an example of a wiki page created for an information services knowledge management wiki. all information attributed to katie haden where references are not provided. an online web presentation link is also available.
Advances in technology have meant that companies have been able to adopt more global approaches to management in the last decade. Watkins (2013) identifies more and more teams will consist of staff spread across multiple locations in the future. Understanding how individuals within team structures will cope and communicate is important in planning and adopting procedures for virtualisation.
Teams, global teams and virtual teams – definitions.
Teams are specific groups of people working together for a common goal, project or outcome (Robbins et. al, 2008). Teams that include individuals dispersed over multiple locations or regions are known as ‘global teams’, and those that rely on technology to communicate or share information are ‘virtual teams’ (Watkins, 2013). Not all global teams are virtual: there are still some companies that do not choose to connect or link their teams via technology, however virtually connected individuals in global teams spread out over large geographical regions (i.e. international) are the norm.
The challenges of global teams
Lee (2011) identifies the main issues with teams spread over a large geographical distance, including:
- lack of understanding of objectives or tasks within the team
- failure to identify cultural clashes/differences in employees
- failure to arrange teams according to their strengths
- lack of face-to-face contact
- disparities between technological support and access in different locations (e.g. offices in one location may not have access to the same level of technical assistance/tools as another location etc)
- leaders failing to take note of social requirements of team members, and not encouraging sharing, networking etc
- lack of trust between team members.
Watkins (2013) suggests that many of the problems facing virtual teams, including lack of clarity and trust are the direct result of the lack of face to face interaction and organised communication between team members, and managers/team leaders should be identifying social networking and team interaction as major areas for improvement.
Overcoming global challenges
The issues outlined above are not necessarily hard to overcome. One of the main focus areas in team management that can lead to major improvement in team efficiency and effectiveness is through the encouragement of social networking and knowledge sharing.
Methods for improving virtual team management can include the following principles, as outlined by Watkins (2013)
- organising at least one face to face discussion/round table early in the project. If this absolutely isn’t possible, organise a meeting that includes audio visual (such as skype etc) so that all team members have the opportunity to physically see each other.
- adopt a communication charter that outlines all expectations and standards for communicating. This can be used to enforce a schedule of team meetings, updates and protocols around sharing information
- clarification of all project systems, including tasks, processes and policies.
- encourage a specific schedule or routine of project systems and communication
- encourage team members to take on responsibility for tasks, or share project responsibilities amongst multiple team members to encourage empowerment and motivation
- create a knowledge management system for team members to share experiences, education etc.
- create explicit timeframes and milestones that team members must commit to.
Outcomes for virtual team management improvement: what to expect
Team leaders or managers who consider the problems that may face them in virtual teams are in a better position to overcome issues early, and manage their project successfully until completion. Niedermann & Tan (2011) believe that understanding team members, their backgrounds and their role in the dynamic of the global team gives leaders the chance to build a team successfully, utilising the strengths of each team member based on their background. Virtual teams who develop rapport, communicate effectively and have a clear, unified understanding of the project goals, tasks, outcomes and milestones are more likely to be empowered, trust each other, share knowledge through experience and social networking, and deliver a project according to plan (Lee, 2011; Niedermann & Tan, 2011).
Discussion Question: What are some methods for improving communication and knowledge sharing in a virtual team, using technology? How would you incorporate it into a project?
Discussion Question: You are a manager of a team with members in different parts of Australia. Come up with a short five point plan outlining communication processes and expectations.
Hansen, M.T. & Nohria, N. (2004). How to build a collaborative advantage. MIT Sloan Management Review, 46(1), 22-30. Retrieved from: https://www.student.gsu.edu/~llucas3/documents/IB%208990/readings/how%20to%20build%20a%20collaborative%20advantage.pdf
Lee, Y. (2011). Creating and managing global organizational teams. Journal of Global Business Issues, 5(1), 73-77. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/871891713?accountid=10675
Niedermann, F. & Tan, F.B. (2011) Managing global IT teams: considering cultural dynamics. Communications of the ACM, 54(4). 24-27. Doi:10.1145/1924421.1924431
No Doubt Research. (2001). The ‘water cooler’ as a metaphor: getting tacit knowledge flowing. Retrieved from the No Doubt Research website: http://www.nodoubt.co.nz/pdfs/knowledge_management/watercooler_km.pdf
O’Dell, C. & Hubert, C. (2011). Building a knowledge-sharing culture. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 34(2), 22-26. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.ecu.edu.au/docview/884214955/abstract?accountid=10675
Robbins, S., Bergman, R., Stagg, I., & Coulter, M. (2008) Management 5th edition. Frenchs Forest, NSW: Pearson Education.
Watkins, M. (2013, June 27). Making virtual teams work: ten basic principles. Retrieved from the Harvard Business Review: http://blogs.hbr.org/watkins/2013/06/making_virtual_teams_work_ten.html
Zhong, X., Huang, Q., Davison, R.M., Yang, X. & Chen, H. (2011). Empowering teams through social network ties. International Journal of Management 32(2012), 209-220. doi: 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2011.11.001