teams is no surprise especially with the increased advancement in technology. The virtual teams are distributed all over across the world where people work even under different time zones (McGrath, 1991, pp. 147-174). This by all means explains the difference between global virtual teams and heterogeneous groups from a single culture. One crystal clear aspect of the virtual teams is that they have to work across cultures, unlike heterogeneous groups and like the question states are from a single culture. This at glance strongly suggests that the challenges faced by the virtual teams are very different from the challenges facing the heterogeneous groups from a single culture. Managers in the global virtual teams will need a whole set of different skills from those needed by the managers of the heterogeneous groups from a single culture.
Overview of the unique challenges f global virtual teams
This part of the paper offers a general overview of the challenges facing the global virtual teams that are different from the ones facing the heterogeneous groups from a single culture. First, there is a language barrier. The global virtual teams incorporate people from various parts of the world at a cross-cultural level. This has implications on the choice of language to use since the members of the virtual teams speak different languages. While members may agree to settle on the use of a single language, the proficiency of the members in the language selected differs from one member to another; thus, the challenge is not completely done away with. Comparing with the heterogeneous groups from a single culture, language is not much of a problem bearing in mind that these people come from a single culture. The slight hitches that may show up concerning language can easily be dealt with at that level if members settle on a particular language since their proficiency will almost equal owing to the fact that they share the same culture (Thompsen, 2000).
Another challenge rampant in global virtual teams is cultural differences. Global virtual teams have to work across cultures. Working across cultures has not always been a walk in the park. Firstly due to the challenge of the language barrier but that can be solved by switching to a common language. Cross cultural interactions across the world have been characterized by misunderstanding due to the varying opinions and views coming from the members (Eversole, 2012). While one may separate a person from their language simply by having them switch communication to another language common between the members, one cannot separate an individual from their culture. Culture is embedded in a person and thus, it is an integral part of them. Cross cultural conflicts arise between people as they communicate. The use of gestures and non-verbal cues in communication across cultures is a major source of conflicts (Watkins, 2013). This is because same gestures mean have different meanings in different cultural contexts. Culture is also hinders effective production due to varied opinions from the members. How this happens also traces back to cultural difference. People have this ingrained tendency to view the world and shape their opinions according to their cultural setting. This comes with the inability to appreciate a sort of conflicting opinion from other members from other cultures (Techdoer Times, 2008).
Lack of Intimacy in global virtual teams is also a major challenge. For a team to succeed in their collective duty to achieve certain goals, intimacy is critical. This lacks to a greater extent in global virtual teams but it is common in heterogeneous groups from single culture. Empathetic members are unable to share in the predicaments of other members of the team due to distance and cultural challenges (UNC, 2013). This also comes hand in hand with mistrust that is rampant and greatly cripples the activities of global virtual teams as opposed to heterogeneous groups from single culture (Lewis, 2014). The saying of “out of sight out of mind” applies in the global virtual teams and therefore members fail to take personal initiative and accomplish tasks entrusted to them with diligence and faithfulness. Conversely, the heterogeneous groups from single culture promote trustworthiness through physical meetings where the manager is able to call an action for team play in the tasks given to the members (DeSanctis&Monge, 1999).
Managers in global virtual teams need to enhance the skill of self-leadership in the team. For a collocated group (Gould, 2006), the manager can easily realize any deficiencies in the group and address the challenges on the grounds (Jessica, 2000, pp. 43-46). For instance, an interpersonal misunderstanding can be resolved by simply holding a dialogue with the conflicting parties. However, due to cultural diversity and geographical distance, a manager in the global virtual teams may not be able to deal with such a problem at a personal level. Nevertheless, the use of the advanced technology in communication and information transfer can be helpful under such situations. Consequently, a manager in the global virtual teams must be in a position to use this technology to their advantage (Lojeski& Reilly, 2008, pp. 33-37). The skill of self-leadership widely applies in a global virtual team if the team has to realize the desired success. The members must be fully aware of the challenges facing them due to dispersion and therefore invent efficient methods to overcome the problems that they encounter. This calls for the team members to be self-sufficient and independent, being able to supervise their own work since the team leader has little input due to the geographical distance. Serious companies in virtual collaboration need to target the efforts of the Human Resource at chosen team leaders and also at members of the team for the individuals to develop the relevant skills towards working in a virtual context (Siebdrat ,Hoegl , &Holger , 2009).
Lastly on challenges facing global virtual teams is coordinating across different time zones. Members of the global virtual teams are located in different geographical regions of the world experiencing varying time zones. While there is the benefit of a 24-hour workflow under different time zones, the challenge of uncompleted work is rampant. The manager also finds it difficult to convene a meeting that will be fair to everyone. Thus meetings for global virtual teams are highly discouraged. The workday for some members ends while that for others starts, it becomes increasingly hard to monitor the work for each and every member of the team which turns out that productivity is greatly affected especially when the team has the type of people who can only work under supervision.
Skills needed to manage global virtual teams
Well these are not the only challenges facing global virtual teams. There are others which include problems of distribution of work, differences in styles of communication as well as problems of effective tracking of productivity.While managers may need the same skills to enhance team building in both types of teams, the difference lies in the way these skills are effected in both (Cornelius & Associates, 2009). The first skill is leadership. Both teams require a manager with leadership skills. However, while heterogeneous groups from single culture require the manager to act like a facilitator of the tasks given, virtual teams require a manager who is clear in defining directions and removing ambiguity from the processes taking place. To work smoothly, management of global virtual teams need to be highly centralized as opposed to the heterogeneous groups from single culture. The team leaders in virtual teams have to formalize every role and responsibility starting with their own (Jarvenpaa&Leidner, 1998, pp. 17-23).
Global virtual teams managers also need to employ different methods of decision making. How managers make decisions is greatly influenced by their cultural background. For instance, in the United States, managers can implore input from the team, quickly choose direction and make carry out adjustments that see the project is moving forward. In Sweden, decisions are made through lengthy building of consensus which may take many meetings and eventually lead to a robust buy-in as well as rapid implementation (Meyer, 2010).The education system in France inspired by the Descartes teaches that confrontation and debate are important elements of any process of decision making. In Japan, on the other hand, decisions are made informally through one on one deliberations prior a formal meeting by the group. Dealing with people from different cultural contexts then, global virtual teams’ managers require to try out different methods of decision making without inclining to one culture.
Communication is a critical element in managing global virtual teams (UCSF, 2012). In heterogeneous groups, managers can convene meetings where their use of body movement, gestures and expressions is very much widely used. This is in contrast with what happens in global virtual teams where the manager has to sit in front of a webcam, use Skype or video conferencing when communicating with the members of the team. However, the managers can move their arms or simply walk around in front of the camera to communicate effectively. Additionally, the managers of the global virtual teams can as well develop skills that will enhance their persuasive and interpersonal relations with the members. The managers in these teams need also to have advanced skills to be able to handle their varied member composition (Lurey&Raisinghani, 2001).
Lastly, on the managerial skills, managers in the global virtual teams need to device other ways that can determine the trust of the members unlike in the heterogeneous groups where the manager is there to observe how the members do their work. To that effect, managers in the global virtual teams rely on the members’ reliability to deliver the desired quality of work within the required time over and again. This way, the managers are able to note the members who can be trusted and those who cannot (Gills, 2006, pp. 58-60).
Although global virtual teams face numerous challenges especially in management, there is the better side of it. First for companies especially the larger ones such as SAP, General Electric and IBM to be able to accomplish complex missions such as development, research and distribution, global virtual teams are very key. This is because they cluster competencies in various centers of excellence, often scattered geographically in many parts of the world (Staples, Hulland, & Higgins, 1998). In the centers of excellence, expertise is on the highest level, while diversity on functional bases is relatively weakened due to specialization. Managers, however can use this structure of the organization to their advantage and assemble employees from various locations into networks meant to form a team that can maximally incorporate the various pools of expertise in order to accomplish a given task (Melcrum Publishing, 2003, pp. 13-15). Second, the companies can use the increased heterogeneity inherent in the dispersed teams to their advantage to incorporate higher levels of demographic and structural diversity. Structural diversity refers to a direct consequence of the team members being from different locations that are associated with various units of business and reporting to various managers. This diversity is highly resourceful in such teams since the members are exposed to heterogeneous working experiences, opportunities of networking and feedback. Further, since the members in global virtual teams come from different nations, it can enhance the capacity of problem-solving when the members suggest more vantage points that work on a given project.
The future of global virtual teams
With the emerging technology, global virtual teams have a bright future. This is because the technology makes communication and sending of data across countries easy. Through video conferencing and Skype, global virtual teams can hold meetings without the members having to travel long distances for physical meetings. Due to the cross-cultural interaction involved in global virtual teams, members are able to share information that is very helpful in problem solving.While, the ultimate measure of the efficiency of a virtual team is in the ability to perform and achieve the anticipated results, members of the team must ensure that they can be relied upon with the duties given to them. This is realized by effective communication with virtual and remote employees (Townsend, DeMarie S, & Hendrickson, 1998).
In conclusion, managers in the global virtual teams have to develop leadership and team building skills a notch higher than the managers in heterogeneous groups from within a single culture. This is due to the technicalities involved in the management of global virtual teams. However, managers can use this structure to their advantage in harnessing the expertise from various parts of the world and using this information to develop the organization
Cornelius, & Associates. (2009, December 2). www.corneliusassoc.com. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from Team Building Skills.
DeSanctis, G., & Monge, P. (1999). ntroduction to the special issue: Communication processes for virtual organizations. Organization. Organization Science , 693-703.
Eversole, T. M. (2012, July 19). Virtual Teams Used Most by Global Organizations, Survey Says . Retrieved June 18, 2014
Gills, T. (2006). The IABC handbook of organizational communication. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gould, D. (2006, June 5). Virtual Teams. Retrieved June 18, 2014
Jarvenpaa, S., & Leidner, D. (1998). Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 17-23.
Jessica, L. (2000). Virtual Teams: People Working Across Boundaries with Technology. New York: John Willy & Sons.
Lewis, B. (2014, February 12). Heterogeneous Groups. Retrieved June 18, 2014
Lojeski, K., & Reilly, R. (2008). Uniting the virtual workforce: Transforming leadership and innovation in the globally integrated enterprise. Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Lurey, J., & Raisinghani, M. (2001). An empirical study of best practices in virtual teams. Information & Management , 523-544.
McGrath, J. E. (1991). Time, interaction, and performance (TIP): A theory of groups. Small Group Research.
Melcrum Publishing. (2003). Building a strategy for remote communication. London: Melcrum Publishing.
Meyer, E. (2010, August 8). The Four Keys To Success With Virtual Teams. Retrieved June 18, 2014
Siebdrat , F., Hoegl , M., & Holger , E. (2009, July 1). How to Manage Virtual Teams. MIT Sloan , pp. 13-15.
Staples , D., Hulland, J., & Higgins, C. (1998). A self-efficacy theory explanation for the management of remote workers in virtual organizations. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication , 33-36.
Techdoer Times. (2008, January 17). Challenges Facing Virtual Teams. Retrieved June 18, 2014
Thompsen, J. A. (2000, September 1). www.qualitydigest.com. Retrieved June 18, 2014, from Leading Virtual Teams.
Townsend , A., DeMarie S, S., & Hendrickson, A. (1998). Virtual teams: Technology and the workplace of the future. The Academy of Management Executive , 17-29.
UCSF. (2012, May 13). Team Building. Retrieved June 18, 2014
UNC. (2013, May 4). Virtual Team Challenges. Retrieved June 18, 2014
Watkins, M. (2013, June 27). Making Virtual Teams Work: Ten Basic Principles. Retrieved June 18, 2014