Virtual Teams & Project Management

Project Report, 2014

39 Pages, Grade: B


Table of Contents

Chapter-1: Background Context with Aims & Objectives
1.1. Background Context
1.2. Aims & Objectives
1.2.1. Aims
1.2.2. Objectives
1.3. Research Questions
1.4. Methodology
1.5. AMP Outcomes

Chapter-2: Literature Review
2.1. Definition of Virtual Teams
2.2. Why Global Virtual Teams?
2.2.1. Advantages of Going Global
2.2.2. Advantages of Going Virtual
2.3. What is meant by Cultural Difference?
2.4. What is meant by Intercultural Competence?
2.5. Global Virtual Teams & Intercultural Competence
2.6. Global Virtual Teams & Cultural Diversity
2.7. Cross-Cultural Communication Theories
2.7.1. Hierarchy
2.7.2. Ambiguity
2.7.3. Individualism
2.7.4. Achievement Orientation
2.7.5. Long term Orientation
2.8. Cultural Challenges faced by Global Virtual Teams (GVT)
2.8.1. Communication Challenge
2.8.2. Accent & Fluency Challenge
2.8.3. Attitude Challenge
2.8.4. Decision Making Challenge
2.8.5. Lack of Awareness
2.8.6. Inability in Building Social Bonds
2.8.7. Lack of Trust
2.8.8. Lack of Agreement
2.9. Language Commonality

Chapter-3: Case Study, Analysis & Discussion
3.1. Case Study on BakBone Software
3.1.1. Company Profile
3.1.2. Motivation behind the Adoption of Virtual Team
3.1.3. Cross-Cultural Communication
3.1.3. Cultural Difference
3.1.4. Performance Evaluation
3.1.5. Findings
3.2. Analysis
3.3. Discussion

Chapter-4: Conclusion & Recommendations
4.1. Conclusion
4.2. Recommendations

Chapter-5: References

Executive Summary

This Applied Management Project (AMP) is written on the topic of Cultural Diversity Issue and its Implications on the Communication over Global Virtual Team (GVT) members. The scope of this report is broad as it will not only outline major challenges faced by virtual teams because of aspect of cultural differences but also investigate that how this challenge could make influence on the effectiveness of GVT. It has been discovered that Global Virtual Team is determined as a collaboration of individuals where each group member interacts through interdependent tasks directed by the common objective and this team works across links that are strengthened through several aspects (communication, information and multimedia technologies). It has been learned from previous case studies on GVT that cultural difference could have positive impact on knowledge sharing as the component of intercultural encounter intends to make tacit and contextual knowledge as explicit. It has been contended that the factor of cultural diversity is useful in developing trust between all involved members. In regard to cross-cultural communication theories, the model proposed by Hofstede (1996) always ranked at the top. This framework is very useful in directing individuals that how should one could distinguish among the characteristics of each other cultures. It has been analysed that there are various challenges (Communication Challenge, Accent & Fluency Challenge, Attitude Challenge, Decision Making Challenge, Lack of Awareness, Inability in Building Social Bonds, Lack of Trust and Lack of Agreement) that could be faced by GVT. In short, it has been predicted that all of these cultural challenges being faced by GVT would impede virtual teams’ capabilities in accomplishing their tasks and projects. From the case study on BakBone Software Inc., It has been observed that despite of certain cross-cultural communication and cultural differences issues BakBone Software Inc. has managed to perform well. And the company attribute such success to the fact that all of team members have interaction with each other on continuous basis. And this has intended them to remain informed about each other strengths and thus results in developing and maintaining great extent of trust. It has been recommended that the company’s managers need to be aware all cultural issues that could cause problem to the communication aspect within Global Virtual Teams.

Chapter-1: Background Context with Aims & Objectives

1.1. Background Context

This Applied Management Project (AMP) is written on the topic of Cultural Diversity Issue and its Implications on the Communication over Global Virtual Team (GVT) members. The scope of this report is broad as it will not only outline major challenges faced by virtual teams because of aspect of cultural differences but also investigate that how this challenge could make influence on the effectiveness of GVT. It has been discovered that there are large number research studies conducted on the topic for the purpose of investigating cultural issues within virtual teams (Suchan & Greg, 2001; Young, 2001). A virtual team is also known as multi-cultural team because of the fact that very often the members involved in these forms of teams have different cultural backgrounds as they are from different countries (Vinaja, 2004). Therefore, it has been analysed that within the context of global marketplace, more and more companies are in a need of having international presence and hence this phenomenon has created the demands for virtual teams (Rosenhauer, 2008). There are many that Companies have adopted the approach of allocating individuals to projects on the basis of their expertise. And this approach has made possible for these companies to assign tasks and appropriate project to competent and qualified people without having to expose themselves towards wasted productivity problems that usually caused due to frequent relocation or extensive travel (Goldman, 2000).

In general, the concept of Multi-Cultural virtual teams is seems to be significant in the current era of corporate specifically due to two major reasons: the proliferation of network technologies in the shapes of Information Systems (IS) and the increasing globalisation of organisations (Moodian, 2007). However there are certain problems (lack of synergies, communication breakdowns, time delays in replies, different holiday periods and working hours) that have been experienced by companies within multi-cultural virtual teams. It has been discovered that the multi-cultural issues within the virtual teams are not always evident (visible) but surely it exists (Lustig & Koester, 2009). According to various studies on Virtual Teams, it has been outlined that Global Virtual Teams (GVT) in the most cases are subject to important challenges within the four main areas: cultural diversity, communication, technology and language (Kayworth & Dorthy, 2000). Additionally, it has been identified that all of these challenges could make negative influence on four major factors: Trust, Control, Motivation and Communication and all of these aspects are collectively significant for the determination of GVT effectiveness (Tomovic, 2011).

It has been observed that the researchers are in the pursuit of finding out that how the cultural diversity factors would make impact on the effectiveness of virtual teams by focusing on several success predicators such as leadership (Kayworth & Dorthy, 2000), conflict management (Montoya-Wreiss et al., 2001), communication (Mazneyski & Chudoba, 2000), trust (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999), boundary crossing (Espinosa et al., 2003), norm development, team size (Bradner et al., 2002), creativity (Nemiro, 1998) and technology appropriation (Majchrzak et al., 2000). Additionally, it is vital to get brief understanding about the influence of cultural diversity on the effectiveness of GVT and also to analyse that how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) amplifies or mitigates this influence (Shachal, 2008).

Another aspect which has been seen as challenge for GVT is Communication. It has been directed by many practitioners that this aspect should always need to be managed carefully in accordance to the dimensions of cultural differences (Vinaja, 2004). Correspondingly, it has been analysed that the mode of communication always varies especially in case multi-cultural environment. The significant issue within the virtual teams is that these teams are geographically dispersed and in the frequent cases the members of virtual teams are unaware of the fact how they could address question or to pass on an important information. According to Alexander (2000), virtual team members could adopt two approaches in order to offset this communication. Firstly, they would prefer to phrase their quesntions with attention for the first time and in this way they would keep themselves way from making changes in the sent information. Secondly, they should write clearly and this could be achieved if they don’t use acronyms (Alexander, 2000).

Technology is also a big concern for virtual teams. In relation to the state of existing technology, it has been found out that team members located in developed countries are well equipped while most of the members from developing countries does not access to relative new communications and technological infrastructure (Shachal, 2008). However, some other problems (slow computers, incompatible networks, low quality Broadband services and huge network traffic) have been resulted in entitling this aspect as unresolved mystery (Guilherme, 2010).

The language barrier is outlined as obvious problem of virtual teams. This problem occurred because of the reason that all regions (countries) of the world have their own languages (Mazneyski & Chudoba, 2000). And in order to be a member of virtual team, an individual must have to be proficient in speaking other languages as well. It has been identified that the mutual concern of team members upon speaking common languages (English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese and Japanese) could overcome this barrier by far more extent (Vinaja, 2004). But it has been observed that despite of making consensus on common languages, there had been many virtual teams that faced difficulty in overcoming this issue so it meant the role of management is also of great value in resolving this language problem.

It has been observed that companies are increasing adopting the approach of GVT for the purpose of gaining strategic advantage. GVT are categorised as heterogeneous groups of globally dispersed team members that collaborate together with the combination of information technologies and telecommunications for the accomplishment of organisational tasks (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002). However, with the increase of growing implication of such teams it is appearing more significant for the companies in realising that what would makes them successful. Moreover by reviewing past research studies on challenges faced by global virtual teams, it has been discovered that all of studies had been intended on highlighting major issues faced GVT and none of it had tried to investigate issue that how these cultural diversity related challenges are making impact on the effectiveness of communication within GVT (Khosrowpour, 2006). In order to complete this gap, this research study has been conducted.

This research report would examine the influence of cultural diversity and language difference impact on the GVT. It has been discovered from the previous research studies that both aspects are of great significance especially in relation to the effectiveness of knowledge sharing process (Thomas, 2008). And these two aspects could have opposing impact on GVT communication. GVT are characterised by high degree of language diversity & cultural difference and it seemed to be preferable for the purpose of sharing of equivocal knowledge (Khosrowpour, 1998). It has been ascertain that cultural difference and language diversity aspects are directly linked with GVT’s knowledge sharing and effectiveness (Schmidt, 2007). However, trust developing factor would results in lessening the intensity of conflicts within GVT

1.2. Aims & Objectives

1.2.1. Aims

The core aim of this research report is to thoroughly examine the aspect of cultural diversity and then to analyse its influence on the effectiveness of communication within Global Virtual Teams (GVT).

1.2.2. Objectives

This research report has four associated objectives, all of those objectives have been outlined below:

- To identify the cultural differences existing among the members of GVT.
- To analyse most frequent cultural challenges that exist in global virtual environment.
- To highlight the contribution of theories on cross-cultural communication so that it would make possible in understanding and recognising the importance of cultural factor within GVT.
- To lean about the role of common speaking languages within GVT.

1.3. Research Questions

- What is basically meant by cultural differences and in what states these differences exist?
- How the theories on cross-cultural communication contribute towards understanding the complications of multi-cultural team work?
- Why some of the challenges (communication problem, weak cohesion and misunderstanding conflicts) occur as a result of cultural difference.
- Does is it possible that the GVT approach of speaking common language useful for them in overcoming the cultural barriers?

1.4. Methodology

This research will be based on secondary data and for this reason the research strategy and therefore case study approach will be adopted. There will be one case study included in this report and in the discussion & analysis section the linkage will be created between the literature review and case study sections. Additionally, on the basis of major findings, some suggestions will be outlined in the recommendation section. A positivism philosophy will be adopted in this research where a testing of an existing theories will be conducted and producing hypothesis for further researches.

Additionally, this research is based on ontology (nature of reality) in its philosophy and it will discuss both reality sides, objectivism and subjectivism. Objectivism as the discussion will generalise the big cultural aspects in the different geographical areas of the world as studied by Hofstedet in his cross cultural communication theory and the overall impact on the function of the global virtual teams. And the subjectivism as the team members individual behaviour to interact with these cultural differences.

However, a deductive approach will be adopted in this research where some areas from existing theories will be examined and specified, moreover some observation will be discussed and confirmed.

1.5. AMP Outcomes

Major outcome of this report is that it would fill research gap by investigating the implications of cultural diversity factors on the communication effectiveness of Global Virtual Teams (GVT). The accomplishment of hard outcomes would be acknowledged if this research report would cover all of the research objectives concerned with this report. Whereas, the attainment of soft outcomes would be known if I would manage to get good grade and for this I will have to work hard.

Chapter-2: Literature Review

In this chapter, the concept of Global Virtual Team will be defined through all the past research studies. Then the significance of cultural difference & cultural diversity factor will be elaborated along with the Hofstede’s National Cultural Framework. After describing all these things, certain cultural communication challenges will be defined alongside with the short description of language commonality and its impact on the performance of virtual teams.

2.1. Definition of Virtual Teams

According to Zenun et al. (2007), Virtual Team is a team of people having complementary skills and are working with complete concentrate for the accomplishment of common objectives and hence all of these team members mutually accountable for the end result (Zenun et al., 2007). While, Cascio & Shurygailo (2003) ascertained that virtual teams are form for the purpose of offsetting temporal or geographical separations (Cascio & Shurygailo, 2003). These teams usually woks across the boundaries of space and time with the utilisation of computer driven technologies. Moreover, Anderson et al. (2007) explained that virtual teams are covering broad range of activities and thus it has been determined as advanced form of technology supported working. In general, these teams are composed of individuals who are residing in different parts of the world. It has been inclined that this particular feature meant for the type of computer mediated communicate that make possible for the individuals from different locations to cordinate and integrate their individual inouts and efforts (Peters & Manz, 2007).

According to Gassmann et al. (2003), a virtual team is a collaboration of individuals where each group member interacts through interdependent tasks directed by the common objective and this team works across links that are strengthened through several aspects (communication, information and multimedia technologies). Hertel et al. (2005) called virtual teams as distributed work teams as all of its members are geographically dispersed and coordinate more significally through comminication technologies and electronic information (Hertel et al., 2005). Therefore, Lurey & Rasinghani (2001) emphasised on the point that virtual teams are the groups of employees who are working together despite of the fact they are dispersed across organisational boundaries. Powell et al. (2004) defined virtual teams as group of organisationally, time and geographical dispersed individuals come together through information technologies for the execution and accomplishment of one or more organisational tasks and goals.


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Virtual Teams & Project Management
University of Bedfordshire
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virtual, teams, project, management
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Junaid Javaid (Author), 2014, Virtual Teams & Project Management, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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