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Reflection Paper: Managing Virtual and Global Teams



EssayChat / Aug 24, 2018

The Twenty First Century organizational environment is one of diversity, global perspectives and mass communications. At no other point in history has man had a greater connectivity to one another and this has dramatically changed the organizational and market landscape of the world. In an effort for organizations to meet the changing environment, the activities that were efficacious for the old organizational paradigm are now antiquated for the new organizational experience (Acona et al., 2005). Understanding this, organizations must manage for change to accurately equip themselves for the new conditions. As part of this phenomenon, managing virtual and global teams is of the utmost important. The respective course, which critically addresses those components of the modern organization, holistically met the student's expectations for such a course as it defined, examined theory and established practical applications that are ready for instant integration in future and current work situations.

Virtual Reflection PaperIn regards to the course, the concepts that were the most important were the identification of teams, how to evaluate and reward teams and also how teams become extensions of organizational culture. While the terminology team is frequently employed, it is far less critically defined. Levi defined the term as follows early in the course text, "A team is a special type of group in which people work interdependently to accomplish a goal. Organizations use many different types of teams to serve a variety of purposes" (p. 2). By first establishing what a team was, the foundations related to virtual teams and global teams were established. Building on this definition, the connectivity to organizational culture, evaluation and rewards was articulated in a systems capacity. A proper reward systems and fair evaluation system influence workplace culture which in turn can establish loyalty or create high turnovers depending on how well the situations are managed (Acona, et al.). Though all of the information presented in the course had value, the least relevant to the researcher's personal situation was the team training aspects. This particular portion, which was covered in Chapter 17 of Levi, is so individualized the author's presentation of the material had to stay ambiguous. The practical applications, therefore, were less useful than some of the other identified information. Based on the type of organization in which the virtual or global teams are being applied, significant variation in how training and building of team structures would be present.

The content of the course personally improved the researcher's ability to lead and perform in a virtual team setting primarily from the identification of relevant team related characteristics. Rather than simply participating in a virtual team, the entire process of virtual teams can be understood and the intricacies that make the team succeed or fail the researcher will be cognizant thereof. The course made the student's aware of the various components of virtual teams so instead of simply participating in them, they are critically evaluating every component of the team for maximum efficacy. Problems, therefore, can be mitigated by early identification. In Duarte and Snyder (2006), the authors identified that organizations have to adapt quickly or die. This same principle is true of virtual teams. A more educated and group/self aware team member is far more adaptable than someone who is not experienced in global teams or someone who does not understand the salient characteristics of virtual teams. Proper understanding of the teams operational characteristics also allowed for effective team self evaluation. Without the foundations of information gained from the course, it would be much more difficult to accurately and objectively assess how well the group is performing. In any team, assessing performance and making the necessary changes for maximum efficacy is crucial. To personally self reflect, a person has to have an honest understanding of themselves, their strengths, weaknesses and human psychology. Similarly, group self evaluation necessitates understanding the innate nature of teams and the individual strengths and weaknesses of the team.

On the level of leadership, the course has also enabled the researcher to have a better understanding so the myths pertaining to virtual teams are not succumbed to erroneously. In today's organizational environment, "It seems at times that it is actually rare to lead a team that is located all in one place" (Duarte & Snyder, 2006, p. 75). If leaders understand this, they can make the necessary arrangements for symmetrical communication and proper evaluation of protocols. One possible way to make the course more practical would be through the use of more case study examples. Though the course did use many examples, the employment of various real life case studies that deal with virtual team issues and logistical problems could be helpful for the facilitation of critical thinking. Many times there is no singular correct answer for teams and fostering team environments. As a result, the more real examples and the more theory that can be applied to these situations by students the better equipped they will be when they enter the real world and attempt to apply their interpretations of the course concepts.

While the entire team process was useful, one of the more exciting times was when the first successful conflict resolution took place. Based on the foundations that were established early on, considerable rapport had already ensued and mutual respect was present. Despite these foundations, there is always a feeling of apprehension that takes place when conflict begins. When the conflict was resolved through a group mediation that made all participants happy, a strong sense of accomplishment was present in the team. The feeling that greater issues could be resolved if they were to occur based on this resolution came about as a direct result of this matter. The researcher's personal role in the situation was as a mediator. Since I was not directly involved in the conflict, I was able to see both sides, present information in a specific manner and facilitate discourse between all the parties until a resolution was found. Being able to contribute that to the group established myself as a leader and a problem solver in the group. This gave me confidence that I could do the same thing in another team if necessary or that I could apply those principles to a situation in which I was directly involved in the conflict.

Some of the core factors and themes that gave the team life was the degree of efficacy present in the communications. In all communications, including virtual capacities, individual personalities were still present and group members got to know each other in a professional capacity. Rapport was built even in a non tradition arrangement. One of the myths identified by Duarte and Synder (2006) is that virtual team members do not need attention. In our respective team, all members required attention and consideration. Had anyone been left out of the equation, a far less organized and efficacious team would have been present. The life blood of the team, therefore, was interactions. The type of interactions were not important, however, the quality of those interactions were a key variable in establishing a common goal, mutual respect and a culture that led to strong task completion. The importance of communication in the group, was congruent to all of the material that was presented in the course on a theoretical level. The group life was one of those times when theory and practiced merged in a profound manner thereby demonstrating the importance of what we were learning in the course.

If the team were to continue for another semester and I was given a leadership position, I would hope that team could get even better at communication. There were a few times during the course of exchanges where it appeared a team member was unhappy or not fully aware of why something was being done in a certain manner. Despite this, the team members still elected to go along with the process because the prime value was placed on efficacious goal completion rather than individual perspective. While this did not cause significant problems during this semester, allowing such notions to go unattended could cause resentment or problems in the future. When these situations arise, as a leader, it would be my job to identify them and either address them immediately as a group or in a one on one capacity with the person. Whether or not I elected to do a group discussion or a one on one discussion would depend on the context of the situation and the individual involved. A great deal of judgement based on instincts and knowledge of the person and group would have to be drawn upon for this situation. Though judgement and instincts are generally frowned upon in the scientific community, they are part of the leadership process and they are present in all organizational cultural paradigms. For example, if a person seems to be upset about a particular direction but that team member is generally reserved and amiable, it may be best to address their concerns privately and collaborate with them to find out how to resolve the situation in a proactive manner. What is agreed to for resolution could them be used by the leader the next time the situation manifest during group activities. This would give the group member more ownership and let them know that they are valued and their needs are being noted. Such an element could be an important part of establishing a strong value culture within the team.

For students wishing to take the course, the advice I would have would be to keep an open mind. When I first began the course, I felt I knew what a team was and I felt I was a strong team member. In addition, I also felt that virtual teams were a luxury and not a realistic alternative to conventional team structures. On all levels, I was incorrect. Though it took some time for me to come around, the information in which I was presented completely changed my mind about these things and helped me to become both a better team member and a better leader. The first inclination that I was erroneous in my previous judgements came when I was introduced to the definition of a teams. Prior to this, I realized my definition was very limited and only applicable to certain types of situations. Teams were far more robust and complex than I ever imagined. For the sake of convenience, I had psychological oversimplified them. As the course continued, I was able to expand my schema and learn more about the process. In regards to the potential efficacy of virtual teams, I learned that they can be just as effective as regular teams. What is important to note, however, is what Duarte and Snyder articulated, which was that "the complexity of communicating over time, distance, and organizations causes unique problems that are not easy to solve" (p. 79). As a result, though they can be effective, they are not necessarily easier. In fact, they have unique problems that cannot be resolved by conventional understanding or group mechanisms of operation. In order for a person to get the most out of the course, it is almost best to come in with a complete open mind that is not prejudiced by personal experiences or by personal understanding of the team work process. Virtual and global teams are innately different to conventional teams. While some elements are interchangeable, there is enough uniqueness that requires careful attention. A student that takes the course with the attitude that "Virtual teams are a joke" and expects the information to either prove them wrong or reinforce their current thesis would spend valuable time that they could be using to gain new information to simply get to the point of open-mindedness. A student that enters open minded would be able to start retaining information right away.

Some additional comments regarding the course would again be a reinforcement of the course relevance. In the modern organizational environment, there are a number of types of virtual teams that include: networked teams, parallel teams, development teams, production teams, service teams, management teams and action teams. Those organizations that do not efficaciously embrace virtual teams are fighting what can be considered an uphill battle (Duarte & Snyder). If an organization cannot embrace virtual teams, they simply cannot be competitive in a global environment. While for some smaller and domestic based firms this may be possible, for expansion and organization's wishing to operate on larger levels this is simply not an option. Those who embrace and then master virtual teams will be the ones most poised for success in the present and in the immediate future. There are currently no signs that the future organizational environment will be moving away from the virtual paradigm. All related business intelligence suggests otherwise so to resist it will be the equivalent of rendering oneself obsolete on the operational level. Overall, the course is both relevant and valuable. The way in which the material is presented and applied helps to facilitate a critical understanding of how the presented theories will work in practice. While there are some areas that could use improvement and some concepts are more relevant than others, these critiques would be typical of any strong course.

References

Acona, D. et al. (2005). Managing For the Future. Canada: Thomson.

Duarte, D. L. & Snyder, N. T. (2006) Mastering Virtual Teams. New York: Jossey Bass.

Levi, D. (2011). Group Dynamics for Teams. California: SAGE Publications, Inc.


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