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Leading virtual teams in today's workforce - Thesis Example

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One of these ways is creating virtual teams. “A virtual team consists of professionals working remotely in various locations. Some members may work…
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Leading virtual teams in todays workforce
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1.0 Executive Summary With today’s challenging economy, companies are always seeking ways to improve production and reduce costs at the same time. One of these ways is creating virtual teams. “A virtual team consists of professionals working remotely in various locations. Some members may work out of their home; some may work in co-working offices, while others might work in branch offices.  All, however, work on the same team and work toward the same objectives.” (Fastfedora) With virtual teams located in different geographic locations, they rely highly on different types of technology to interact with each other. Virtual team has advantages and disadvantages to both organization and employees who are a part of the virtual teams.
2.0 Thesis Statement & Research Findings
There are many different views on how beneficial virtual teams really are. To an outsider looking in on an organizational that currently moved from a virtual team to a non-virtual team, you automatically would think they are just looking for ways to improve their bottom line. But there is more to virtual teams then just saving money. Virtual teams have advantages and disadvantages to both organizations and the employees working for these organizations.
Efficient participation of a leader normally involves the employees’ corporation in decision making. That is where the virtual teams would come in handy. Leadership attention in its uniqueness and distinctiveness is always required in an organization. Leading virtual teams involves management of resources available in a traditional office setting. First this will improve the members’ participation as well as support for one another.
Throughout our research we found there was many articles that identified ways on how to ensure virtual teams succeed. But one of the most common techniques that were mention in all articles was ‘communications’. Effective communication needs the listening, comprehension of ideas and expressing every member’s opinions by use of the appropriate technology. Effective communication is also necessitated by a careful diagnosis of the matters to be addressed in the team with the help of the leader. It was stressed that leaders and employee must choose the right type and the technology to deliver a clear message.
Virtual teams serve to improve communication among team members. There are categories of leadership in virtual teams. They are, effective communication, building community on the basis of mutual trust, respect and affiliation, developing clear, shared goals as well as expectations, leadership by example and coordinating organizational boundaries. All these aim at improving the level virtual teamwork. The research conducted also opened our eyes to the fact that virtual teams are not only for large corporations but are used more and more each day by the general population. For example we completed this research paper by communication via email. Each of the team members has different lifestyles which prevented us from meeting fact-to-face. For a virtual team to be led and have positive results, it should be flexible, open to change, collaborative, be ready to exchange information, accept a diverse people as well as culture and utilize alternative approaches to practices. The business in which virtual teams are led should be technologically competent.
3.0 Evolution of Virtual Teams & Their Effectiveness
The advent of telecommuting fueled the evolution of virtual work teams. This was coupled with the need to integrate skills and knowledge across the globe to achieve desired organizational goals. There is also the significant aspect of achieving the goals without having to physically move both human and technological resources. This is further driven by an exponential growth in mobile communication platforms and electronic data services.
4.0 Leading Virtual Teams
In today’s economy there is a demand on effective leadership, this applies to both virtual and non-virtual teams. With respect to virtual teams, research and best practices identified that to ensure distance leadership is effective they must continue to follow the common fundamentals that are true to a non-virtual team environment. With virtual teams dispersed in many various geographically geographic locations, it can be very challenging for everyone involved (Thomspen).
Leading an effective virtual team can be a difficult task (Zofi, 2011). Managers need to understand that they are dealing with people from widely varied backgrounds and cultures, and their main task is to consolidate them into one functional unit serving common company goals (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). Lack of clear communication results in wasted effort by teams and often calls for repeat jobs leading to frustration among colleagues (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999).
Communications is a key component in ensuring your leading a virtual team effectively. “This requires careful attention to listening, presenting one’s own thoughts & ideas as clearly as possible, focusing on conveying positive and constructive intent, choosing the right technology to quickly and sensitively express a clear message” (Thomspen).
Choosing the right type of technology to communication communicate, is also a very important part in leading an effective team, choosing the wrong type of technology may also cause a disconnect with the team. Choose a technology that all members are familiar with. If all members are not familiar with the technology, take some time to ensure they learn it and is are comfortable with it go going forward. Along with communication, leaders must have exceptional listening skills. The leader must be proactive and be able to identify if a team member is experiencing issues or requires help. Speaking via phone or email to their employee each day is one way a leader can start on building a relationship (Thomspen).
Mangers need to cultivate and encourage a habit of having dual, complementary objectives in their leadership structures. They should enable their team members to perform their duties while having occasional opportunities to socialize (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999). Team level expectations, work processes, required outputs and coordination structures should be clearly laid out by leaders and adhered to by all members (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). As the economy keeps changing spontaneously, virtual team managers also need to facilitate and support their teams in the dynamic adjustments as they occur by encouraging informal interactions. Teams must be taught the significance of constantly synchronizing and modifying their expectations and actions to align them to those of their collaborators (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). With the communication technologies available, the leaders should organize periodic virtual meetings which serve to remind members that they are still a team. A virtual team leader should also insure the team members know what the organizational values are. As well identify how they all are a part of obtaining and contributing to these values. (Thomspen).
Another main factor that leaders must develop with their employee is trust. Once trust is establish, employees will feel at ease to work with each other and share their knowledge and expertise. It has been identified that leaders should organize an initial face-to-face meeting. Putting a face to a name overcomes a big step in developing trust within the team. Once trust is established, it’s very important for leaders to ensure the team continues to feel like they are one team. For example, the leader can suggest biweekly or monthly team meeting. During those meetings rotate the chairperson’s role; have them plan the agenda and contact others in the team for agenda items. The more they are involved, they more they feel like a team (Thomspen).
Besides trust within the team, leaders must earn respect and ensure all is respected fairly. Some ways leaders can earn respect of their employees is by keeping commitments. If a leader schedules a meeting with an employee, it the best interest for the leader to make every effort to attend. Rescheduling indicates to the employee that their time isn’t as important as other meetings. Along with keeping commitments, it’s also important for leaders admitting to admit when they are wrong, as well listen to the team’s suggestions and implement them. For example if an employee suggests a way to improve time reporting, investigate and provide the outcome back to the employee. Feeling like a part of a team, is very important to all employees (Thomspen).
5.0 Technology Used in Virtual Teams
Implementing team collaboration in a virtual working space has an assortment of unique challenges (Konetes & Wiggins, 2009). However, apart from the telephone, there are various technological advances available to fulfill this goal. With an array of communication tools, the internet serves as the most suitable medium (Konetes & Wiggins, 2009). Below is a description of a few of them.
5.1 Google docs
It provides free online management of documents and spreadsheets with a Gmail or Google Account. The spreadsheet feature is handy for several employees working on a spreadsheet at the same time and enables collaborative editing of documents. This tool can be used in domain management, payroll coverage, financial reports, directory lists and ranking reports (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011).
5.2 Time Doctor
It is highly efficient in monitoring how time is spent. It can be used to track personal or team time (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). With Time Doctor, it is possible to know what every member is working on, including how much time they use on such activities. This can assist managers to make changes that enhance productivity. They can also prevent potential problems related to productivity like spending too much time on personal internet use in the working hours (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). It is a significant tool in monitoring attendance, to do lists, application usage monitoring and automatic timesheets.
5.3 Jing Project
This tool allows virtual team members to capture a screen or video on their desktops (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). Comments, explanations and voice recordings, can be added to the screen captures. These can then be uploaded to software that converts them into simple links accessible by all team members. It is useful in communicating with developers and designers, where there is a need to explain requirements and changes. It also serves as a substitute when screen sharing is limited by differences in time zones (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). This tool also allows users to record their screens.
5.4 Drop Box
This is a file sharing tool (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999). When new content is added to the Drop Box folder, it automatically updates all other team members that the file had been shared with, or even another computer a member might be using at home. Drop box can be used to back up documents, passwords and images, share training material, file access from multiple computers and file exchange with clients (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999).
5.5 Skype
The use of Skype is free on a number of devices (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999). It facilitates voice calls over the internet, and chat, file transfer and video conferencing. It is suitable for quick questions, training, simple screen sharing and daily meetings.
5.6 Mantis
This is an online script for tracking bugs. Designed for developers, it is a useful means for recording and logging bugs, improving and featuring requests (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999).
6.0 Pros & Cons of Leading Virtual Teams
There are numerous advantages and disadvantages associated with Virtual Teams. From the organizational perspective virtual teams have the following advantages:
Cheaper Salaries – you can hire from all over the world and outside of the USA the price is generally lower.
Less Overhead – you do not have to rent or own office space, pay for employees parking and various other costs associated with renting.
Best Breed of Employees – Virtual teams offer an advantage that was previously non-existent. If you are seeking a certain individual and relocation was not an option for this individual, you would now have an opportunity for this employee to work for you from their current area of residence. You can also hire for the skills you need and not just what is locally available.
A 24 Hour Workday – If you operate in more than one country you would have to entertain the different time zones, you could take advantage of time differences to let morning and night people work when together their energy levels are highest.
Improved Communications – Remote communication has two advantages 1) it forces you to articulate your thoughts and communicate clearly, which helps reduce fatigue and unclear instructions and 2) you can easily record and save discussions for later reference. Virtual teams are all done via digital technology so you will always have a digital footprint.
Metrics Become Dominant – By managing a remote team you rely on metrics and progress to measure employees rather than relying on the number of hours in the office. Progress trumps effort. A reliance on metrics helps you understand your company better and investors love metrics that measure progress.
Increased Diversity – By having the ability to hire in different provinces, countries and states you can increase the diversity of your team which in turn will add value to your work place (Lohrbeer, 2011).
The virtual workplace streamlines systems from multiple components, departments and projects into a single unified unit that is easily accessible by employers, employees and clients anytime and anywhere (Konetes & Wiggins, 2009).
Teams located in diverse regions of the globe, an organization is able to establish its presence with clients all over the world. This also enables owners of small businesses to compete on a global level without limiting themselves to a restricted client base (Konetes & Wiggins, 2009).
Not only does the organization have advantages by having virtual teams, so does the employees working these teams.
No Commuting – Work from the comfort of your home office. Depending on the length of your normal commute you could save a couple hours a day.
Flexible Scheduling – You can work flexible hours and have the ability to pick up your kids from school in the middle of the day, go to appointments or work when it is convenient for you.
Healthier Food – you can make lunch at home instead of eating out or trying to find something quick and easy to heat up at work.
Improved Health – You can take the time to go to the gym or for a walk to clear your mind and work out a problem. It is easier to schedule time to work out when you are working from home.
Fewer Interruptions – Having a private office with fewer interruptions can increase productivity (Lohrbeer, 2011).
As discussed above, a virtual team provides many advantages to organizations but they also have many disadvantages as well.
Lower Bandwidth Communication- e-mail and online forums do not provide the same interaction as a face-to face meeting would provide and a face-to-face meeting would allow one to detect subtle changes in a person’s tone of voice or one may pick up on body language easier than in an online forum.
Extra Overhead – Contradictory to the pro of less overhead, remote teams require tasks, ideas, bugs and work to be documented, saved and tracked in online systems. Setting up and maintaining the system to work online takes extra time which in turn would result in increased costs initially.
Tracking Effort – You have to develop other techniques to track and coordinate work because you lose the benefit of seeing someone in the office every day and being able to stop by their desk, interact and see what they are working on.
Harder to Create Culture – It is harder to create a sense of camaraderie when employees are not interacting with each other in person on a regular basis. The team will need to work at getting together on regular intervals in order to diminish this effect on the virtual team.
Requires New Skills Behaviours – New skills will need to be developed and the cost may be higher initially to develop these new skills and interaction styles. (Lohrbeer 2011)
To determine if virtual teams are appropriate for your company, the pros and cons will need to be weighed. Good planning and research will allow for minimized cons relating to creating virtual teams (Lohrbeer, 2011)
7.0 Our Opinion
We sense that virtual teams will continue to grow over the next five years. As technology grows, so will virtual teams. We believe that virtual teams can be effective if they are well managed. The downfall of virtual teams has everything to do with communication and fostering collaboration. We think that for a virtual team to be a successful, they will need to make sure they employ leaders who are able to clearly articulate team goals and vision. They need to build and manage a trusting environment. We feel the leaders should be reliable, dependable, and likeable as well have superior leadership, decision making & problem solving skills. The last trait, the leader will have to be able to work independently and in a team environment.
Another reason why we feel virtual teams can fail is the fact they are not planned well in advance, but rather evolves as an organizations grows (Zofi, 2011). Leaders experience difficulty managing teams from different cultural and lingual backgrounds. But with the right tools and again communication, they can overcome this barrier. (Zofi, 2011)
As the economy keeps changing spontaneously, virtual team managers need to facilitate and support their teams in the dynamic adjustments as they occur by encouraging informal interactions. Teams must be taught the significance of constantly synchronizing and modifying their expectations and actions to align them to those of their collaborators (Carmel & Espinosa, 2011). With the communication technologies available, the leaders should organize periodic virtual meetings which serve to remind members that they are still a team.
Overall, we as a ‘virtual team’ know that virtual teams can succeed, but it takes exceptional communication skills and devoted and well managed time.
8.0 Conclusion
In conclusion, virtual workplaces have transformed the world into a “global office”. They are advantageous in this era of high end telecommunication technology (Lipnack & Stamps, 1999). With the right type of leadership, organization skills and technology, they can be successful. Virtual teams have now become a reality in today’s world. In addition, other indicators show that they will be prevalent in future. Virtual teams in the workplace present novel challenges that make the management be on toes in its operations. Leaders leading virtual teams transform the organization in ways that other methodologies cannot effectively. It makes work efficient because of the close interaction among workers.
9.0 References
Joyce A. Thompsen, PH.D (2000) Leading Virtual Teams - retrieved from
Trevor Lohrbeer (2011) Virtual Teams: Pros, Cons & Best Practices - retrieved from
Carmel, E., & Espinosa, J. (2011). Im working while theyre sleeping: Time zone separation challenges and solutions. Chicago: Nedder Stream Press.
Konetes, G., & Wiggins, B. E. (2009). The effectiveness of virtual teams. Indiana: Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Lipnack, J., & Stamps, J. (1999). Virtual teams: The new way to work. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Powell, A., Piccoli, G., & Ives, B. (2004). Virtual teams: A review of current literature and directions for future research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Zofi, Y. (2011). A managers guide to virtual teams (1st ed.). New York: Amacom. Read More
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