Virtual Working Teams that Excel

The workforce is not what it used to be in the previous decades. The key working unit of international business is usually the dispersed virtual working team. Such workers are knowledge-intensive, location-independent, expert in matrix structured organizations, comfortable performing across multiple time zones and  skilled at performing within diverse cultures. Virtual teams are resulting increasingly in  a key dimension  in modern organizations.

By “Virtual Working Teams” we mean professionals which:

  • Work in a team, in which team members are often widely dispersed geographically (and manage themselves with measured input from a corporate leadership)
  • Where team members, often from different job functions, departments, and even organizations, successfully collaborate on specific projects
  • Where team members use sophisticated computer systems specifically developed to enable virtual team interactions and successful project outcomes

However, many new challenges arise. These may include difficulty in performance management, member disparity and anonymity,  cultural or/and geographic barriers (e.g., Cummings, 2004) .  Hence,  successful and high-performing virtual team collaboration must result in superior levels of trust despite challenges of multiple cultures and languages. Crucially, wirtual team effectiveness challenging  demands  selection of team members with interpersonal skills along with  self-monitory  skills, a high level of  subject-expertise , and comfort with technology(Gibson and Cohen, 2003).  This critical mixture must also include the ability to work with others to identify, address, and resolve issues.

These are merely several key areas in which our virtual team professionals must excel. As result,  maintaining this challenging environment requires selection of team members with  interpersonal skills  including adaptability, trustworthiness, self-efficacy, effective collaboration and communication skills (Ginsburg, 2009). Further, the team member’s pattern of coping with conflict is of great emergence as well. Conflict researchers also suggest that task conflicts can improve team performance if managed collaboratively (e.g., Gibson and Cohen, 2003; Ginsburg, 2009).  Leading a virtual team encompasses various challenges as well which include assessing team issues, setting boundaries and organizational policies, monitoring performance levels and selecting appropriate communication channels (e.g., Pauleen, 2004).

Dr Joel Ginsburg based on his research  has constructed  a unique, for the moment, psychometric tool around Trait Characteristics Common to Successful Members of Widely Dispersed Self-Managed Virtual Teams.

Global Symfony is a questionnaire which enables the selection of  effective and high performing Virtual Team members.  More information including  a call for validation in real settings  is available here.

References

Cummings J.N. (2004), Work Groups, Structural Diversity and Knowledge Sharing in a Global Organization, Management Science, Vol. 50, issue 3, p: 352-364

Gibson, C. B. and  Cohen S. G. (2003), Virtual Teams That Work: Creating Conditions for Virtual Team Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ginsburg, J.P. (2009),  Determining the personality characteristics that identify a successful global virtual team member. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (ID 305128078)

Pauleen David J. (2004),  An Inductively Derived Model of Leader-Initiated Relationship Building with Virtual Team Members, Journal of Management Information Systems, Vol. 20, No. 3.