Technology innovation in organizations has changed how team work and managed. Increasingly, organizations are using virtual teams in their operations; virtual teams are teams whose members are separated by time and/or space and they interact electronically and few occasions face-to-face meetings. Virtual teams are beneficial to organizations since they can reduce operation or project costs, and increase velocity in business. On the other hand virtual teams have their limitations since they are associated with communication problems, create over reliance on technology and some workers are not able to work effectively in virtual teams (Schwalbe, 2009, p.67).
According to Kimball, (1997, Para 2) managing virtual teams include managing communication strategies and project management processes and social aspects. Moreover, higher performance in virtual teams can be achieved by promoting collaborative culture in the virtual teams.
Thus, this paper will describe a virtual team management experience as team leader of a virtual team in IT department. Primarily, the paper will establish problems and benefits of virtual teams and point out virtual teams management skills present in the real world.
Managing Virtual Teams
My organization’s virtual team comprised of team members in various geographic locations. The team was a ‘project team’ whose members were selected based on their expertise on the project task (Kimball, 1997). The team members were tasked with developing a database design that would upgrade the organization’s functionality and information sharing between all braches. Furthermore, I was in charge of the team while the team members were drawn from IT departments from our organization’s branches.
Through virtual team working the team was able to cut on travel costs between the branches for meetings. Moreover, the team benefitted from more expertise and flexibility since the team comprised of members from different geographic location (Schwalbe, 2009, p.67). Similarly, the virtual teams enabled the team members to maintain a work/life balance by eliminating constant long distance travel.
Generally, the team relied heavily on technology for communication with a few face-to-face meeting. After team formation the team members gathered for a face-to-face meeting where team processes where defined. These included methods of decision making, methods of conflict resolution, communication strategies, developing a time schedule for the project and defining the roles and responsibilities of each member. Moreover, the team identified ways of reporting progress in their duties.
Furthermore, the team faced several conflicts caused by lack of team bond due to lack of face-to-face interaction. Similarly, conflicts were also caused by members undermining other member’s efforts or contribution. In this instances I had to intervene and resolve conflict promptly in order to avoid conflict escalation which has a potential to undermine team’s productivity and performance (Webber, Larry & Webber, Frederick, 2008, p.22-14). Moreover, the team incorporated video conferences to enhance team bonds and cohesion.
Essentially, the team took longer duration before arriving at group decisions due to lack of actual discussions; thus increased project duration (Webber, Larry & Webber, Frederick, 2008, p.22-14). Some members created unnecessary delays by failing to give prompt responses or reports. It became apparent that some team members were not able to prioritize their daily tasks and complete high priority tasks. Thus, time management was a great challenge for the team’s activities.
Communication in the virtual team enhanced team cohesion and bond, therefore team’s productivity. As a team leader I had to promote collaborative approach in the team through constant communication. Through efficient communication the team was able to create mutual understanding of the database being designed. However, communication breakdown could have resulted in compromise of team performance and quality of the team’s goals. Occasionally, team members did not share project and team related information in a timely and accurate manner. Subsequently, using virtual meeting was not reliable tool to use when tackling issues of create impact to the team or project.
In order to motivate the team members to attain the team objectives, I had to incorporate rewarding scheme for the team. Basically, in the team’s weakly meetings I recognized the most influential team members in that week. Through recognition, team members were encouraged to learn new skills or to improve their individual performance hence improved team performance. Besides, I also ensured that the team members are remunerated properly. In addition, I encouraged the team members to acquire additional information on the project through training to develop in-depth expertise (Gibson & Cohen, 2003, p.131).
Moreover, as the team leader I promoted collaboration in the virtual team in order to develop high performance team. This was mainly done by defining an appropriate team structure and work processes, promoting a culture supportive of collaboration and support system, and encouraging knowledge sharing (Nimiro et al., 2008, p.13). Furthermore, I modeled behaviors and attributes which I desired my team members to adopt.
The benefits of virtual teams in an organization include reduction of operational and project costs due to elimination of travel costs. Moreover, workers are able to maintain work/life balance. Importantly, teams’ productivity is increased due to inclusion of wide range of people in a project. On the hand, virtual experience variety of problems in their operations, essentially conflicts, communication breakdown which can comprise team productivity. High performance in virtual teams can only be attained if the team cultivates a culture of collaboration.
Gibson, C. & Cohen, S., (2003). Virtual Teams that Work: Creating Conditions for Virtual Team Effectiveness. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.
Kimball, L., (1997). Managing Virtual Teams. Web.
Nimiro, j., Beyerlein, Michael, Bradley, L. & Beyerlein, Susan, (2008).The handbook of High-performance Virtual Teams: A toolkit for Collaborating across Boundaries, Volume 10. San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.
Schwalbe, K., (2009). Information Technology Project Management. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Webber, Larry & Webber, Frederick, (2008). IT Project Management Essential, 2009 Ed. US: Aspen Publishers Online.