|Type of paper:||Course work|
|Categories:||Human resources Internet Organizational behavior Business communication|
Faced with hypercompetitive environments, many organizations are shifting to the use of virtual teams as a way of improving or maximizing the use and productivity of their widely dispersed knowledge and resources (Settle-Murphy, 2013). Since virtual teams are teams that are far-flung in a wide geographical area, they usually conduct their activities interdependently through electronic media with very few face-to-face encounters. Due to the limited face-to-face interactions and long distances, creating best practices and norms is necessary.
The first one is to commit to a communication charter. Exchange of information is often less frequent and less rich than face-to-face interaction which often provides more contextual cues about emotional states, such as engagement (Ivanaj & Bozon, 2016). The only effective way to solve this challenge is to very clear about how the team will communicate. Create a charter that establishes explicit norms of behavior during virtual meetings. The charter also should include guidelines about communication modes to use specific circumstances.
The second communication norm is allowing everyone to speak. Regardless of the differences that exist amongst the virtual team members, each member has an idea to contribute. The idea could range from knowledge to differing viewpoints (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2010). It is therefore important to allow them to express their ideas without any prejudice. Sometimes not all team members want to speak but each group member has something to bring out if encouraged and given an opportunity.
Another communication norm is listening to others. There is great value in listening to others. The world would be a better place if people listened to each other more. Listening helps you to help those whom you listen to, learn and develop patience. More often than not many people talk while listening to themselves when they understand the topic better (Settle-Murphy, 2013). However, working for a team's success is all about communication and listening to the opinions of others and hearing present towards group work. Setting listening to others as a group norm, therefore, acts as an encouragement to those who otherwise feel offended that some members don't value their opinions. It is only through humble listening to others and responding adequately to the other person that we can get constructive and ideas towards group prosperity.
Asking for clarification is also a good communication norm in virtual teams. It is easy to make assumptions. All we need is incomplete information about a situation and unwillingness to ask questions for clarification. When members don't ask, they lack knowledge and experience which leads to limited comprehension (Settle-Murphy, 2013). Members within the group should understand that it is better to ask for clarification of an issue than doing wrong through assumptions and own opinions. It is thus essential to note that it is more valuable to ask questions than assuming.
The other one is agreeing on formal communication language. Virtual teams are often also cross-cultural teams, and this creates communication challenges especially when members think they share a common language which is not the case. When the task is technical, there is a need to use the language of science and engineering to provide a solid foundation for communication (Ivanaj & Bozon, 2016). In the case of ambiguities, the virtual team members should take time to explicitly negotiate an agreement on common interpretations of important words and phrases.
Alongside communication norms, task norms also play a great role in how group goals will be reached. Each group member must pay close task norms just as they do to communication and group norms (Ivanaj & Bozon, 2016). The following section reviews five task norms that are very essential to virtual group productivity and successful processes
Setting achievable timelines and datelines is a very basic but essential norm in performing team activities. Each piece of task activities should be done within a defined period towards achieving the overall timing of the project (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2010). Failure to set and adhere to strict task datelines makes team members prone to postpone various activities, hindering the progress of the team.
Additionally, the team must build a culture of meeting deadlines. To make successful virtual teams, set datelines should be respected. Set datelines work best only when team members respect them to the latter (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2010). In virtual teams, there is often interconnectivity between positions and departments. If one team member fails to respect a set dateline, it can create a negative effect on other team members and subsequently missing their datelines or even working in excess to make up for someone's failure. However, respecting the datelines helps individuals to communicate or seek assistance in advance if they are not likely to accomplish the task in time.
Keeping every member updated on what is new and what is going on. Each team member is usually allocated tasks per interests, interests or knowledge (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2010). Even in such a situation have different tasks, each team member should understand the overall progress of the project, as well seeing the contribution of other members. Generally speaking, updates are essential for communication in virtual teams.
Also, there must be a fair allocation of tasks and duties. Coupled with the aforementioned task norms, allocating tasks effectively allows members to apply their different levels of knowledge, backgrounds, and expertise in different spheres (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2010). It is therefore uniquely important that all these factors be considered when allocating tasks. If not, there might be dissatisfaction from members with more tasks.
Make collective decisions concerning task norms. This norm though coming as the last in this review is equally very important. Allowing team members to participate in making decisions in establishing task norms ensures that they are equally responsible for their actions (Ivanaj & Bozon, 2016). Contrastingly, if task norms are set by individuals, individual team members are unlikely to take responsibility for any negative outcome.
The explanation why these Norms are Essential
These norms are essential in building virtual teams because they help to enhance communication, which is an essential element in improving outcomes. Since the team comprises individuals from different backgrounds, it is essential to set communication styles by developing a charter to help in sharing information accurately and correctly without offending anyone (Lepsinger & DeRosa, 2010). Also, it is essential to consider using appropriate language and listening to others without considering others superior to others because of the geographical regions where they come from. For example, highly skilled members should listen to newcomers since they may have new ideas and approaches that would improve team outcomes. Therefore, the norms improve the working relationship among the members; thus, enhancing the engagement of every member.
Similarly, task norms identified above are critical in the success of a virtual team since it focuses on establishing acceptable behaviors when approaching tasks. Due to the diversity of team members, the leadership must develop and agree on task norms with the members to avoid conflict of interest, or variations about approaches to tasks (Settle-Murphy, 2013). Also, they help to build consensus since every member understands acceptable behaviors and strategies for making decisions. Noteworthy, they build groupthink, improving outcomes. However, team norms keep changing because of internal and external factors.
The first step will be to meet all members and ask each team member to suggest norms to guide the team behavior. If there are many members in the team, they will be divided into groups and get each group brainstorms their list of norms. Secondly, from the list of suggested norms, discuss with members and eliminate redundant ideas and collectively agree on the norms the team wishes to adapt. At this point the list of norms is abstract so convert them into measurable behaviors. Thirdly, write down the accepted norms for each member to append his or her signature to confirm them as binding. Give each team member a copy of these norms and store a copy online for easy access. To ensure adherence, create a plan of following through on each norm by identifying responsibilities and timelines. Lastly, team members should be reminded that new norms can be added if necessary by following laid down procedures. Table 1 below proposes an action plan that would develop and enforce the norms.
Due to the growth and penetration of technology, organizations are using teams comprising members from different geographical locations to accomplish tasks. However, the teams can be successful by building team norms that shape the behavior of all members. For example, group charter and groupthink would improve the relationship among members, leading to improved team functioning. The process of establishing and implementing team norms requires a carefully drafted action plan, engaging all members. The last step is assessing the outcome and this helps to reflect on things that went wrong and success aspects.
Ivanaj, S., & Bozon, C. (2016). Managing virtual teams. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Lepsinger, R., & DeRosa, D. (2010). Virtual team success: A practical guide for working and leading from a distance. New York: Jossey-Bass.
Settle-Murphy, N. (2013). Leading effective virtual teams: Overcoming time and distance to achieve exceptional results. London: CRC Press.
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