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TCPI News Vol. 3, No. 13

November 17th, 2005

In this issue:

  1. A New Look at High Performance Teams
  2. Teaming Across Boundaries
  3. The Identity of the Virtual Team

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1. A New Look at High Performance Teams

Some economists and politicians are sounding the cry that the United States is losing her footing as the world’s economic super power. True or not, competition is rising from all corners of the globe and in order to compete, we must realign our current methods and practices to those that offer more strategic tools. High performance teams are a necessity in this new arena. Kathleen Haas, in the online magazine, Knowledge Management, defines a high performance team as, fluid, efficient and operating in concert. Each member performs a specialized job exceedingly well, while being aware of the other tasks and ultimate goal of the team. If one stumbles, the others continue with no loss of time or diminished outcome. Often these teams appear leaderless, yet unstoppable. Five Roles for Team Leaders  Traditionally, teams have functioned within the same location or in some cases, across geographic boundaries. New global demands have created the need for a new team model. Some new challenges that a high performance team may deal with are:

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2. Teaming Across Boundaries

In today's global business environment, high performance tams often function as a "virtual team" because team members may only communicate via phone email and or video conferencing. The virtual team has special needs because members are not close by to confirm or check progress on a daily basis. S.L. Jarvenpaa & D.E. Leidner define a virtual team as "a collection of geographically dispersed individuals who work on a joint project or common tasks and communicate electronically." (Jarvenpaa  and Leidner, 1997:7) Virtual teams are also defined by Nitsa Lallas as, "bringing the right people together to do the right things, regardless of where they are on the organization chart or physically located..."

Because the virtual team may be spread out across different geographical locations, issues of diversity enter in to the team dynamics. Corporate culture shapes how employees feel about their role within an organization. Previous issues of TCPI Newsletters have discussed how issues of intercultural communication come into play when dealing with diverse employees. TCPI News April 2004 The virtual, high performance team is going to behave differently that a culturally homogenous team. A multicultural team cannot refer to a pre-existing identity because few commonalities exist among team members, even if they are part of the same organization. This new team needs to develop and rely on a "team culture of simplified rules, performance expectations and member perceptions. " (A.Matveev. & P. Nelson)  But even with the "simplified rules", problems can arise. Alexi Matveev and Paul nelson found several areas of vulnerability in looking at multicultural virtual teams. These all relate to different perceptions of:

These problems can create issues within the team that inhibit the creation of a new shared identity. The manifestations are low team performance, lack of trust within the tam and low team morale.

Jarvenpaa, S.L. and Leidner, D.E. “Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams”. Organization Science. (10) 1999 PP/791-815

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3. The Identity of the Virtual Team

Each of these challenges calls for new strategies and tools that both leaders and members of high performance teams must develop. How do they go about incorporating these new skills into an already demanding job? Most will come naturally, and involve some trial and error to get things right; but developing team loyalty is the one that is most critical for these new teams to function effectively. Along with this new team come new roles and responsibilities. The subject matter experts (SME's) will begin to emerge and bring their expertise to their tasks within the team. Team members will begin to rely on these individuals and trust that they complete their individual tasks without the ability of daily face-to-face interactions. This lack of contact makes it necessary for the new high performance team to develop trust within the team. Once a team has developed trust the following are likely to occur:

R.G. Srinivasan on his blog, "Management Thoughts", says that in order to build a high performance team that trusts one another and works effectively, a proactive leader is essential. The clearer the goals of the team, the more comfortable the members feel. He says the following eight steps are the most important in developing trust.

  1. Clearly define objectives.
  2. Clearly define a vision.
  3. Empower to create ownership.
  4. Identify skill gaps and encourage training.
  5. Foster interpersonal relationships that recognize and respect diversity.
  6. Reward the team members.
  7. Lead by example.
  8. Celebrate success.

Management-Thoughts (

Virtual, high performance teams are inevitable for organizations that compete globally. Those companies that are proactive in developing the sensitivity and skills necessary to lead and participate in these teams will be rewarded with higher productivity, innovation and morale.

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