Virtual Team Management for Higher Performance

Virtual Team Management for Higher Performance

Edward T. Chen (University of Massachusetts – Lowell, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9970-0.ch016
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This chapter aims to explore the increasing utilization of virtual teams in the existing globally competitive and complex business environment of the 21st century. With virtual teams, companies can expand their talent pool beyond geographical barriers. Furthermore, they can incorporate a follow-the-sun process in their business strategy. Combined, this leveraged approach can better position companies to meet market demands in a more timely and cost-effective manner. To achieve this competitive advantage, business leaders must thoroughly understand the challenges associated with developing and managing virtual teams. This chapter examines the reasons for utilizing virtual teams, challenges that stem from diversity, structural and behavioral characteristics, managerial considerations for effective leadership, supporting technologies, best practices, and future implications.
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Virtual teams are becoming a necessity in the globalization of the economy. While there are several benefits to virtual teams, they will not be realized if managers do not minimize the challenges. The management of project teams is an important part of a manager’s job. Today’s managers need to understand the various forms that a project team can take on and the best way to manage those teams. The traditional project team is made up of a group of people, most likely from different departments, working in the same location who is working to achieve a goal. The team members will meet in a conference room to discuss the project and assign tasks. These tasks may be done independently by team members but because they are located in the same office, they can easily and discuss the project outside of the formal meetings (Barnwell, Nedrick, Rudolph, Sesay, & Wellen, 2014; Schlenkrich & Upfold, 2009).

Information systems and the growth of high speed Internet across the globe have enabled companies to implement a global virtual team structure (Piccoli, Powell, & Ives, 2004). Companies implementing virtual teams have seen a reduction in costs, greater utilization, increased access to new markets, and a larger pool of resources with a greater variation in skill sets (Olson, Appunn, McAllister, Walters, & Grinnell, 2014). However, working virtually does come with challenges. Virtual teams need to navigate communication difficulties, the effects of culturally diverse membership, and the technical difficulties involved in linking regions across large distances (Grosse, 2002; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999; Jones, 2009; Lisak & Erez, 2015). In order to maximize the benefits and minimize the weaknesses from virtual teams, managers need to be more involved than they are with local teams. Virtual teams require the manager to establish and closely monitor organizational design within the team, with an eye toward encouraging an environment of trust and open, effective communication (Henderson & Lee, 1992; Gaan, 2012; Krebs, Hobman, & Bordia, 2006; Morgan, Paucar-caceres, & Wright, 2014; Zolin & Hinds, 2004). A manager must also mitigate conflict that arises. He or she must function in multiple roles, including administrator, coach, and advisor, throughout the lifespan of the team. The objective of this chapter is to explore the challenges of virtual teams and identify how to manage them in order to maximize performance (Brunelle, 2012).

Research for this chapter is comprised of several journal articles, corporate white papers, and trade magazines that revealed overlapping coverage of reasons to build virtual teams, limitations, challenges that team members encounter, managerial tactics, and the future outlook for virtual teams in a variety of settings. These articles contained empirical evidence of claims; however, to date it appears more research is needed to support virtual team best practices. Thus, this chapter is written for both IS researchers and IT practitioners.

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