- provide an appropriate definitionof a GVT which identifies and explains the unique characteristics of GVTs
- explain, based on the research, the likely benefits of using culturally diverse teams in a GVT.
- based on the information in the recent academic literature, discuss the likely issues or problems associated with using culturally diverse teams
- identifyeffective solutions / strategies to use in dealing with these issues
Definition and Characteristics
Globalization, which is concerned with companies operating worldwide rather than on a specific country or place, has increased greatly, therefore; making virtual communication a necessity in day-to-day business activities (Klitmøller & Lauring, 2013). Apart from globalization, technological advancements have also contributed vastly to incorporation of virtual communications into large organizations (Klitmøller & Lauring, 2013). Although virtual communication is vital, there have been few researches regarding some of the factors limiting sharing of information and knowledge such as language and media previously. However, many studies have focused on language barrier considering its importance in globalization recently. Virtual teams are made up of people who reside in different countries (Klitmøller, Schneider & Jonsen, 2015). Therefore, information concerning GVT is important to software development company in Australia as its planning to establish several teams in several overseas countries. As one of the employees, I’ve been assigned a task of writing a report on GVT. Hence, this report has examined definition of a GVT and its characteristics. Besides, it has also examined roles played by culturally diverse teams in a GVT, some of its problems and effective solutions to problems encountered.
Global Virtual Teams (GVTs) are defined as “groups that (a) are identified by their organizations or group members as being a team; (b) are responsible for making and implementing decisions important to the organization’s strategy; (c) use technology-supported communication…. “(Pinjani & Palvia, 2013, P. 144).
The following are characteristics associated with virtual teams:
- Geographical dispersal. Virtual teams are made up of people who lives in different geographical locations, therefore; members are distributed in many countries. Also, tasks can be carried out in different time zone (Purvanova, 2014).
- Structured flexibility. To accomplish a specific task, an organization can assign duties to different individuals other than those who worked previously, therefore; membership is dynamic rather than static.
- Technology-based communication. Virtual team members depend on communication technologies for sharing information between each other (Purvanova, 2014).
- Cultural diversity. There are different attributes associated with each team member such as linguistic.
- Task interdependence, which is associated with shared responsibilities.
- Absence of shared experience related to a specific task. There are different skills exhibited by team members such as communication, writing and leadership skills (Purvanova, 2014).
Cultural diversity is associated with different cultures used by team members depending on their country. For instance, it includes of the following; decision making and communication styles. It plays vital roles in a GVT, for instance, the following are some of its benefits:
- Better decision making. There are different ways on which decisions are made by people from different geographical location. This can be influenced by existence of several decision-making techniques, therefore, using culturally diverse teams in a GVT can result in multiple views leading to better decision making (Mockaitis, Rose & Zettinig, 2012).
- Increased productivity. Teams from different countries use different techniques to carry out a specific task. Therefore, this has great significance in GVTs as it can facilitate accomplishment of tasks using best technologies and within a given time frame (Cheruvelil et al., 2014).
- Increased creativity. Heterogeneous teams can result in development of new ideas regarding ways on which a certain task can be performed, therefore; sharing of such ideas can result in increased creativity.
- Development of quality product and reduced time of delivering it to the market. This can be influenced by better decision making and incorporation of best technologies that are used in different countries (Mockaitis et al., 2012).
Although there are many benefits associated with culturally diverse teams, there also exists several issues related to culturally diverse teams. For instance, the following are some of the issues:
Language barrier, which is concerned with people using different languages, is one of the main factors resulting in communication problems, therefore; affecting entire process of sharing information among team members (Tenzer & Pudelko, 2015). For instance, it can result in miscommunication, thus making it difficult for other members to understand information clearly. besides, it can also result in time consuming as members spent more time on translating information that has been shared (Shachaf, 2008). Also, different verbal communication styles such as direct/indirect and instrumental/affective can also affect communication process. For instance, direct/indirect styles are concerned with how clear information is communicated by team members (Shachaf, 2008). Regarding research that was conducted, Americans stated that other members from countries, for example, China shared their information using indirect style, therefore; affecting process of communication while waiting for clarification from Asian global virtual team members. Moreover, personal styles that are used in communication can also be a problem. For instance, Japanese had some issues of sharing their information using English language, and consequently, reported that sharing information in proper social structure was an issue (Shachaf, 2008).
There are higher chances of conflicts considering different members are used to their cultures, which is different from that of other members, therefore; agreeing on one culture, which can include of language or problem-solving technique, may become a source of conflict (Gibbs, 2009). Emergence of conflicts can affect entire process of communication. For instance, misunderstanding among members can result in wrong interpretation of ideas intentionally, therefore; intensifying disagreements. There exist some theories that can be used to explain how diverse teams result in conflicts such as social identity, which is concerned with how a member can identify himself/herself in a virtual team. Besides, similarity-attraction theory, which is concerned with attitude of different individuals, can also explain how conflicts arise (Daim et al., 2012). For instance, people with different attitude cannot relate well with each other, therefore; resulting in conflicts. The research clearly shows that there are different types of conflicts such as task conflict. Apart from task conflicts, relationship is also another category of conflicts. Other than resulting in misunderstanding, conflicts can also lower performance depending on the type of conflict. For instance, relationship conflicts, which is concerned with how different people interact with each other due to disagreements, lowers performance (Scott & Wildman, 2015).
Benefits of using Culturally Diverse Teams in a GVT
It’s difficult for team members to trust each other since communication is done using recent technologies such as email rather than face-to-face (Sarker, Ahuja, Sarker & Kirkeby, 2011). This is one of the major problems associated with culturally diverse teams as if affects effectiveness of a GVT. Trust issues are resulted from different types of diversity levels, for example, functional and deep. For instance, results from a research that was conducted indicated that that there was no any effect of functional diversity on trust (Pinjani & Palvia, 2013). On the other hand, it was established that deep level has a great effect on trust as members have interacted for a long time, therefore; realizing some of the differences existing between them, thus affecting ways on which they relate with each other (Pangil & Chan, 2014). Also, inability of team members to understand other cultures has also resulted in less trust, therefore; affecting knowledge sharing, which is one of key pillars that contribute to overall success of a GVT in achieving some specific goals. Currently, lack of trust is one of the most common problems as far as absence of face-to-face communication is concerned.
Team members can have different choices on appropriate media that can be used while sharing information and ideas. Therefore, choosing appropriate media that can be used comfortably with all team members is difficult (Klitmøller et al., 2015). Initial findings suggest that people who speak different languages can chose email as best way on which information can be shared. On the other hand, people who speak same language can prefer telephone, and therefore; this can lead to problems related to media choice (Tenzer & Pudelko, 2016). Each media has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the context in which they are used, for instance, the following are some of the benefits of email; easy to organize messages that have been received and sent, therefore; enhancing easy referencing (Golan, Rivner, Tsur, Orad & Bennett, 2015). Apart from easy referencing, data can also be send faster as compared to other types of media. However, there exists some disadvantages of email, for instance, messages can be misinterpreted, therefore; resulting in misunderstanding. Besides, malicious files such as virus can also be sent via email, therefore; affecting functioning of computer and other devices that are used in communication. On the other hand, the following are some of the advantages of telephone conversation; less time can be used for making some clarifications while its disadvantages include; inconvenience for people using different languages and higher costs are incurred for communication (Winbladh & Lindroth, 2013). Therefore, it’s a challenge to choose an appropriate media, which can be suitable to all members as each media has its pros and cons.
There are some difficulties involved when managing a GVT especially if there exist some disagreements between a project manager and team members due to different views and suggestions in relation to how some tasks should be carried out (Lilian, 2014). This is a big problem as it can discourage team members from sharing their own views and ideas, therefore; affecting ways on which processes are carried out. Also, motivating members is difficult as there is no physical contact between project manager and other members, hence increasing productivity is a bit tricky (Lilian, 2014). Effects of poor management of a GVT results in lowering confidence of other members towards their leaders, therefore; affecting entire communication processes. Moreover, members are used to different management as exhibited by project manager of their country or geographical location, therefore; it becomes difficult for members to become used to how they are managed (Lilian, 2014). For instance, the research shows that team members were uncomfortable with impromptu meetings.
Problems Associated with using Culturally Diverse Teams
Language barrier, which is one of the major challenges can be solved by written media for sharing information rather than verbal media (Morgan, Paucar & Wright, 2014). Team members have different accents, therefore; understanding each other using verbal media such as telephone is very difficult. For instance, team members from countries such as Spain have some problems as far as English language is concerned according to the survey that was conducted. The Danish team member suggested that verbal media can be used to communicate dates for carrying out some tasks rather than discussions (Shachaf, 2008). Similarly, a team member from Germany suggested that written media such as email is more comfortable than communicating using verbal media. Besides, members from the North also suggested that written media reduces language problems and uncertainties. A team member from Danish also reported that inaccurate message can be communicated via telephone because of less thinking rather than written media that enables a member to deeply think before writing and sending a message, therefore; information is communicated clearly. He further added that communication using written media can be more understandable with less conflicts (Shachaf, 2008). Moreover, email has different functions that can correct grammar, therefore; enhancing clear communication among team members.
Avoidance and collaboration are some of the ways on which arising conflicts among team members can be managed effectively (Binder, 2016). This was suggested by Thomas. For instance, collaboration enables team members to discuss matters relating to different view and opinions according to the research that was conducted regarding conflict management techniques. Such discussions can increase performance as well as building more trust among team members, therefore; enhancing mutual understanding and reducing unnecessary conflicts (Binder, 2016). On the other hand, avoidance is concerned with the act of having less discussion about conflicts and different opinions. The main aim of avoidance is to reduce interactions, therefore; lowering intensity of conflicts. It keeps on controlling conflicts and preventing them from rising to higher levels, which can affect communication and thus lowering performance. Apart from collaboration and avoidance, there exists other conflict management styles such as competing strategy, although it’s not preferred as it can result in more conflicts (Binder, 2016). However, it can be used to solve performance issues as members are competing to deliver quality work.
Effective management can solve problems concerning with difficulties encountered when managing of a GVT, therefore; enhancing smooth running of operations and completing tasks as per deadline (Nguyen, 2013). A research has revealed that holding meetings regularly is one of the ways on which a project manager can prevent some of difficulties encountered, for instance, it can improve communication among team members, therefore; increasing productivity. Then, a project manager can organize meetings rather than holding unorganized meetings to prepare team members prior to a meeting (Nguyen, 2013). Apart from meetings, a project manager can also use one language while communicating with other team members even if there are some members whom they share common language. This will reduce problems relating to isolation, therefore; enhancing mutual understanding. For instance, a research clearly shows that a project manager should discourage checking of other members work, thus building more trust among members. Furthermore, a team manager should introduce new members to other existing members rather than calling each other names such as security expert. Similarly, existing members should introduce themselves to new members, therefore; enhancing cohesion and familiarity. In addition, team manager should allocate equal time when members are sharing their ideas and knowledge (Nguyen, 2013). Besides, members can be allowed to communicate to each other freely incase there is a clarification.
Rules and regulations are concerned with guidelines, which should be followed by team members of a GVT. On the other hand, values are moral principles that are used to dictate acceptable behaviors of people while working in team (Warren & Lucas, 2016). Rules, regulations and values play some vital roles in a GVT, for instance, research shows that they can be used to solve conflict problems as members exhibit similar values while communicating with each other, therefore; enhancing cohesion and mutual understanding. The following can be some of the rules and regulations; 1. team members are not required to check and correct errors in work that has been submitted unless a project manager has issued such directives and 2. Team members should not comment negatively regarding culture of other members (McDermid, 2015). Therefore, such rules can foster cohesion and understanding, hence reducing conflicts. On the other hand, virtual team values can include the following; respect, commitment, cooperation and believing others. Values such as cooperation can enhance cohesion, while on the other hand, commitment can increase performance (Warren & Lucas, 2016). Therefore, common rules and regulations alongside values can solve issues related to conflicts effectively.
The purpose of this report was to define a GVT and stating its characteristics. Also, examining roles played by culturally diverse teams in a GVT, some of its problems and effective solutions to problems encountered. GVT is defined as a group of people residing in different geographical locations and communicating with each other using technologies such as email. Its characteristics include; geographical dispersal and technology-based communications. Besides, the following are some benefits of culturally diverse teams in a GVT such as better decision making, increased productivity and creativity. However, it has some issues such as language barrier, conflicts, lack of trust and media choice. There are some effective solutions that can be used to reduce problems related to culturally diverse teams such as written media for communication and effective management of a GVT. Hence, this report implies that using culturally diverse teams in a GVT has some pros and cons, therefore; effective solutions should be applied to minimize issues encountered.
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