Virtual Teams and Virtual Collaboration across the Globe

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High Performance from Global Virtual TeamsMartha Maznevski

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My BackgroundAnthropology / Linguistics Education (Development, Learning) Organizational Behavior Business context Social psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, etc. Dependent variable is effectiveness (organizational and personal)

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Research StreamGlobal team effectiveness Multicultural, multifunctional, often multiorganizational Highly complex tasks, tight deadlines Map-Bridge-Integrate model “But most of the time we work virtually…” Global virtual team effectiveness Presented here Global virtual network effectiveness Current work, introduced here

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IntroductionVirtual team Group of people working together on a shared task Members are in different locations Members communicate using technology significantly more often than face-to-face Great potential! Get the best people, no matter where they are Members bring perspectives from their own locations Test ideas in multiple contexts before making final decisions

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Research OverviewMain empirical study Multi-method, in-depth study of 3 teams in one organization over almost 2 years; one success, one failure, one mixed. Other studies Less formal in-depth research with several teams over several years Interviews and observation in many teams, many organizations to test and validate research ideas

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Technology Is Not the Most Important Part!Teams that focus on the issues of being “virtual” sometimes do well, but often don’t. Teams that focus on being a team and getting their job done well generally figure out the technology anyway.

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Three Simple RulesChoose the right technology. Manage by the task. Sequence technologies in a rhythm.

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Rule 1: Choose the right technologyFace-to-face Videoconference Telephone – 1 person Teleconference Email – 1 person Email – List Fax LetterMedia are richer to the extent that they Allow for feedback; and Communicate using multiple modes (senses, channels) at the same timeChoose technologies by their “richness”

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Rule 1: Choose the right technology. Complexity = RichnessThe more complex the message, the richer the medium required. More complexity: Higher stage in the decision-process Number of messages in the same interaction Greater degree to which information depends on context to be understood (tacitness) Number of cultural, organizational, professional, geographic, or time boundaries crossed Degree to which the message must generate commitment from the receiver

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Rule 2: Manage by the task.Most important task factor is Amount of Required Interdependence.ABCTaskPooled (low)AABBCCTaskTaskSequential (moderate)Reciprocal (high)

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Rule 2: Manage by the task. Interdependence = Frequency + RichnessThe more interdependence the task requires… … the more frequent the communication should be; and … the more complex the messages usually are, requiring richer media (see Rule 1). The task may require different amounts of interdependence at different stages.

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Rule 3: Sequence Technologies in a RhythmCreate a heartbeat A rhythm set by face-to-face meetings Pumps oxygen and blood into the life of the team and its relationships Face-to-face meetings do not need to coincide with major decision points! Rhythm is more important. Time between heartbeats depends on task (interdependence and complexity) and team member cohesion

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Heartbeat Evidence 1Effective team: Meets face-to-face every four months.

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Heartbeat Evidence 2Effective Team: Meets face-to-face every six months. Meets by formal telephone conference every two months.

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Heartbeat Evidence 3Ineffective Team: No established rhythms of face-to-face meetings. No rhythms of contact using rich media.

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Some Finer PointsMore effective teams and relationships… … also select technology based on receiver preference … often use 2 or more technologies simultaneously (e.g., phone and email or shared database) … explicitly talk about using different technologies … if the relationship is strong, address and resolve conflicts over the phone rather than face-to-face (exception to the Rule 1)

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Supporting Global Virtual TeamsSupport your employees who are on virtual teams Make available as many communication technologies as possible; give people access to good training Remember this is dynamic: what you set up today is probably not how people will work next year

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Current ResearchNotion of “team” is too constraining… Connotations of stable, bounded, unidimensional Real work flows are dynamic, open, multidimensional Capture this in networks Working much more with nature of knowledge and knowledge flows, as well as collaboration and influence processes

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Social Capital: Assets in Relationships

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Empirical Study35 global account management teams in a large professional services firm, 10-100 people per “team” Team networks for task advice, “people” advice: Within the team Between the team and the rest of the organization Between the team and the client Technology use Two points in time Multiple interviews, observations, etc.

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Q3: How often have you gone to each of the people on your team to talk about task-specific issues

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Q5: How often have you gone to each of the people on your team about account related people or HR issues

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Q8: ... have social relationship with people on your team

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Q9: How often have you gone to people within the firm not on your team to talk about task-specific issues

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Q13: How often have you gone to CLIENT managers for task-specific issues

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Last Updated: 8th March 2018

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