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EMDT_2

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  • 1. 1 Page
  • 2. A framework to meet the challenges of managing diverse teamsSudhindranath Neela - Senior Manager, Deloitte ConsultingDebopam Chakrabarti - Senior Manager, Deloitte ConsultingSwarup Banerjee - Manager, Deloitte Consulting
  • 3. Contents 1. Abstract ..........................................................................................................................4 2. Introduction ....................................................................................................................4 3. Distributed and Virtual teams- What do they mean? .......................................................4 4. Evolution of diverse team-a historical perspective ..........................................................4 5. Benefits and drawbacks of a virtual team .......................................................................6 6. Major challenges in managing a virtual team..................................................................6 6.1 Distance .....................................................................................................................6 6.2 Time ...........................................................................................................................7 6.3 Technology.................................................................................................................7 6.4 Culture........................................................................................................................8 6.5 Trust ...........................................................................................................................9 6.6 Leadership ............................................................................................................... 10 7. The key to success in leading virtual team ................................................................... 11 7.1 Effective communication ........................................................................................... 11 7.2 Project Leadership ................................................................................................... 12 8. Summary...................................................................................................................... 12 9. Author’s Profile: ............................................................................................................ 133 Page
  • 4. 1. AbstractThe objectives of this paper are to throw some light on the nature of the diverse teams and the mainchallenges, the project manager faces in a diverse team. It also focuses on mitigation strategies tothe challenges that are specific to the diverse teams. This paper is co-authored by three projectmanagers that have, between them, decades of project management experience. They haveexecuted projects in distributed teams all over the world. This paper thus attempts to marry the formalconcepts of managing diverse teams with decades of real life experience in managing diverse teams.2. IntroductionDiverse teams are an integral part of today’s work space in project management. For example, asignificant number of IT projects are executed by diverse teams located in different countries. Indianoffshore industry leverages diverse teams throughout the project lifecycle. Other multinationalprofessional service firms also do audit, tax or consulting projects using virtual teams worldwide. Evennon service projects like construction etc. do use diverse teams to do some part of the workThis paper offers a historical perspective and discusses the evolution of a diverse team. It alsodiscusses the major challenges for a Project manager in managing a diverse team. Factors likedistance, time, technology, trust, culture and leadership are major challenges to diverse teams. Thispaper talks about the best way to handle each of the challenges.3. Distributed and Virtual teams- What do they mean?Diverse teams can be called a virtual team or a distributed team based on how often they meet up. Adistributed team may meet up occasionally, but virtual teams generally do not meet up. Butirrespective of the fact whether they ever meet up or not, they mostly work remotely. So thechallenges they face are same. In this paper, we will call them virtual teams, but all the concepts canbe applied to the distributed team as well. Generally the terms ―virtual team‖ and ―distributed teams‖are used interchangeably, as the problems they face and the environments they work in are similar.A typical project team of today consists of a group of people who interact to complete interdependenttasks and work toward a common goal. But instead of meeting in the same office, the team memberswork in different places, sometimes from home, and in different time zones. They may never meettheir coworkers face-to-face. For IT companies, we call it onsite-offshore model, where part of theteam works with customer onsite and the rest work from offshore. But it is not limited to IT alone(Though they contribute most to the virtual team concept). For a product company, it can be thatemployees from different countries of a multinational company working together to solve a commonproblem.4. Evolution of diverse team-a historical perspectiveThe idea of globalization is not a recent revolutionary occurrence, but rather an evolution startedcenturies ago that is still evolving today. Visionary leaders have recognized that competitiveadvantages can be gained over their rivals with an effective globalization strategy. This is especially4 Page
  • 5. true when coupled with an equally effective global execution model for product development orservice delivery.The pressures from emerging markets, converging markets, technological advances, customerdemands, employee demographics, product sourcing, and organizational resourcing have fueled theuse and need for globalization of activities and hence the distributed work teams. The projects arenow executed around the world and they comprise of people around the world.The primary forces that drove the formation of virtual teams are economic forces and technologicalforces.Economic forcesIn the last century, when the economy was dependent on production, the workers had to necessarilygo to factory for work. As we have moved to service based economy, the landscape of work haschanged rapidly. This has contributed to a continued shift from production to service/knowledge workenvironmentsMultinational organizations have become the order of the day. These organizations have thecapability to bring in people from different countries to solve a common problemAs the economy has become more competitive, the corporations are in search of best skills andexpertise for the work, regardless of where those individuals are physically located. Cost reductionalso has become one of top priorities of the companies. Companies can reduce costs by havingteam members work from locations where cost of workers is low. Many companies have set upshared Service centers in India, South-east Asia, South America and East Europe.Virtual team enables the companies to have 24X7 coverage on a service, problem or task. As onecountry goes to sleep, the work is taken over by another team located in another country. The work iscarried out seamlessly across time zonesTechnological forces:Technology played a crucial role too. Early 21st century saw the globalization being accelerated bysatellite and fiber optic communication technologies, which have served to connect computersystems, businesses, and people in all corners of the world. It was initiated by the advent of newwork-flow technologies which enable knowledge work to be disaggregated at its source, distributeddigitally to knowledge workers across the globe, worked on by geographically dispersed knowledgespecialists, and then reintegrated into a new solution back at the source or at some other location inthe world.Computerization and collaboration technology has digitized the world causing massive change in theway we communicate and work. In 1990 email was virtually unknown. Less than two decades latercommunication technology allows for the immediate distribution of information virtually everywhereinstantlyThe above factors together led to the formation of distributed team or virtual team. Now the work wasbeing carried out in multiple places of the world, involving people from different countries. The service5 Page
  • 6. delivery model did not need people to be co-located. And most importantly, technology was in placeto support this kind of work.5. Benefits and drawbacks of a virtual teamThough virtual teams are the order of the day, and they have significant benefits, they are notunmixed blessings. Following is a quick summary of their benefits and drawbacksBenefits: Increases the ability to initiate and contribute to projects across organizational, time and space boundaries Reduces cost by limiting the needs for relocation Encourages off shoring by doing the work in most effective place Fosters cross-functional and cross-divisional collaboration. Improves the ability to attract and retain the best resources for the project irrespective of location Can achieve 24 hour work day calendar for the projectDrawbacks: Challenge in terms of team dynamics and real time follow up. Increased reliance on suitable, reliable technical infrastructures. More difficult to build and maintain trust and cohesion amongst team members. Leadership Challenge top-down versus self-organization Individual versus collaboration Manager-driven and team-driven work definition and assignment. Sense of community, fellowship or camaraderie amongst team members is naturally reduced.6. Major challenges in managing a virtual teamManaging a virtual team is always a challenge. However there are ways and means to managethese challenges. The major challenges are around distance, time, technology, culture, trust andleadership.6.1 DistanceIn the past, large corporations had created mass production systems that required the congregationof employees at central places of work. IT and virtual teams enable a decentralization of work -towork together while being spatially and temporally separated.ChallengeLack of Face to face interactions mean challenges in building trust, monitoring performance,inspiring teamwork, maintaining cultural norms, and understanding cultural differences.6 Page
  • 7. Our approachFortunately communication technology has improved exponentially. Use of communicationtechnologies like email, phone, video conferencing, blogs, Instant messenger help to overcome thedistance barrier. We, in our projects have always tried to encourage regular social communicationbetween team members to build trust. A quick phone call to someone who has just joined back aftera medical surgery or a quick birthday wish does not cost project a bomb, but it creates a bondbetween your team members6.2 TimeA major advantage in a virtual team is that we can have 24 hour workday. As one team ends,another team in another time zone picks it up. Hence the turnaround time is really quick.ChallengeIt is extremely challenging to schedule meetings and coordinate a globally dispersed team. Forprojects that require real-time collaboration, time differences can be problematic .Questions thatrequire the other groups guidance may have to wait several hours to be answered. As a result,decisions may take longer to be made.Our approachManaging Time-zone difference between team members is one of the important tasks, you as theproject manager need to consider. You may consider one of the following for this.• Non-conventional work Hours for one or more team: if time zones of your teams are completely different, some teams need to work during non-conventional hours. Sometimes, it helps even if you have a window of 2-3 hours , when onsite team can interact with the offshore team• Call Anytime Policy- this can be used, when some members of the team can be called anytime, even beyond working hours, for clarifications. However, some cultures view it as an intrusion to their private life. Hence it needs to be used judiciously.In either case, you need to consider the Work Life Balance of the employees. Our experience is , ifyou set the expectations from the members up in the beginning, you end up with less heartburn.6.3 TechnologyCommunication is heavily dependent of technology in a virtual team. By using a myriad of newtechnologies, companies have found ways for people to work together on essential tasks . Knowledgeof virtual communication tools like e-mail, online chat, instant messaging, and Web conferencing isquickly becoming necessary for workers. Thus, the very meaning of collaboration has been extended,and such efforts are referred to as virtual collaboration. Virtual collaboration occurs when people whoare not co-located use communication technologies to work together and facilitate getting the jobdone.ChallengeMere presence of technology does not achieve much. Training on technology is equally important.Inter organizational virtual teams often have the added problem of incompatible technology platforms7 Page
  • 8. and communication tools. You need to find out a mechanism to make the required technologies worktogether to optimize collaboration.Our approachAll the technologies are not suitable for all purposes. You need to choose the technology based onthe communication tasks you need to accomplish. The following table sums up our experience. Youmay choose to have a matrix in your communication plan that shows the technology to be used fordifferent types of communication. In addition, in our projects, we have always found that the key is tomake separate collaboration technologies work together. Type of Type of Tasks Technology Sharing and Discussing and Collaborative Negotiating Technical Collecting Brainstorming Decision-Making or Interpersonal Information Conflicts Webex Effective Somewhat Somewhat Somewhat Effective Effective Effective Hyperwave Effective Ineffective Ineffective Ineffective Audio conference / Effective Effective Effective Somewhat Effective Phone Call Videoconference Effective Somewhat Effective Not Effective Effective E-mail Effective Somewhat Not effective Not Effective Effective Voice Mail Somewhat Not Effective Not Effective Not Effective Effective Instant Messenger Effective Somewhat Not Effective Somewhat Effective Effective Face to Face Highly Highly Effective Highly Effective Highly Effective Effective6.4 CultureCulture represents a pattern of beliefs, values, perceptions, assumptions, behaviors, expectations etc.that develops and persists over time within a social unit.8 Page
  • 9. ChallengeCultural patterns might be observed at multiple levels. The multiple locations and individual culturesrepresented by distributed team members mean that understanding and enhancement of culture bydistributed team leaders is more complex than in face-to-face teams.Our approachWhen working in multi country teams, navigating the cultural challenges can make or break yourproject. Culture is a significant barrier-but it can be managed. The best practices, we have formedfrom our experiences in managing multi-country projects are as below. Appreciate and enjoy cultural diversity Try to empathize with the other person’s views Do some homework to understand the background better Be open-minded – don’t dump a national stereotype on individuals Work at developing trust and then openly discuss how respective cultural differences might be affecting an issue Begin in a formal, polite manner and await signals of informality from the other person Recognize the extra stress imposed by language barriers and make allowances for others On vital matters always double-check understanding to avoid expensive mistakes6.5 TrustTrust is a crucial medium for organizational action. It facilitates cooperation and coordination oforganizations and their employees without them having to rely on more costly and time-consuminglegal, managerial, and budgetary arrangements. Trust, however, must be built. Human beings do notautomatically trust each other. Sometimes they never trust each other. In the best of circumstances,trust takes time to establish. The ways in which projects go about incubating trust reflect the naturesof different organizations. The most common forms of organization are those based on personalhierarchy or impersonal procedure or a mix of both. Personalized forms of organization rely heavily onthe rituals of social interaction to achieve goals. More impersonal forms of organization rely on rulesand rule-like qualities (such as targets) to get things done. Conventional organizations often mixsocial and procedural motivations. Trust is created in conventional organizations through face-to-facesocial interaction or through the operation of a culture of rules. Through the medium of socialinteractions, people form and test bonds of trust. They establish that they can or cannot rely on eachother. If we sense through social interaction that a coworker will be disloyal, unreliable, or evasive, wewill not trust that person. If we observe rule application or implementation that is arbitrary,contradictory, or impulsive, the same applies. We withdraw trust from the person responsible.ChallengeThe virtual team’s reality is a bit different. It is based on collaboration at a distance. Participants invirtual team are geographically spread apart, often across the world. These factors mean that normalworkplace or office social interaction is not available to virtual coworkers. They do not have themeans of body language (e.g., watching, playing or socializing) usually available to co-located workpartners. Distance collaborations invariably bring together coworkers with different cultures of ruleinterpretation and implementation. Because collaborations are usually temporary, an atmosphere of9 Page
  • 10. authoritative rule interpretation and implementation is difficult to establish. Virtual workers at adistance—no matter how frequent their e-mail correspondence—find it difficult to build trust on thebasis of "I know this person well" or "I know the expectations well" or "I understand the disciplinarybasis for this persons way of working. Absence of routine interaction, nonverbal indicators, andinformal social time can result in a lack of trust in team.Our approachFrom our experience in managing long distance projects, we can offer the following tips for buildingtrust in your virtual team. Communicate freely and openly To get trust, give trust. Be honest Establish strong business ethics. Business ethics is about setting moral values for the workplace Do what you say you will do, and make your actions visible Make sure that your interactions with the team are consistent and predictable From the outset, set the tone for future interaction Be accessible and responsive Maintain confidences. Team members need to be able to express concerns, identify problems, share sensitive information, and surface relevant issues Watch your language. In subtle ways a leader can unintentionally erode trust among his/her team members.6.6 LeadershipIn a virtual project team, the task itself usually provides the initial motivation to work together acrosstime and space. However, in order to keep working together successfully, more is often needed.Leadership is more than project management. Leadership is the glue that sticks all the components ofthe team together. It also provides the thrust for the team members to go forward in its chosendirection.ChallengeA virtual team is more than a collection of individuals working in isolation. Virtual team membersdepend on one another to fulfill a common goal. As such, they need to be connected on both a taskand interpersonal level. Task-related demands such as the planning and scheduling of work need tobe balanced against interpersonal aspects such as a shared social context, expressions of trust, anda genuinely human interest in one another in order to maximize the overall performance of the team.As such, leadership in virtual team is different from leadership in conventional teams. A leader needsto ensure quality performance of team members and mentor and coach team members, all from a far.Our approachWe have found the following leadership competencies extremely important for leading a virtual team• Technological proficiency and appropriate use of Technology• Cross-cultural management skills10 Page
  • 11. • Ability to coach distant team members• Ability to build trust among dispersed team members• Networking with stakeholders• Remote project management skills• Understanding and appreciating cultural diversity7. The key to success in leading virtual teamIn the previous section, we discussed various challenges in a virtual team and their mitigationstrategy. Let us now focus on the most important success factors in leading a virtual project team.7.1 Effective communicationEffective communication is the key for successful virtual team performance. When interacting withothers, the more we can communicate our context, the greater the connection and, therefore, thegreater the chance of achieving the objectives that we set out to accomplish.The virtual workplace has transformed the business landscape across the globe in many positiveways, but it has also altered the essence of the human connection. Connections that occur duringface-to-face exchanges become more elusive when we lose close proximity with others.When team members share a bond they work more productively. In the long run, building goodrelationships enables more effective team performance and reduces situations that are dominated byconflict. These key benefits directly impact work product and the organization’s key deliverables.The human connection also allows a richer path of information exchange through ContextCommunication. Context Communication means that team members working in close proximity canquickly assess the cues and therefore understand the context in which certain behaviors take place.Observations about another person’s verbal tone, body language, and other visual cues create thecontext that helps us understand each other, the task at hand, and the overall work situation. Informalhallway or water cooler chats that are common with on-site teams provide a natural way to conductcasual conversations, build personal relationships, and learn additional context, some of which youstore in the back of your mind for future situations. This allows virtual team members to understandthe setting that their teammates are working in and to find the best approach to collaboration. Whencontext is missing, virtual teams are forced to make a greater effort to maintain the humanconnection, which in turn leads to new behaviors and ways of communicating. As a manager, youneed to keep team members from being isolated. You can resort to practices like Sending email, providing updates in an website, making phone calls. Encourage team members to keep in touch with one another even when there is no pressing need to do so. Familiarity breeds trust and people who trust each other are more productive. Clarify the objective and the role to each member, create a stable work atmosphere, encourage team members to build good work relationship Team that over communicate tend to discuss goals and schedules, help one another, quicker to confront nonperformers Watch for conflicts- and learn to manage it11 Page
  • 12. Conflict is inevitable. Keep an eye out for it. Check your emails regularly for disagreements among team members. Step in Phone conversations are better than emails to resolve the conflicts.7.2 Project LeadershipIf you are leading a virtual team, the following is worth considering Articulate a vision for the project. A solid vision can help eliminate the distance barrier Teams are open systems. Teams manage themselves within the boundary. Distance leaders manage the boundary. Distance Managers are not supervisors-Managing someone you can’t see is considerably different than walking around the cubicle wall to see if they’re there at eight in the morningKey lessons, we have learnt in leading long distance projects. Light a ―fire in the belly‖ A virtual team needs a clear mission. Virtual Teams, usually fail, if they lack a clear purpose. The team must flesh out what they will achieve and how they will do it. A kick off meeting involving everyone is one of the ways to start engaging everyone on the objective Assume nothing; Spell out everything Assumptions kill. People tend to interpret facts by the filter of their culture. You have to test the assumptions about everything: how the team will communicate, what ―Quality‖ and ―schedule‖ mean to everyone etc. Mega communicate8. SummaryVirtual team is the order of the day in Project management. There are significant challenges aroundtime, distance, culture, trust, technology and leadership in managing a virtual team. However, thesechallenges can be mitigated effectively by the project manager.12 Page
  • 13. 9. Author’s Profile: Sudhindranath Neela is a graduate in Mechanical engineering, MBA (Operations), M.Phil. (Management) and a certified PMP. He is currently pursuing his PhD (Management). He works as Senior Manager in Deloitte Consulting. He has Industry Experience of 24 years, which Includes 20 years of experience in IT Consulting. He has hands-on project management experience in handling multimillion dollar, large scale software projects which are primarily in the areas of ERP Implementation, customizations, and IT related services. Debopam Chakrabarti is a graduate in Mechanical engineering and a certified PMP. He works as Senior Manager in Deloitte Consulting. He has Industry experience of 20 years and has led multiple supply chain transformation projects across the globe primarily using ERP products. Swarup Banerjee is an ICWA and a certified PMP. He works as Manager in Deloitte Consulting. He has industry experience of 13 years and has managed several large IT projects in India, USA and Europe.13 Page

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