A Sample Managing Virtual Teams Research Paper:
Virtual team members are workmates who work on virtual locations or locations that are far apart, but they are brought together through information and telecommunication systems. In the modern society, virtual teams and offices are becoming a common element in modern companies. There are several benefits that come with virtualization which include; large member selection pool, reduced transportation costs, and diversity of perspectives. Despite these benefits, there are many challenges surrounding the same. Some of these challenges include; performance monitoring and related problems, isolation and anonymity of members, and technology related problems. There also exist cultural, temporal, and geographical barriers that each team must overcome. This paper will analyze a situation where virtual team members have reported that they feel isolated. In this light, a communication strategy and its improvement strategies will be determined.
Nature of the Situation- Challenges of Virtualization Essay
As outlined above, one of the challenges that come with virtualization is the situation whereby some or all members feel being isolated. This scenario is majorly contributed to by lack of physical interaction amongst team members. It is worth to note that social interaction between supervisors, employees, and coworkers is important in all kinds of jobs. The lack of this interaction makes the team members feel isolated and out of the loop. Over the years, Isolation has been seen to have negative effects on the performance of virtual team members. According to the research by Paula Caproni, it is difficult for team members to work together for a common good when they are geographically dispersed. This leads to formation of teams which are less productive and satisfied as compared to members working face-to-face. There are so many thing s that virtual team members cannot do like; taking lunch together, or sharing of pictures and other activities that can bring them together. These are activities that are evident in face-to-face teams and they are paramount in building esprit de corps. In countering this feeling of alienation by team members, there is a need to investigate whether the team members have the need of social interaction or not (Clemons & Kroth, 2011). The feeling of isolation is largely seen in those members who have strong social needs as compared to team members who are independent. In an event that virtual team members feel isolated, they become de-motivated and are unable to cope with the day to day demands of a project and as a result, their productivity is lowered. Also, team members who feel isolated are unable to interact with the project managers freely as they feel alienated for the other part of the team. This leads to poor communication which may cause delays in project completion. In such a case, the team manager may be compelled to employ new project members, which becomes an expensive exercise to the company.
Communication strategy In Project Management
As indicated above, there is a need for the project manager to factor in the diverse needs of communication and interaction amongst their team members when designing a communication strategy. The key purpose of a communication strategy is to allow for successful implementation of project plans where the project heads are able to communicate with their coworkers, an element that would ensure that communication channels are streamlined and hence information is delivered to the target audience at the right time (Conservation International. & IUCN–The World Conservation Union. Commission on Education and Communication., 2006).
Communication Strategy Objectives:
Building synergy of the team members: A viable communication plan will help in increasing the effectiveness of the project team. Making project leaders to be advocates: Information provided through an elaborate communication strategy will help in enabling leaders to become project advocates, an element that will facilitate in project completion. Preparing project managers and their juniors: An elaborate communication plan will ensure that total project understanding and awareness is arrived at which will in turn ensure good relationship between the project supervisors and their employees (Dreo, Kunkel, & Mitchell, 2003). Improve project mangers image: A good communication plan should be able to do demonstrate on how the project managers are supportive to the junior members in the team. It would also be instrumental in demonstrating how the project supports the company’s objectives and hence, other project units will work hard in an attempt to meet their project goals. Management of objectives and expectations: This communication plan will help in reinforcing the key goals of the project. Also, it will be instrumental in managing perceptions and in ensuring complete understanding of both the project’s short term and long-term goals (Bhagat & Steers, 2009).
Principles in Communication
Communication will be tailored to discreet audiences as per the needs analysis. Face to face message will be used for sensitive information. Face to face meetings will be arranged where team members will be expected to air their views and the solutions of the same be provided immediately by the project heads. Constant feedback will be collected from the team members. This will help in continuous assessment of the condition and wellbeing of the team members. Also, all messages that are sent to the project members should contain important messages only. After which the predetermined points are evaluated to ensure proper understanding of earlier messages. Finally, the project leaders will constantly consult with the company’s management to ensure that the information that is passed to the team members by the company’s management. This will avoid many misunderstanding between the project leaders, coworkers, and the company’s management.
Key Deliverables:
Regular meeting s should be scheduled for all team members
A newsletter should be released twice a month
Teams should meet and celebrate in an event of a project milestone.
Physical seminars, workshops, and webinars should be included in the events program.
Upgrade will be performed on the existing communication methods. For example, upgrading of the company’s website to allow for online chatting services, where team members can network and share ideas.
Communication Mechanisms
In choosing a communication channel to be used, the project manager will be evaluating all available forms, and then he or she would be making a decision based on the reliability and the audience of the message.
The following communication channels will be used:
Focus group sessions
E-Mail memos
E-mail conference board
HR Help Centre
Corporate Newsletter
It can be noted that this communication strategy leaves most decisions to the discretion of the project manager. This is important as he or she will be the one to deal with the team members and he/she will analyze the situation and come up with the appropriate communication channel. Project managers are responsible for developing clear goals in any project. It is worth to note that employees can be able to work on realization of the set goals if they can understand the project concepts. They can also make it easy for project supervisors to prioritize goals (MacGregor & Torres-Coronas, 2007).
Improvement of the Communication Strategy
As per Paula Caproni, communication is the key element that can be used to avoid the feeling of isolation among the members of a virtual team. If the project manager can come up with elaborate channels of communication, there will be free flow of information amongst the project managers. This implies that virtual team members will be able to communicate amongst themselves and they will also be able to create social networks in their virtual working environment. With streamlined virtual communication networks, team members are able to communicate with each other using video conferencing, teleconferencing and other communication platforms that allow people to communicate while they are far away. Also, in this light, team members will be able to cut travelling costs and time when they use advanced virtual systems. Modern virtual offices, with advancement in technology, are more of physical offices. From this argument, it is clear that if a company can install a communication strategy that embraces modern technology, it can be able to avoid isolation problems with virtual team members.
Backup Plan
In an event that this communication strategy fails, the project manager will have to find another way to deal with the isolation problem before it interfere with the members performances. In this case, more workshops should be organized in order to sensitize the members and provide them with appropriate communication skills (Zemliansky & St. Amant, 2008). Also, the project manager should train the team members to be independent in their workplaces; this will also help in avoiding problems that are related to lack of social interaction. Also, many physical offices can be setup where virtual members can meet once in a while and discuss sensitive issues that are affecting the team or the project in general.
In conclusion, it is essential for any business entity to embrace good communication strategy as it fosters employees-managers relations. In designing of a communication strategy, all directives must be set straight. These directions include; mode of running the business, timeframe of the project, project derivatives, and strategies to prevent problems in project operations. By getting the right messages amongst team member is vital as it prevents cases of misunderstanding and at a higher level, it helps in reducing the feeling of alienation that looms among virtual team members (Gibson & Cohen, 2003). Also, problems associated with misunderstandings are well known as they inhibit the performance of team members and hence increasing project duration and also the money used to finance the project. Poor communication is also known to waste time and has negative impact on general company productivity.
Bhagat, Rabi S., & Steers, Richard M. (2009). Cambridge handbook of culture, organizations, and work. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
Clemons, David, & Kroth, Michael S. (2011). Managing the mobile workforce : leading, building, and sustaining virtual teams. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Conservation International., & IUCN–The World Conservation Union. Commission on Education and Communication. (2006). Designing a communication strategy : the 4-P workshop. Washington, DC
Gland, Switzerland: Conservation International ;
Commission on Education and Communication, IUCN–The World Conservation Union.
Dreo, Herb, Kunkel, Pat, & Mitchell, Thomas. (2003). Virtual teams guidebook for managers. Milwaukee, Wis.: ASQ Quality Press.
Gibson, Cristina B., & Cohen, Susan G. (2003). Virtual teams that work : creating conditions for virtual team effectiveness (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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Zemliansky, Pavel, & St. Amant, Kirk. (2008). Handbook of research on virtual workplaces and the new nature of business practices. Hershey PA: Information Science Reference.