Proposing a Logical Way to Structure a Virtual Team
For this assignment you will integrate the solution into the document titled group 4.docx. The only sections that need to be completed are highlighted and or marked for comments. You will need to write a solution that is inline with the existing work using academic journals as sources. The word count does not include the citations. The instructions are below. You are a virtual group working on a team paper so that is what you are being asked to analyze! As you know, virtual teams are increasingly common in our interconnected global workplace. There are positives and challenges to working as a group in a virtual environment. Answer the following questions in relation to virtual teamwork in organizations:
Part I. Propose the most effective way (i.e., a set of logical recommendations) to structure a virtual team (with members located within and some external to the United States) to meet the goals of 1) team member satisfaction/growth and 2) producing results that achieve the team’s directive from leadership. As part of your analysis of how to structure the team to meet those goals, your analysis, based on course concepts and research, should address the following issues: a. Differentiation b. Integration c. Formalization d. Centralization e. Mechanistic versus organic designs
Part II. Identify five challenges that cause workgroups to fail, a recommendation to address each challenge, and the role of the group’s leader in implementing each recommendation. The focus of the assignment should not be specific to one organization/industry and the researched material should be grounded in the current literature related to team structuring and related issues, why groups fail, and the best practices for addressing the failures and getting the group on the road to success.
Virtual teams face multiple challenges from geographical and cultural differences to a lack of cohesion and team identity. Creating a corporate or team culture is hard to do with organic teams and even harder with virtual teams since that culture and sense of identity must be created remotely. However, there are multiple tools and methods leaders can use to ensure a virtual team runs effectively. These include, but are not limited to, establishing clear work systems, utilizing effective communication tools, meeting regularly, and creating a professional work environment. In addition, differentiation, integration, formalization, centralization and mechanistic versus organic designs should be considered when determining how to structure a virtual team.
One strategy leaders my employ when managing a virtual team is establishing clear work systems. Works systems can be a charter that explains the team’s mission, a business problem the team has been assigned to solve, or the team’s objective. It should clearly define each team member’s role, how decisions will be made, and the decision-making process should be outlined and understood by everyone. Ensuring everyone on the team is in agreement with defined work systems and long term goals, aids in having and managing a more productive virtual team.
Effective communication platforms are also essential. “A new idea dies unless it finds a breeding place” (Kratzer, et. al., p. 8, 2003). Establishing the right communication format or “breeding place” for a virtual team aids in team success, and minimizes challenges regularly associated with virtual teams. Factors which determine the most effective means of communication depend on the group’s size, familiarity with technology, time zone, cultural differences, language barriers, and the actual subject matter just to name a few. Communication technology used most often includes, message boards, instant messaging, emails, and web conferences. The group must identify how to communicate in the absence of traditional cues, how to interpret tone, non-verbal cues such as the interpretation of not responding, how to relate to team members of the same or various cultures, and how to relate to people not comfortable communicating in writing. In light of these challenges, standardizing communication can help to focus and build confidence in the virtual group. In addition, the use of technology can reduce time spent providing the same instruction to all members of the group, gain support, help team members connect with the mission, and promotes team unity. In relation to communication platforms, interpersonal skills are another very important part of communicating in a virtual group setting. Actively listening, understanding another’s point of view, and freely sharing one’s ideas will help the growth of the team. Input should always be asked in a manner which encourages open dialogue and is not offensive keeping diversity in mind. Leadership may provide soft-skills training to guarantee team members possess the required communication skills. “Through effective communication building on the knowledge of the various team members, teams facilitate the exchange of information and create new knowledge and insights” (Kratzer, et. al., p. 8, 2003).
In addition, scheduling regular meetings with team members is an essential tool leaders can use to establish team cohesion. These meetings can set precedence for quality of work, build team identity, and clarify organization mission and goals. Ideally, meetings should occur on the same day and time each week and help the members better execute tasks assigned. Further, regular team meetings help foster trust and build relationships, which are the foundation of an effective team. Regularly scheduled meetings also give the team a chance to clarify tasks and processes. Not meeting regularly, or acculturating the importance of the meetings, may cause pitfalls in productivity. Finding the most effective and accessible communication technology will make scheduled meetings more productive, help establish a battle rhythm, track commitments, and clarify confusion or issues in a timely manner. It should be noted, regular meetings don’t need to be lengthy to be effective. Setting meetings in fifteen minute increments can still achieve a desired goal while accommodating individual group members outside obligations. The purpose of meeting with team members regularly is to evaluate the team’s success based on leadership’s directives. It also, “… helps to identify issues before they become full-blown problems” (Combs & Peacocke, 2007, p.28). Finally, meetings are an important part of bringing teams together through human interaction. Whether they’re held weekly or daily, meetings allow everyone to clear the air and check in on progress.
Leaders should also establish clear and detailed deliverables the team can reflect on and use as a resource. This includes expectations the group will adhere to as they complete projects, timelines that need to be met, and most importantly what needs to be produced or provided to meet the goals of leadership and the organization. Deliverables should not be subjective in order to maintain consistency and allow the group to be on the same page. Communicating these items clearly will mitigate confusion and conflict as projects progress. To assist with accountability, details of the project should be listed for all members to review. Not only will this aid in accountability, it will allow team members to assist each other as they discover their strengths and weaknesses as a team leading to team member satisfaction.
While leaders are establishing tools and structures of the team, standards for professional behavior should also be considered. Workplace culture at each branch and geographical location will differ; however, universal guidelines for what is deemed appropriate professional behavior for the virtual team will need to be defined and communicated to all members by leadership. Professionalism may be codified in workplace ethics policy setting guidelines for behavior of each team member. Having this structure in place should create job satisfaction as individuals hold themselves and team members to the same standard (Sharma, 2013). Additionally, professionalism should include meeting deadlines, appropriate conversations and communication across the team and being actively engaged in the project.