Virtual teams are made of group of individuals who works across space, time and organizational boundaries with links by communication technology. These individuals are always committed to a common purpose and they share the approach to work for which they are mutually accountable. Just like the e-business, virtual teams are the way through which some business activities are conducted. Once an organization attains a full business ecosystem, it needs a virtual team that consists of highly specialized, efficient, optimized content providers, value added integrators and customer focused. In a virtual team, every member brings a specialized and unique knowledge, skills and perspectives. The diversity of the group creates richness in ideal generation and tendency to avoid group think since the team comes together for a fixed period of time for a specific objective. Due to the fact that the team members depends on each other to contribute knowledge that they do not posses, one of the most critical roles to be played on is that of the program integrator. The team integrator focuses on the overall solution depending on the other members to provide the solution’s components. He also identifies the things that should be customized or added in order to enhance the optimization of the final solution. This paper outlines the challenges of working with a virtual team that consists of multi-cultural members. It also discusses how to overcome the challenges, and compares developing a virtual work team to developing a team of people located centrally.
Although the multi cultural issues in virtual teams are not visible, they do exist. For instance, the virtual teams face serious challenges in important areas such as culture, communication, project management and technology. The failure of the virtual teams is related to problems in building positive relationship across the time zones, geographical boundaries and cultural differences. Time difference will be another problem for Nike especially when the members of the virtual team are not in the same place and they require synchronization of their activities. When the members work with different time zones, some individuals may delay in doing something. Therefore, each member should keep the time zone in mind when connecting with other in other countries. As the distance between the virtual teams increase, the time difference becomes of greater concern. For instance, it may be midnight in one part of the world while it is daytime in other part. Anytime that a connection needs to be made from one country to another, the team members will have difficulties in obtaining communication due to different time zones and other people may be asleep during that time (Vinaja, R).
Technology may become a challenge to the virtual team. For instance, some members of the team who live in some countries/regions may not have an access to modern communication infrastructures and some may be subject to the late software releases. Other challenges may arise due to slow computers, incompatible networks and heavy traffics on network. In addition, there may be lack of broadband services in other parts. Language problem is an obvious challenge due to the differences in spoken languages because some members are excellent in speaking English. This will lead to troubles during communication processes. There is also issue that comes out due to different cultures. For instance, some members may want to be very aggressive in about their project while others do the opposite due to their opposite believes. The members from different cultural backgrounds may tend to misunderstand each other’s stereotypes and behaviors which may lead to distrust among themselves. Lack of trust may result in a lot of wasted time managing behaviors among the virtual team members and also create a reluctance to ask for assistance thus affecting the overall performance of the team. In connection to this, some people end to trust the ones who they perceive to be having same characteristics to theirs making the establishment of trust among the members to be very difficult due to different experiences and cultural backgrounds.
How to overcome the challenges
In order to overcome the above challenges, communications needs to be properly managed in order to put into consideration the cultural differences among the members. To overcome the distrust problem, the members of the virtual team should confidently speak up and give positive suggestions. The members should feel comfortable with the procedures and processes, one another, leadership and the available communication technology.
Comparison of the process of developing a virtual work team to developing a team of people who all work together in one place
The collocated team (a team of people who all work together in one place) involves has a life cycle whereby the members tentatively come together, grow to recognize one another’s habits and finally focus on one goal. The virtual team follows the same cycle but has complicated leadership roles due to lack of face to face interactions. Bruce Tuckman defined the lifecycle of the collocated team: Norming (creation of the team’s structure), Storming (challenging the structure), Forming (settling into work), and Performing (achieving the goal). Unlike the virtual teams, the collocated team faces the boundaries, interpret outside influences, determine communication methods and decide on consensus method.
In the collocated teams, relationships are enhanced through face to face meetings while they occur without the clues gained in face to face interactions in virtual teams. Due to lack of shared personal recollection in virtual teams, the work habits and messages are literally interpreted. Finally, the cultural differences in the collocated teams are reduced by other shared elements while the differences in virtual teams are multiplied by the virtual nature of the relationship within the teams.
In conclusion, Nike management should be sensitive to the demands of virtual teams in order to effectively deal with the challenges that face the teams. For instance, the management need the insights into the problems associated with each development stage of the virtual team.