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Virtual teams are hard to get right (Ferrazzi, 2014). To get it right, there are four must-haves: the right team, the right leadership, the right touchpoints, and the right technology. 

Your task is to write an essay on the following: 

  • Using the quote (above) discuss how you would apply these four “must-haves” to your team.
  • Evaluate (compare and contrast) examples of where virtual teams have worked well and where they have worked against effective outcomes.

The topic is broad enough for you to focus and build your argument how you decide. You may argue there are other necessary elements, but the expectation is that the essay will be well grounded in the literature and will ‘tell a coherent story’.

Introduction to Virtual Teams

The virtual teams are referred as the teams which comprises of the people living in different geographical locations. With the advent of technology, the working teams have become more far-flung and span around workplaces, homes and cafeteria. The virtual teams have a lot of appeal. The people can work as per their convenience, with flexibility and opportunity to interact with their colleagues situated anywhere. The companies can also use the best talent from all across the globe at a very low cost. The virtual teams can also reduce infrastructure costs as the workforce can work from their home or private places (Settle-Murphy, 2012). In addition to it, virtual teams are also beneficial for the employees. The workers can work from their home. It reduces the time and the cost associated to commuting to different locations. In addition, it results in good work-life balance (. However, developing effective virtual teams is quite challenging. A large number of virtual teams fall short of their goals or remains unsuccessful. Although the information technology has established effective communication channels, there still exists a communication gap which prevents the teams to work effectively. A large number of virtual work groups fail to satisfy the demands of the customers. Several workers have cited that working in virtual environment is overwhelming and creates confusion (Better Software, 2014).

These teams are also less productive than the face to face interaction between different team members. In this context, the present essay will identify the factors which can increase the productivity of the virtual teams. With the help of examples, the essay will effectively discuss the instances wherein the virtual teams have worked well. The aim of the essay is to provide recommendations to increase the efficacy of the virtual teams.

The beginning of the virtual teams initiated with the advent of internet. Before online communication, most of the people were required to come together to work at a single physical location. With the advent of internet, several employees started working from home. It provided the opportunity to the managers to retain the people who were relocating to a different location. The business organization saw the opportunity to save the office space and providing employee flexibility. With the globalization, the business organizations can save money by outsourcing work to other low cost countries (Ionica, 2013). However, the development of the virtual teams can be complex as it crosses geographies, language, working style and diverse cultures. These attributes of the virtual teams makes them more complicated to handle. If the virtual teams are not handled properly they can result in dysfunctional teams (Majchrzak, Rice, King, Malhotra & Ba, 2014). The virtual teams provide a flexible platform for the employees and the organization can cut cost related to travel and salaries.

In the present world, there are a large number of companies which are promoting virtual teams as it assists the companies in finding the best talent in the marketplace. It reduces the time required for commuting to the organization which leads to better time utilization. The employees can work from their home so that do not require relocating to a new place with the job position. The virtual teams are a win-win position for both the employees as well as the employers. However, it is important to consider a few factors in order to increase the efficacy of the virtual teams. The virtual teams must have four characteristics, namely, right team, right leadership, right touch points and the right technology. These are high return practices and can increase the efficiency of the virtual teams by manifolds. The first prerequisite of constructing a successful virtual team is selecting the right candidates for the team (Gilson,  Maynard, Jones Young, Vartiainen & Hakonen, 2015). The composition of the team is essential for the growth of the organization. It is the responsibility of the team leader to select the suitable candidates for the team work and developing the teams of the right size. It is also important for dividing the labor properly so that there are minimal grievances in the virtual teams. Working in virtual team environments is challenging as the employees have to work in an isolated environment. The interaction between the team members is minimal which might bring loneliness among the team members. Therefore, it is important that the virtual team members have high emotional intelligence and have the ability to work independently. They should be resilient and have the ability to recover from any issues and hold ups of any tasks. While working in global environment, the employees should remain aware regarding the sensitivity and awareness of different cultures (Brewer, 2015). It is important as the people will need to work in a global environment with the people belonging to different cultures. Therefore, it is important that while building thee team, the employer conducts a personality test along with the skill test.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Teams

The personality of the employees can be tested with the help of behavioral interview or personality test like Myers-Briggs test. If a manager is inheriting a team, he should assess the skills and weaknesses of the employees. Additionally, he should train people so that their weaknesses can be addressed. The size of the team is also important in establishing effective virtual teams. The teams which are smaller in size have high efficiency. With the size, social loafing increases which results in reduced efficiency (Pinjani & Palvia, 2013). The team members feel less responsible for the output and they reduce the efforts for the output. Good virtual teams with good people. The  

The right leadership is also very important for increasing the efficacy of the virtual teams. The virtual team leaders should have the right leadership qualities so that the virtual teams can be handled effectively. The leadership should foster trust among the team members. The leader should evoke respect and empathy among the employees. The team members should be able to communicate with the help of e-mails, phones or text messages. The leadership should also arrange group meetings so that the employees are able to communicate with each other. It will reduce the feeling of isolation among the team members which is common among the virtual team members. The leader should encourage open dialogue so that trust can be established between the team members. The team members should clarify goals and objectives of the organization and the team so that the team can be developed effectively. The team interaction is important and they should be able to imbibe trust in the social groups (Gibson, Huang, Kirkman & Shapiro, 2014). Increasing trust between team members can increase productivity.

Another important criterion for establishing effective team is establishing right touch points. The virtual teams members should be able to interact with each other at right times. Team meetings should be encourages at regular intervals so that the team spirit can be imbibed among the team members. Firstly, it is important that a kickoff meeting is organized so that the team members should know each other. Most importantly, it is essential that a face-to-face meeting is organized between the team members so that the team goals and guidelines can be clarified. In addition, the team meeting will also establish trust and candor among the team members. Face-t-face meetings are essential as eye contact and body language are essential in establishing long-term bonds between the team members. Similarly, it is observed that when inducting a new team member into an organization, an e-mail or conference call introduction is conducted. However, the best approach is to give the new team member the same treatment as other people. A mentor can also assist the new member in understanding his roles and understanding the organization culture. A team leader should also constantly motivate the team members to maximize their output. It is important to regulate the performance of the team members which can be conducted with the help of milestones (Erez, Lisak, Harush, Glikson, Nouri & Shokef, 2013). The virtual team members can also be encouraged with the help of email updates and weekly conference calls. If there are no visual cues and body language it results in misunderstandings. The team members remain disconnected and less engaged with the project and the organization.

Necessary Factors for Virtual Teams

The right technology is also essential in establishing right virtual teams. The teams equipped with workers, finest leadership and frequent touch points need best technology for effective operations. The team should be able to effectively communicate with the help of technology. The technology should make provision for direct calling and discussion forums. The communication technology should be able to bring the teams with greater efficiency and avoid unnecessary work. The communication platform is the one in which all the team members feel most compatible. All the team members must be able to use the communication medium easily (Pauleen, 2004). In a globally dispersed team, the barriers across the language and the cultures must be overcome. It is preferred that a single platform is developed so that there is no duplication of data. It should be assured that the activities of team members should be auditable and secured.

There are several examples wherein the virtual teams have performed exceptionally well and better than the physical teams. The team leader can establish a virtual team wherein a natural physical environment is created. Digital objects and artifacts can replace the physical counterparts of the team members. An office space is created wherein the coffee is steaming, clock and calendar are at the right place and interactive images are constructed in personalized window and the space. In virtual environment, it is also important to build an instant messaging module in which video, files and documents are shared.

In the present hypercompetitive market, it is important that the organizations have teams with higher efficiency. In addition, the organizations also need high productivity and turnaround time so that their market and customer base can be increased. It requires improvements in the working methodologies. The virtual team is the byproduct of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and requirement for efficient teams. The virtual teams have the capability to bring diversified talents and expertize from all across the globe.  However, there are some unique challenges associated with the virtual team members. Despite the advancements in collaboration tools and technology, virtual teams still struggle to perform well due to several issues such and cultural challenges. Firstly, large enterprises are quite complex and have different departments moving in different directions (Edwards & Wilson, 2004). Therefore, it is important to establish exceptionally well communication channels and carefully linked activities. Since the virtual teams do not have face-to-face communication, the employees do not have the opportunity to set to know each other and socialize with each other. It can result in developing trust issues and the people will take longer time to build trusting relationships. Since the virtual team members are situated at different parts of the world, the time differences can limit the length of interaction which declines the team performance (Ivanaj& Bozon, 2016). The differences in the culture and the language can make the communication frustrating and collaboration between different team members difficult. Different holidays in different parts of the world narrows the number of days required for getting the work done. Getting and giving performance feedback is another issue for the virtual team members.

Selection of the Right Team Members

In spite of the different challenges of the virtual team members there are several companies who have been successful in developing and successful teams. SAP is a leading company which deals with inter-enterprise software company. The company has more than 30,000 employees in 60 countries and they have contributed together for the organization’s success. The headquarters of the company are located in Germany and it has large research centers in India, China and the United States (Jui, 2010). The company has made several virtual teams out of the employees located at different locations which have assisted in developing well-rounded teams. The company has been successful in developing a virtual team with the help of online classes, conference calls and coaching sessions (MacGregor, 2007).

General Electric is another company which has successfully employed over 90,000 employees from all across the globe. The company invests in training its leaders and employees so that collaborative workforce can be constructed. Regular sessions of virtual classrooms have been constructed so that the organization can achieve common goals with interactive e-learning approaches and quizzes. The company also focused on making the teams more interactive by creating virtual breakout rooms, polls, whiteboards and creating role-playing scenarios (Kurtz & Boone, 2008). The personal feedbacks were provided so that the employees acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses. The leaders in the organization were provided special training so that they can understand the cultural differences between different cultures (Zofi, 2011).

It can be concluded that remote teams is a contemporary challenge faced by the business organizations. The business organizations see several benefits of the virtual teams such as global pool of talent and reduced cost of infrastructure; however, several challenges have made the virtual teams less than successful. The employees get demotivated and able to engage with the organization. As a result, despite recruiting the best talent in the industry; the overall productivity of the organization declines. There are four prerequisites of virtual teams, namely, right leadership, right team members, right touch points and the right technology. The companies should follow stringent recruiting method for the selection of the team members in the team. It is important to assess the personality of the team members along with their skill test. Right leaders can be developed in an organization with appropriate training. In addition, the appropriate communication tools should be used in the organization so that collaborative communication can be established between different team members.

There are several methods which can be used to increase the success rate of the virtual teams. Firstly, virtual private networks should be implemented in the organization. They are quite common in multinational organizations as they provide support to the remote users. With the help of these systems, the remote users can access common resources such as file system, source control and configuration management. It is important to assure that these systems are comfortable and reliable for remote workers. In the virtual environment, latency is a key factor which impacts the success of the virtual teams. The team members must be readily available and phone tag should be minimized there (LEpsinger & DeRosa, 2010). Telephone handsets are also essential in increasing the efficacy of the virtual teams. Other than that, the companies can also use online screen haring software as it can assist two or more people to work simultaneously with the same application (Better Software, 2014).

References

Better Software. (2014). Remote Control. https://www.techwell.com/sites/default/files/articles/XDD7528filelistfilename1_0.pdf 

Brewer, P.E. (2015). International Virtual Teams: Engineering Global Success. John Wiley & Sons.

Edwards, A., & Wilson, J.R. (2004). Implementing Virtual Teams: A Guide to Organizational and Human Factors. Gower Publishing, Ltd.

Erez, M., Lisak, A., Harush, R., Glikson, E., Nouri, R., & Shokef, E. (2013). Going global: Developing management students' cultural intelligence and global identity in culturally diverse virtual teams. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12(3), 330-355.

Gibson, C. B., Huang, L., Kirkman, B. L., & Shapiro, D. L. (2014). Where global and virtual meet: The value of examining the intersection of these elements in twenty-first-century teams. Annu. Rev. Organ. Psychol. Organ. Behav., 1(1), 217-244.

Gibson, C.B., & Cohen, S.G. (2003). Virtual Teams That Work: Creating Conditions for Virtual Team Effectiveness. John Wiley & Sons.

Gilson, L. L., Maynard, M. T., Jones Young, N. C., Vartiainen, M., & Hakonen, M. (2015). Virtual teams research: 10 years, 10 themes, and 10 opportunities. Journal of Management, 41(5), 1313-1337.

Ionica, O. (2013). Business Innovation, Development, and Advancement in the Digital Economy. IGI Global.

Ivanaj, S., & Bozon, C. (2016). Managing Virtual Teams. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Jui, S.L. (2010). Innovation in China: The Chinese Software Industry. Routledge.

Kurtz, D.L., & Boone, L.E. (2008). Contemporary Business. Cengage Learning.

LEpsinger, R., & DeRosa, D. (2010). Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance. John Wiley & Sons.

MacGregor, S.P. (2007). Higher Creativity for Virtual Teams: Developing Platforms for Co-Creation: Developing Platforms for Co-Creation. Idea Group Inc (IGI).

Majchrzak, A., Rice, R. E., King, N., Malhotra, A., & Ba, S. (2014). Computer-mediated inter-organizational knowledge-sharing: Insights from a virtual team innovating using a collaborative tool. Hoch, J. E., & Kozlowski, S. W. (2014). Leading virtual teams: Hierarchical leadership, structural supports, and shared team leadership. Journal of applied psychology, 99(3), 390.

Nemiro, J., Beyerein, M.M., Bradley, L., & Beyerlein, S. (2015). The Handbook of High Performance Virtual Teams: A Toolkit for Collaborating Across Boundaries. John Wiley & Sons.

Pauleen, D. (2004). Virtual Teams: Projects, Protocols and Processes. Idea Group Inc (IGI).

Pinjani, P., & Palvia, P. (2013). Trust and knowledge sharing in diverse global virtual teams. Information & Management, 50(4), 144-153.

Settle-Murphy, N.M. (2012). Leading Effective Virtual Teams: Overcoming Time and Distance to Achieve Exceptional Results. CRC Press.

Zofi, Y. (2011). A Manager's Guide to Virtual Teams. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn.

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