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A first-of-its-kind practical toolkit for leaders and members of virtual and global teams, this book details solutions to the unique challenges of working cross-culturally and cross-functionally.
Consider the example of a team in a global firm that produces durable goods. This product-development team, with members from around the world, had just completed the development of a new product. When the team unveiled the product to the senior staff of the organization, it included a description of the way the team worked. The presentation showed an icon of an airplane, with the entire team of twenty-two people traveling from country to country. The team members had continually moved from site to site for activities such as status reviews, design meetings, and prototyping sessions. The cost of the travel was tremendous, not only for hotels and airline tickets but also in terms of the human costs of being away from home and the lost work time and productivity.
Contrast this with the experiences of teams in organizations such as Hewlett Packard, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), John Brown Engineers & Construction, DEC, and Rank Hovis.3 These organizations also form world-class teams to quickly address customer problems, developproducts, and deliver services, but these teams often operate virtually, without the physical limitations of distance, time, and organizational boundaries. They use electronic collaboration technologies and other techniques to lower travel and facility costs, reduce project schedules, and improve decision-making time and communication.'' For many teams, traveling and having continual face-to-face meetings is not the most efficient or effective way of working.
Organizations that do not use virtual teams effectively may be fighting an uphill battle in a global, competitive, and rapidly changing environment. Organizations that will succeed in the next millennium have found new ways of working across boundaries through systems, processes, technology, and people.
Understanding how to work in or lead a virtual team is becoming a fundamental competence for people in many organizations. Virtual teams often are formed as a reaction to a business requirement or as a result of programs, such as telecommuting, that introduce new ways of working.
It is not uncommon to talk with people who lead or work in virtual teams who do not have a great deal of experience working on teams in a co-located environment. Most of the large consulting firms (Andersen Consulting is one primary example) do a large majority of their work virtually. Consultants who join these firms may never have the opportunity to work in or lead a traditional team in a co-located environment. They are immediately placed in situations that are more virtual than traditional. IBM has an entire unit in which employees telecommute, so new hires may never have a chance to work in a traditional office setting.
People who lead and work in virtual teams need to have special skills, including an understanding of human dynamics, knowledge of how to manage across functional areas and national cultures, and the ability to use communication technologies as their primary means of communicating and collaborating.
Types of Virtual Teams
There are many different configurations of virtual teams.' One of the central themes of this book is that the task affects how a virtual team is managed. Although virtual teams can undertake almost any kind of assignment, team leaders and members need to have a solid understanding of the type of virtual team they work in and the special challenges each type presents. What these teams have in common with all teams is that team members must communicate and collaborate to get work done and/or to produce a product. Virtual teams, unlike traditional ones, however, must accomplish this by working across distance, time, and/or organizational boundaries and by using technology to facilitate communication and collaboration. There are seven basic types of virtual teams:
A networked virtual team consists of individuals who collaborate to achieve a common goal or purpose. Such teams frequently cross time, distance, and organizational boundaries. There typically is a lack of clear definition between a network team and the organization, in that membership frequently is diffuse and fluid, with team members rotating on and off the team as their expertise is needed. Team members may not even be aware of all the individuals, work teams, or organizations in the network.
Examples of this type of virtual team often are found in consulting firms and in high-technology organizations. For example, one group at Pricewaterhouse Coopers received a request from a client to quickly research and identify a set of best practices for managing the implementation of a large supply chain reengineering project. Although the consultants did not have all the answers themselves, they were able to tap into their network of external partners and internal and external databases and provide a set of best practices for the client by the end of the week.
Organizations that develop technological products also can use networked virtual teams. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses a networked team for the Space Station Freedom Program. Team members come from over a dozen different nations and all NASA centers and include a large number of external suppliers, scientists, and corporate partners. Team members from different organizations come in and out of the network as their expertise is needed to make recommendations on the design and utilization of the Space Station.
Parallel virtual teams carry out special assignments, tasks, or functions that the regular organization does not want or is not equipped to perform...
|Part 1||Understanding Virtual Teams|
|1||Critical Success Factors||3|
|2||Crossing Technical Boundaries||25|
|3||Crossing Cultural Boundaries||54|
|Part 2||Creating Virtual Teams|
|4||Myths and Realities of Leading Virtual Teams||73|
|5||Starting a Virtual Team: Six Major Steps||92|
|6||Team Member Roles and Competencies||121|
|7||Building Trust in Virtual Teams||139|
|Part 3||Mastering Virtual Teams|
|8||Virtual Team Meetings||157|
|9||Virtual Team Dynamics||179|
|How to Use the Accompanying CD-ROM||230|