Discuss everything about Virtual Teams and its application in New Product Development, R&D and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). "Virtual teams will became as important as Web to companies" (Nader Ale Ebrahim)
Virtual Teams: A Literature ReviewPosted on October 2nd, 2013 Nader Ale Ebrahim Department of Engineering Design and Manufacture, Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya; Research Support Unit, Centre of Research Services, Institute of...
Powell, Piccoli and Ives (2004) in their paper, ‘Virtual Teams: A Review of Current Literature and Directions for Future Research’, draw a distinction between ‘teams’ and ‘groups’. It is important to understand that although sometimes used interchangeably, the term ‘team’ should be used with the following widely accepted definition (Powell et al. 2004) to differentiate it from the term ‘group’ in this context: ‘A team is a collection of individuals who are interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for outcomes, who see themselves and who are seen by others as an intact social entity embedded in one or more larger social systems, and who manage their relationship across organizational boundaries.” (Cohen & Baily, 1997, p. 241).
Leadership in Virtual Teams
Motivation Language: Research has shown that a leaders motivational language and feedback approach directly effects member creativity and idea generation performance (Fan et al, 2014). It was found that members ‘receiving non-directional-giving instructions generate more ideas under the demanding feedback approach and team members receiving instructions with more empathetic language exhibit higher creativity performance under the encouraging feedback approach’ (Fan et al, 2014).
Problems with Virtual Team Management: There are five problems in the management of virtual teams (Kaboli et al, 2006):
• We can’t manage, coach, or mentor what we can’t see.
• We’ll never be able to learn the whole technology.
• We’ll never see the people who work for us.
• The complexity of the technology used by virtual teams is greatly exaggerated.
• Good Virtual team managers and leaders are well travelled and probably know at least three different languages.
The problems above are certainly not exhaustive but highlight major issues concerning the management of virtual teams (Kaboli et al, 2006). A potentially bigger issue in the management of virtual teams is culture. Company cultures may overlay national cultures and national cultures may be individualistic or collectivist in nature (Kaboli et al, 2006). Understanding and consideration of cultural differences should be a high priority for the management of virtual teams.
Types of Virtual Teams
There are multiple types of virtual teams. Some resources outline as little as six and as many as eight. Duarte and Snyder in their book, ‘Mastering Virtual Teams: Strategies, Tools and Techniques that succeed; 3rd Edition’ (2006), outline seven types of virtual teams that are outlined below. There is also an eighth type of team not observed by Duarte and Snyder, ‘Offshore ISD Teams’, which has also been included.
Network Teams: Geographically dispersed teams who collaborate to achieve a common goal or purpose (Kaboli et al, 2006; Boundless).
Parallel teams: A Virtual Parallel Team is generally formed to review and make recommendations about worldwide processes and systems, taking into account global perspectives (Kaboli et al, 2006). They are usually formed by multinational organisations (Management study guide).
Project or Product Development Teams: Subject matter experts are brought together from geographically dispersed locations (Management study guide) to conduct projects for users or customers for defined periods of time (Kaboli et al, 2006).
Functional Teams: Functional teams are formed when members from one type of work or function collaborate to perform regular or ongoing work (Kaboli et al, 2006; Management Study Guide).
Service Teams: They provide round-the-clock support or service for customers or organisations. This is achieved through the use of geographically dispersed locations across the globe to take advantage of a “follow the sun” strategy (Kaboli et al, 2006).
Management Teams: These work collaboratively on a day-to-day basis when an organisation is dispersed over multiple locations.
Offshore ISD Teams: An offshore team is used to outsource or subcontract a portion of work. This is typically software development in a low-cost geographical location and in conjunction with on-shore teams (Management Study Guide; Boundless).
Action Teams: Ad-hoc teams are assembled in (typically) emergency situations with very short lead times to provide immediate response to a situation (Kaboli et al, 2006; Management Study Guide).
Variables of Virtual Teams – A Life Cycle Model:
Saunders (2000) outlines four general categories of variables in the Life Cycle Model of virtual teams which can be used to understand and evaluate how virtual teams work. These categories are as follows: Inputs, Socio-emotional processes, task processes and outputs (Powell et al. 2004). Diagram_of_the_focus_of_virtual_team_research_(Powell,_Piccoli_and_Ives,_2004,_p.8).png (Image: Powell et al, 2004)
Design: The design of the virtual team and the structuring of its interactions, particularly early on in the team’s life, have been found to impact the development of a shared language and shared understanding by team members Socio-emotional processes (Powell et al, 2004). Research has shown that face-to-face interaction between members early on when building a virtual team can help cohesion and form the basis for better performance (Powell et al, 2004). When face-to-face meetings are not feasible, a shared language and shared mental models may be built by relying on a common database providing all information pertinent to the team assignment (Powell et al, 2004; Suchan & Hayzak, 2001).
Culture: Cultural differences in Global Virtual Teams can have a huge impact on the cohesion and performance of a team. Understanding and co-ordination are required to manage potential conflict that may arise. The negative effect of cultural differences may be mitigated by an effort to actively understand and accept the differences (Powell et al, 2004; Robey et al., 2000; Sarker & Sahay, 2002).
Technical: This refers to the technical expertise or the ability of the team member to use the technology and cope with technical problems. One of the greatest challenges to setting up a virtual team is the incorporation of technophobic personnel (Townsend et al, 1998).
Training: Early and uniform training of personnel can directly affect cohesiveness (Powell, et al, 2004). Conflict can arise when team members have differing levels of understanding of the technology or differing opinions about the technology that should be used (Powell, et al, 2004).
Communication & Co-ordination: There are many challenges facing effective co-ordination and communication in Global Virtual Teams. The temporal and spatial differences between geographical locations and time zones and the management and co-ordination of these differences can have a huge impact on team engagement and performance. The degree to which communication is either synchronous or asynchronous and the amount of conversations undergone at any one time may also give rise to confusion, information overload and misunderstanding.
Synchronous interaction is an orderly process wherein verbal and non-verbal cues regulate the flow, facilitate turn taking, provide feedback and covey subtle meaning in communication (Monotoya-weiss et al, 2001); for example face-to-face communication or video chat.
Asynchronous interaction takes place outside real time (University of Wisconsin, 2011). In this environment, such as communication by email, the use of verbal and non-verbal cues is hindered, the gap between communications can be long and feedback delayed (McGrath, 1991). There is also a tendency for multiple conversations to be active simultaneously, leading to information overload which can reduce the synergy of team members if there are no links between responses (Monatoya-weiss et al, 2001). synchnonous.gif (Image: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/S/synchronous.html)
The challenge for Virtual Teams is to manage and co-ordinate the differences that occur from the use of asynchronous communication. TIP theory suggests that there are three typically-used temporal communication mechanisms to better co-ordinate communication; scheduling (deadlines), synchronisation (aligning the pace and effort among members) and allocation of resources (specifying the time to be spent on specific tasks) (McGrath, 1991). The facilitation of these mechanisms directly affects team cohesion and performance.
Further (and more recent) research on the effect of geographical divide, spatial and temporal differences evaluates the suitability of synchronous and asynchronous communication. They found that both synchronous and asynchronous communication mechanisms were both beneficial when teams were separated with high spatial but low temporal differences (Cummings, 2011). Asynchronous communication is less effective when there is a high temporal difference as it cannot overcome the temporal boundaries that effect co-ordination when pairs of members in different countries had no overlap in the working day (Cummings, 2011).
Technology: ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is used to co-ordinate communication between Global Virtual Teams.
Research argues for both positive and negative effects of ICT in globally dispersed or Virtual Teams. Gibbs (2006), for example, argues that ‘electronic dependence is negatively related to team motivation’. He states that the use of non-verbal cues that convey interpersonal affections are lost in computer mediated communication (Gibbs, 2006) which may have a negative impact on innovation by a difficulty in interpreting knowledge in messages (Gibbs, 2006). On the other hand, being able to pool knowledge from multiple geographical locations as well as the capability of working round the clock in service teams may be a distinct advantage.
The Task-technology-structure fit research has hypothesized that the choice of technology depends on individual preferences, individual experience with the technology and its ease of use, the need for documentation, and the urgency of the task (Hollingshead et al., 1993; Robey et al., 2000).
Recent research suggests that the key to effective ICT and co-ordination between globally dispersed teams is tailoring the ICT to specific situational awareness needs. Situational awareness is defined as ‘a mechanism for implicit co-ordination’ (Malhotra & Majchrzak, 2014) and can be split into two forms: ‘Presence awareness’ and ‘task knowledge awareness’. Their research suggests that targeting ICT to either of these awareness types for specific team tasks results in positive associations with technology. They found that for teams executing non-routine tasks, ICT targeted at ‘task knowledge awareness’ was most beneficial and in teams where members cross a large number of knowledge boundaries , targeting ICT at knowledge awareness was most beneficial. For full details of this research see; Malhotra, A., & Majchrzak, A. (2014). Enhancing performance of geographically distributed teams through targeted use of information and communication technologies. Human Relations, 67(4), 389-411.
Relationship Building: Lack of social interaction and the loss of face-to-face synergies present challenges to Virtual Teams (Ebrahim et al, 2009). This inhibits relationship building. Face-to-face interaction early on in team development can help form relationships quicker. Face-to-face communication among virtual team members early on in the project has been found to foster the ability to form closer interpersonal relationships between members (Maznevski & Chudoba, 2001; Robey et al, 2000; Powell et al, 2004). The sharing of social information has been shown to build better relationships between members (Powell et al, 2004). However, members of virtual teams tend to be more task-focused (Powell et al, 2004). This tendency may hinder the social communication and affect the ability to build better relationships. The importance and techniques for developing social interaction are captured in this short video:
Culture: Leidner et al (2001) present three main cultural challenges facing Virtual Teams:
Communication may be distorted through cultural misunderstandings/biases (Solomon, 1995) Unrealistic Cultural Expectations (Solomon, 1995) Potential for multiple cultures requires greater communication skills (Townsend et al, 1998)
Efforts for effective communication and collective understanding of team members’ cultural differences should be paramount. Gestures or norms in one culture may be misconstrued by another. The lack of face-to-face interaction and largely asynchronous communication can also further facilitate misunderstanding as it hinders both verbal and non-verbal cues present in face-to-face communication (McGrath, 1991).
Performance: Academic research has sort to compare traditional team performance with Virtual Team performance. Powell et al. (2004) argue that early research shows no detected difference in team performance and that there is also no significant difference when examining decision quality. They also present a summary of what contributes to Virtual Team success:
Training Strategy/goal setting Developing shared language Team building Team cohesiveness Communication Co-ordination and commitment of the teams The appropriate task-technology fit
They also highlight that competitive and collaborative conflict behaviours have negative impact on Virtual Team success. (Powell et al, 2004)
Satisfaction: Research on the satisfaction of Virtual Teams has provided mixed results. It shows some members being more satisfied than those of traditional teams and vice versa (Powell et al, 2004). Social exchanges effect the levels of satisfaction in virtual teams, they can effect levels of trust, cooperation, information sharing and co-ordination which may provide enhanced levels of member satisfaction and team productivity (Cogliser et al, 2013).
Cogliser, C, Gardner, W, Trank, C, Gavin, M, Halbesleben, J, & Seers, A 2013, 'Not All Group Exchange Structures Are Created Equal: Effects of Forms and Levels of Exchange on Work Outcomes in Virtual Teams', Journal Of Leadership & Organizational Studies (Sage Publications Inc.), 20, 2, pp. 242-251, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 20 May 2014.
Cohen, G., Bailey, E. (1997) ‘What Makes Teams Work: Group Effectiveness Research from the Shop Floor to the Executive Suite’, Journal of Management, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 239-290
Cummings, J 2011 'Geography Is Alive and Well in Virtual Teams' 2011, Communications Of The ACM, 54, 8, pp. 24-26, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 May 2014.
Duarte, L., Snyder, N., (2006) Mastering Virtual Teams: Strategies, Tools and Techniques that succeed; 3rd Edition; Jossey-Bass; San Francisco
Ebrahim, N, A., Ahmed, S., Taha, Z. (2009) ‘Virtual Teams: A Literature Review’, Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 3(3): pp. 2653-2669
Fan, K., Chen, Y., Wang, C., Chen, M., (2014) "E-leadership effectiveness in virtual teams: motivating language perspective", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 114 Iss: 3, pp.421 – 437
Gibson, C, & Gibbs, J 2006, 'Unpacking the Concept of Virtuality: The Effects of Geographic Dispersion, Electronic Dependence, Dynamic Structure, and National Diversity on Team Innovation', Administrative Science Quarterly, 51, 3, pp. 451-495, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 May 2014.
Hollingshead, A., McGrath, J., O’Connor, K. (1993) ‘Group Task Performance and Communication Technology: A Longitudinal Study of Computer-mediated vs Face-to-face Groups’, Small Group Research, Vol. 24, No. 33, pp. 307-333.
Kaboli, A, Tabari, M, Kaboli, E 2006 ‘Leadership in Virtual Teams’, The Sixth International Symposium on Operations Research and Its Applications, pp 342-349
McGrath, J. 1991. Time, interaction, and performance (TIP): A theory of groups. Small Group Research, 22: 147-174.
Montoya-Weiss, M, Massey, A, & Song, M 2001, 'GETTING IT TOGETHER: TEMPORAL COORDINATION AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN GLOBAL VIRTUAL TEAMS', Academy Of Management Journal, 44, 6, pp. 1251-1262, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 23 May 2014.
Powell, Piccoli and Ives (2004) p.8, Anne Powell, Gabriele Piccoli, and Blake Ives. Virtual teams: a review of current literature and directions for future research. The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems - Winter Vol. 35, issue 1, 2004.
Robey, D., Khoo, H., and Powers, C. (2000). “Situated Learning in Cross-functional Virtual Teams,” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications, Vol. 43, No.1, pp. 51-66.
Sarker, S. and Sahay, S. (2002). “Information Systems Development by US-Norwegian Virtual Teams: Implications of Time and Space,” Proceedings of the Thirty-Fifth Annual Hawai International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, pp. 1-10.
Suchan, J. and Hayzak, G. (2001). “The Communication Characteristics of Virtual Teams: A Case Study,” IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Vol. 44, No.3, pp. 174-186.
Townsend, A. M., DeMarie, S. M., & Hendrickson, A. R. (1998) Virtual teams: Technology and the workplace of the future. Academy of Management Executive, 12(3): 17–29.
With an even-increasing number of telecommuters and part-time workers operating in a growing global market place and with organisations and alliances becoming ever more geographically dispersed, working with or within virtual teams is becoming...
Source: http://oa-le3.wikispaces.com/Virtual+Teams Virtual Teams or Virtual Groups Powell, Piccoli and Ives (2004) in their paper, ‘Virtual Teams: A Review of Current Literature and Directions for Future Research’, draw...
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