The paper 'Virtual Cross-Functional Solutions Sales Team' is a great example of a human resources term paper. A virtual team is defined as “ a group of people who interact through interdependent tasks guided by a common purpose” . As such, it is only the attributes of the individual team members that are important in forming the team. Other factors such as organizational divisions, physical distance, and even time differences between team members are not considered, an omission that is possible because of modern computer communications technology. The case study of the virtual teams formed by Insight Communications indicates that the teams are not performing to expectations, falling well below their target objectives.
In Insight’ s case, barriers to effective communication seem to be the root cause of the virtual teams’ disappointing performance, both from the point of view of the department head trying to manage the teams and the team members who are tasked with forming, leading, and interacting with the groups. While most of the available literature and commentary on virtual teams put the onus of making them effective on management rather than on team members, some vital skills for successful team members can be inferred.
Because virtual teams are dependent on computer communications, a high degree of competence in computer skills – or at least the ability and willingness to learn new technologies – is absolutely vital to anyone working in a virtual team. Beyond simply being able to use technology to communicate, team members must be able to use the technology effectively. That means being able to write effective e-mails, and speak effectively through phone or other voice communications; in essence, being able to make up for the 80% of human communication which is non-verbal and missing from communication through electronic means.
(Fernald, 2006) And finally, every team member must have a clear understanding of the interaction of the team and how each member’ s function affects everyone else so that each can operate independently toward a common objective. Effectively Managing Virtual Team Performance The first step in effectively managing a virtual team is to determine if that kind of structure is indeed the best approach to sales and customer relations. (Leigh, 2005) This consideration may seem intuitive but is often overlooked because companies focus instead on what seems best for the organization rather than for the customer.
The other prerequisite to being able to manage a virtual team structure is to shift from an emphasis on the traditional hierarchical organization to a network organization, where skills and relationships of team members to each other take precedence over organizational rank and content knowledge. (Eicher, 2003) In a study of Sabre, Inc. , a major builder of airline reservation and booking systems, Kirkman, et al. (2002) suggest two major stumbling blocks to effectively managing virtual teams, both of which relate to communications issues as described in the previous section.
The first is the need to minimize “ process losses” , inefficiencies, oversights, and duplicated efforts that arise because team members are unclear on what they are supposed to be doing, and what everyone else in the team is doing. Establishing clear goals, expectations, and operating principles at the outset is critical to eliminating or reducing these “ process losses” . (Kirkman, Rosen, Gibson, Tesluk, & McPherson, 2002)
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