Global corporations are entities legalized to run their businesses which offer or deliver their products or services in more than one country. In order to ensure effective coordination of business in these corporations, virtual teams are formed.
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Virtual teams refer to a group of persons, who come together to form a team and members are distributed geographically and they are required to work together using electronic means of communication (Alberto, 2003). These teams rarely meet face to face. Virtual teams are of three kinds; software, product or banking teams which are differentiated by their geographical location, functions or cultural boundaries (Alberto, 2003).
While a corporation is setting up a virtual team, it should consider the following factors; time zones, culture diversity, communication, trust and leadership. These factors determine the quality of coordination by teams and if not well managed they can be issues. In this paper, we examine these issues (factors) which virtual teams of different global corporations face.
One of the major issues facing Virtual teams is Time zones and are calculated using Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) mostly, by either adding or subtracting hours. Different areas experience different time zones, although some countries may be geographically far apart from each other but experience the same time zone, for example San Juan and Montreal.
Time zones pose a big challenge to virtual teams, especially if team members are working in different time zones, for example one team member in New York and another in London, working on the same to deliver a product or service at a given time (Allison, 1990).
Due to time difference one team may be unavailable when problems arise at a one given time, which could lead to mistrust between teams. This is because only one team would be working to resolve the problems which crop up at that given time. Such a scenario can repeat itself and the result is that one group could always be left out in activities involving solving of problems, hence create a feeling of marginalization.
This pattern can lead to conflicts whose main cause is difference in time zones (Allison, 1990). Such conflicts can lower the effectiveness in performance of virtual teams.
In order to solve such a conflict, the leadership should ensure that external time zone differences are well measured and their impacts observed. This would ensure that no team is left out in solving of problems due to unavailability caused by overlapping time zones (Espinosa).
Another issue that affects virtual teams is that of diversified cultures which emerges as a result of different nationalities. It has both positive and negative impacts on the performance of teams. Culture diversity includes; different individualism values, languages, nationalities and country of origin or birth.
When skills, perspectives and talents of different teams from different backgrounds are combined can produce excellent results (Sandy, 2006).
Diversity produces a great value as a result of increased flexibility, creativity and innovation. Diversified experiences and perspectives enhance the ideas and information collected by a team and as a result great outcomes are achieved inform of networking and resources to the corporation (Sandy, 2006).
Diversity or culture has negative impacts on a virtual team. These negative include difficulty in communication, lack of cohesion or togetherness, misunderstandings and conflicts. Creation of sub groups in and out of a given culture leads to misunderstandings and conflicts in different cultures. Such sub groups comprise of people of the same culture, which means interaction with other cultures is closed out (Alberto, 2003).
Such groupings lead to decrease in interpersonal and communication skills amongst teams which in turn lower performance of teams and level of satisfaction.
These groups also lead to high turnover as a result of less attraction amongst team members. In and out groups also lead to poor communication which can result to less cohesion and social togetherness or integration. As a result diversity leads to poor performance of a team (Sandy, 2006).
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In order to ensure healthy relationships amongst team members, the leadership should make a wise decision on the mode of communication to be used. Use of media communication, electronic tools of chatting and telephone conference is some of the modes which reduce diversity differences and groupings (Allan, 2003).
The reason is that it reduces face to face conversation which in turn increases cohesiveness, social integration and reduced conflicts which in turn enhance performance and satisfaction (Sandy, 2006).
Communication and language issues are also an important factor in enhancing performance a virtual team. Effectiveness of a virtual team depends on the quality of its communication. Media communication and texting are the most used forms of communication but their effectiveness can not be compared to that of face to face communication (Sirka et al, 1999).
This is because texts lately have many symbols, shortcuts and pictures which pass given information. Failure to understand such aspects may lead to lack of communication. Communication impacts the effectiveness and performance of virtual teams both positively and negatively.
On a positive note, communication in a team ensures fulfillment of goals and performance of duties. It is also an important factor in ensuring strong bonds of cohesion and reduced conflicts through commitment, loyalty and participation by all team members.
Communication helps a team to understand the task it is performing and at the same time encourage exchange of ideas (Sirka et al, 1999). Effective communication ensures the well being of a group by promoting healthy relationships and interaction amongst team members.
Lack of effective communication can lead to deterioration in performance and effectiveness of a team. Ineffectiveness in communication can be as a result of language barrier, culture or diversity, unclear messaging and distortions.
This can lead to conflicts, lack of coordination, reduced competitive advantage and success and friction in a team (Thompson, 2011). Language barrier can be as a result of different cultures and nationalities. Language barrier leads to polarization of ideas, mistrust, division in the team and suspicions.
To ensure effective communication rare face to face gatherings can reduce some of the challenges of communication in future. Use of code of conduct is used to ensure total functionality of individual members and reduced delays.
To ensure effective encoding and decoding of messages, members are discouraged to use non-text forms of communication like emotional icons, jargons or picture messages. In order to reduce language barrier, a common language is used, mostly English (Sirka et al, 1999). Also use of gestures and interpreters as well as translators can enhance communication.
Trust is an essential aspect in a virtual team and its main aim to make the team work. Trust in a team ensures that there is increased security and confidence in a team, promotes openness and effective exchange of information. Trust also brings team members together despite the physical distance between them. In his study Sirka, refers “trust as the glue of the global workspace” (29-64).
Trust also enhances sense on moral duty which increases willingness of team members to assist one another because they feel obliged to. Mistrust in a team may lead to conflicts which in turn will reduce the performance of a team. Mistrust hinders the ability of a group to explore its full potential, deteriorated interpersonal communication and decreased sense of reliability (Sirka et al, 1998).
Incase mistrust occurs, the team is advised to be involved in team building and solve problems together. Team building usually helps in assessment of each member’s ability, motivation and successes. Solving problems together will enhance commitment of an individual member to work. Also involving the team in occasional face to face gatherings clears mistrust which may have come up (Sirka et al, 1999).
Another very important issue facing virtual teams is that of leadership. Leadership can be challenging considering that a leader should oversee and coordinate activities of different teams globally.
To ensure good performance of a team, the leader should be able to motivate team members, encouraging member to be disciplined and organize social activities which promote face to face interaction, trust and communication (Timothy, 2002). Effective leadership should prepare team members for different situations that may occur in the group.
A leader should be able to recognize contributions of all members regardless of the magnitude. A leader should be a mentor and law enforcer. Due to physical limitation, a leader may not be in a position to observe team members physically.
This calls for creativity in leadership to ensure a virtual observation of members (Amabile, 1997). Ineffectiveness n leadership may lead to mistrust and poor performance. Leaders need to be trained in order to acquire the skills required in leadership (Malhotra, 2007).
In conclusion, virtual teams form an important part of global corporations. All these factors (discussed) need to be considered and carefully implemented to ensure that virtual team does not fail in its duties (Amabile, 1997). All the issues discussed impact the performance of a team which in turn affects the competitive advantage and success of a corporation.
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