Effectively Managing Virtual Teams and Teamwork

A Virtual Team

A group of people working at different geographic locations but connected electronically form a virtual team. However, they telecommute with the possibility of occasionally meeting face to face. To qualify as a team, it must be composed of twenty-five or more people. Virtual teams are characterized by individuals with complementary skills that fall into technical, problem solving, and interpersonal skills. They include members from outside of organizations, are continuously created and reformed, and are characterized by diverse reporting relationships. In addition to that, virtual teams are separated by distance and space, are supported by hardware and software which may include telephone links, local and wide area networks, intranets and extranets and other communication links (Lisa, 1997, p.1). Nodes are the same, but communication channels include applications such as groupware. Virtual teams meet various challenges particularly due to the ever-changing business environments, varied management and communication strategies on distributed communication systems platforms. In addition to that, virtual teams are classified into executive teams due to managerial positions held by team members, project teams characterized by tasks performed and the role of team members, and community management teams that span the professional field of its members.

Difference between Virtual Teams and Traditional Teams

Traditional teams are characterized by face-to-face interrelations and work offline, while virtual teams employ groupware and shareware communication technologies and are linked electronically (Beise, 2004, p.129). Traditional teams are synchronous while virtual teams are asynchronous. Traditional teams work in the same place at the same time while virtual teams telecommute. According to Beise (2004, p.130), traditional teams are less cost-effective, while virtual teams are cost-effective, deal with issues in real-time, are always available to address issues, but cannot express body language contrary to traditional teams. Virtual teams are focused, document transactions efficiently, and take control of work schedules. Virtual teams are interdependent, have a clear purpose and employ Metalanguage as their communication tool. Trust is the basis of their working together.

Changes Organizations Have to Make

Organizations have to adopt new management styles by focusing on understanding the characteristics of groups and how to manage those groups using new media, adopt new meeting approaches when using groupware and related applications and technologies, and critically identify the working environment and align it to an organization’s communication strategy. In addition to that, organizations must integrate technologies for virtual teams. These technologies include intranet and extranet network communication strategies which employ a suite of applications such as Directories and Web pages. To successfully integrate and benefit from virtual teams, a modern trend in management, organizational executives should develop a shared understanding and purpose of virtual teams in maintaining alignments to organizational strategies and interests. Roles played by team members should be clearly defined and aligned accordingly. Effects of media on the culture of a virtual team, data exchange as a form o communication, quality communication through effective feedbacks, effective facilitation of pace in accessing the virtual environment, and weaving should be incorporated in organizations’ communication strategies for effective change.

Reasons for Poor Performance of Virtual Teams

Lack of trust within the team members and the business environment, over-reliance on technology, failure to grasp and use tools effectively, poor relationships between team members, geographic disposition and cultural and language barriers, stereotyping that at times creates false impressions about team members, and communication channels breakdowns. Large team sizes impede the performance of a team, failure to align teamwork to organizational strategies, lack of clear understanding of what to do, and lack of vital team elements such as team communication, task completion, goal setting, and poor team relationships.

Information Technology and Interdependence

Casey and Richardson (2006, p.87) argue that Interdependent teams that incorporate Information Technology experience team synergies leading to shared purposes and span widely experienced team members who are available in real-time. Collaborative efforts form the basis of these technologically interdependent teams. Interdisciplinary benefits accrue due to these collaborations and multidisciplinary approaches provide a basis for wider approaches to problem-solving and integration of diverse professional experiences.

How Interdependence Breaks and Makes Teams

When in the chain of communication and collaborative efforts a communication breakdown occurs on its Information Technology Infrastructure, a team is likely to fail in its purpose. Lisa (1997, p.45) argues that team members who do not possess sufficient knowledge and technical skills in particular fields may not effectively deliver towards an organization’s goals and objectives. Interdependence builds virtual teams through information sharing, identification of numerous opportunities as team members’ work from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations (Lisa, 1997, p. 78). Team members can easily contribute resources, experience, technical expertise, cultural contributions when a business organization strategizes to go offshore. Interdependence breaks virtual teams when collaborative efforts lack in team building and management efforts, when team members do not share their contribution in their areas of task specialization, and when an individual succeeds and fails to attribute that success to the whole team.

Examples to Illustrate the Above Discussion

Outstanding examples abound that illustrate the above discussion include several multinational corporations that have integrated Information Technology in their corporate strategies. Among these are Microsoft and its products. The company has several experienced and well-skilled staff that collaboratively works as a virtual team. Other companies include eBay, the world’s largest e-marketing company among others.

Reference List

Beise, C. (2004). IT Project Management and Virtual Teams Proceedings of the SIGMIS conference on Computer personnel research: Careers, culture, and ethics in a networked environment. Tucson: AZ. pages: 129 – 133.

Casey, V. & Richardson, I. (2006). Uncovering the reality within virtual software teams, Proceedings of the 2006 international workshop on Global software development for the practitioner. Shanghai: China, pages: 66-72.

Lisa, K. (1997). Managing Virtual Teams. Web.