Back To CourseBuilding a Virtual Team
3 chapters | 19 lessons
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Sudha is currently an Information Technology Specialist and a EdD student at the University of Delaware.
Mark's company recently opened a number of branches in Asia and Europe. Mark now has to build and manage all of the virtual teams that are distributed across multiple continents. Virtual teams are groups of people working on a project, but they are not on site. Instead, they may be dispersed throughout many locations across countries and continents.
Virtual teams are also known as dispersed teams, distributed teams, or remote teams. Mark's team is a global virtual team (GVT) and is distributed across different countries. The main mode of communication is information and communication technology (ICT), which includes the use of fax, email, video and audio conferencing, and social media channels.
Mark's company moved towards a GVT structure because they wanted a flatter organization structure and the ability to offer flexible work hours in order to attract talent and gain an advantage over their competition. One of Mark's new responsibilities is role coordination. He would need to learn how to effectively manage the tasks or roles of virtual team members, who may have interdependent tasks despite not having a shared office space.
In the context of any team, a role is defined as the part that the team member is expected to play, similar to the role of an actor in a movie or a drama. In a global virtual team, roles are important because even though they are located in geographically remote locations, each person expects and depends on a set of deliverables from other members of his or her team. If any part of the task is not completed, the team will not be able to function effectively.
Mark started building his teams with small groups of people who had complementary skills and an interest in working towards a common project or goal. He defined the main characteristics of his global virtual teams:
A team role is the way a person interacts and behaves as a member of the team. After working with teams and making observations, management theorist Dr. Meredith Belbin made the observation that people on teams assume team roles by default. Mark decided to follow Belbin's team role model to create balanced teams.
When following the model, Mark had to keep in mind that all members of the team could not have similar weaknesses because that could lead to the entire team having the same weakness. On the other hand, if all members of the team had the same strengths, the team members may tend to compete with one another instead of working together towards a common goal. So it was important to create balanced teams. The challenge that Mark faced when creating virtual teams is the fact that since the teams are virtual, distinct personalities and behaviors and preferences towards certain tasks may not be apparent immediately.
The model defined three main types of roles:
The first team Mark started building would carry out responsibilities for the Action role. He put together a team of eight employees (two in Asia, three in Europe, and three in North America) who had the characteristics of Shapers, which is challenging the team to improve and stimulating others; Implementers, which is getting things done, converting ideas into practical solution, disciplined, and systematic; and Completer-Finisher, which is making sure project is completed, attending to deadlines, conscientious, and perfectionists. Some of the position titles in this role were auditor, financial analyst, and accounts specialist.
For people-oriented roles, he created a team of ten across the global virtual office with characteristics of Coordinators (listeners, team leadership, recognize value of team members), Team Workers (make sure the team is coordinated, prioritize cohesion, diplomatic, and cohesive) and Resource Investigators (curious, help attain objectives, explore options). The titles in this position included project manager, business administrator, and office manager.
And for thought roles, he built a team of seven members with characteristics of Plants (innovates new ideas and approaches, works independently), Monitor-Evaluator (analyzes and evaluates options, critical thinking), and Specialist (specialized knowledge for the job, subject expertise). Some of the job titles in the thought role were chief executive officer, programmer, and researcher.
Following Belbin's model helped Mark succeed in his first endeavor of building the teams and assigning them roles. Now he is ready for the next challenge!
A virtual team consist of groups of people that are not located in the same physical location but distributed in multiple locations through different geographical areas and communicate mainly through the use of information and communication technologies. When the team is distributed globally through different international locations, it is known as a global virtual team (GVT).
Roles are important for virtual teams because each team member has expectations about the roles or tasks of other team members, without which the project cannot be completed efficiently. Virtual teams should be designed so that team members are goal oriented, can work on complex and important tasks, and be accountable for the results.
A team role defines the way in which a person behaves within a team. Roles have to be well defined in order to create balanced teams. This way, team members can coordinate with each other instead of multiplying weaknesses or competing with one another. Belbin's model for team roles defines three main roles:
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Back To CourseBuilding a Virtual Team
3 chapters | 19 lessons