Management of Virtual Teams

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The case assignment for this module involves your analysis of what is known, sort of known, not known, or known but wrong in the area of the management of virtual teams. Since this phenomenon is relatively new, there isn’t a large body of knowledge specifically about such teams. Most of the advice floating around about virtual teams comes from one or more of four types of sources: • The small number of academically respectable research studies on virtual teams • The very large body of research done on the management of teams generally, dating back to the 1930’s and of somewhat questionable generalizability due to differences in tools, culture, society, and just about everything else • The modest but steadily increasing body of informal or “practice wisdom” information, generally made available through blogs or other Internet sources • The quite large body of essentially uninformed but ready-to-be-shared opinion about the topic, also Internet-available The first two bodies of information are generally easy to identify and distinguish; they’ll be found in academic journals, conference transactions, and other such sources. Unfortunately, distinguishing between the latter two types of information is much more complicated, since they may look a great deal like each other, depending some on the technical abilities of the respective website designers. As we noted before, if you don’t really pay attention to this material, it’s really unlikely that you can write an acceptable paper on the topic below, let alone an exceptional one. We spend quite a lot of time trying to identify useful sources for you that bear on our topics for analysis; while we strongly encourage you to conduct your own further research and identify additional useful sources, this should be an add-on to the basic material rather than a substitute for it. You should start with these two pretty good examples of respectable academic research studies; we can be reasonably confident that since they were done according to the rules, we can have reasonable confidence in their resulting findings and recommendations: Shyue-Ping Chi, Ming-Hsien Yang, and Chi-Ming Tsou (N.D.) Study the Global Virtual Team: Leadership, Trust, Training, Communication and Performance in Taiwan. Journal of Global Business Management. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from http://www.jgbm.org/page/38%20Shyue-Ping%20Chi.pdf Ocker, R. J. & Fjermestad, J. (2008). Communication Differences in Virtual Design Teams: Findings from a Multi-Method Analysis of High and Low Performing Experimental Teams, ACM SIGMIS Database, 39(1), 51-67. [Proquest digital library] Then we have the blogs. They are full of ideas and recommendations, usually claiming to have been derived from practice but not always carefully documanted as such. Three such blog sites focused specifically on virtual teams are: http://virtualteamsblog.com/ http://virtualteambuilders.wordpress.com/about/ (use the “tag list” on the right side of the page to acces specific categories and items) http://www.virtualprojectconsulting.com/ You aren’t expected to read every item in all of these, but you ought to review a fair sample of the material in order to get a good idea of the kinds of advice propositions being offered.) In addition, the optional readings expand on many of the central points; you may also want to do some independent research of your own to clarify any issues that concern you. Your task is to identify 3 to 5 significant questions regarding the management of virtual teams that relate to “practice wisdom” advice found in the blogs, that you believe are sufficiently important that good quality research might help resolve their validity. Trivial questions don’t really warrant research, because the research costs money and other resources that are in scarce supply. We want to reserve our research resources to address those questions that really seem important to practice — particularly issues where the practice wisdom might be divided, with one group saying one set of things and one group another, or where there is no advice available at all. So what you’re looking for in the blogs is situations where advice seems to contradict other advice, or where advice given seems to contradict your own intuitions or common sense, or otherwise where ambiguity seems to exist. The two systematic research studies will give you an idea of how such research might be done. When you identify some topic of interest, you should be able to specify: The research question itself; what are we trying to find out? Why is this question interesting? Who might care what the results would be? Where might we do such a study? How might we carry it out? (Please note: you’re not being assessed here on the quality of your research expertise; just give us some general ideas about how you think we might answer your question.) What would you expect the results to be? Any other thoughts or ideas you might have regarding this research issue. So your paper is to consist of your thoughts on these questions regarding each of the 3 to 5 issues that you have been able to identify from your perusal of the blogs or from your own reading or understanding of the topic of virtual teams. Thus, when you have read through the articles and related material, please compose a 4-6 page critical analysis paper as outlined above, on the topic: “Three to five significant ideas about the management of virtual teams that could be usefully assessed by conducting systematic organizational research” As we said, your research recommendations need to be supported by the literature and the evidence. Obviously, as noted below, this will obligate you to actually be able to present such evidence in an academically respectable manner. Case Assignment Expectations Your paper should be short (4-6 pages, not including cover sheet and references) and to the point. It is to be structured in the following manner. You are expected to: • Begin this paper by stating your three to five research recommendations/questions clearly and concisely • Citing appropriate sources, present the reasons why you believe they are important and could be resolved by the research you recommend. Be sure to make the most effective case you can. As noted above, this includes the question, its importance, the clientele for an answer, and your ideas about probable outcomes. • Conclude with an overall assessment of what is known and not known about the management of virtual teams, and how you see this body of knowledge changing in the years to come. You will be particularly assessed on: • Your ability to see what the module is all about and to structure your paper accordingly. • Your informed commentary and analysis — simply repeating what your sources say does not constitute an adequate paper. • Your ability to apply the professional language and terminology of management and virtual teams correctly and in context; you are expected to be familiar with this language and use it appropriately. • Your effective and appropriate use of in-text citations to the assigned readings and other source material to support your arguments. Refer to the Purdue University APA formatting and style guide (see Module 1 required readings) for the proper formats.
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