Global Teams: Can they be managed from a central point of control?

1. 2. 2019

Globalization is rapidly taking place, and the world is gradually becoming a global village. Globalization is changing the business environment; businesses are learning that. In today’s environment, their success greatly depends on how geographically dispersed their workforce is. The availability of several types of modern communication channels and tools and information systems enables multicultural teams to work together despite their cultural differences effectively. Teams from different cultural backgrounds can work together because they can learn from each other. In addition, the use of information systems enables the organization to control and manage multicultural global teams from a single point even when they operate from different geographical locations.

Globalization is rapidly increasing the diversity of workers, and that is creating major challenges for organizations. Many organizations are presently managing several global teams consisting of members from different cultural and regional backgrounds (Flaherty, 2015). Such global teams are essential in bringing in new skills, experiences, and cultural approaches to work. Because of the differences in the cultural background, companies are challenged in managing and controlling global teams. As explained by Groves and Feyerherm (2011), in order to enhance efficiency and ensure the company achieves its business objectives and goals, the company should have the ability to manage and control its diverse teams. This paper investigated the ability of global teams to be managed from a single control center.

As explained by Tröster, Mehra, and van Knippenberg (2014), a company that wishes to establish a global team to achieve its business objective should start by ensuring that it can manage and control the team efficiently and effectively. Such policy ensures that there is harmonious control of multicultural workforce (Janssens & Cappellen, 2015). In essence, managers of the company must be able to control teams. Also, they must show commitment and be receptive to the multicultural teams. According to Flaherty (2015), with such ability and supportive policy in place, the company management can go ahead to establish multicultural global teams to further its business objectives.

With the inception of globalization, many companies are reconsidering their traditional ways of doing things and functionality. As a result, many companies are building cross-cultural teams that include members from different countries and regions. Even though these teams are designed specifically to add operational efficiencies, the diversity of the teams regarding different cultural backgrounds creates additional challenges related to the effective management of the teams (Nayak, 2016; Flaherty, 2015). In addition, managers are faced with the challenge of effectively utilizing the strength of each team member due to the inability to control the team efficiently (Tröster, Mehra, & van Knippenberg, 2014). These challenges necessitate the needs to control global teams from a central location.

According to Janssens and Cappellen (2015) and Groves and Feyerherm (2011), companies can effectively manage and control multicultural global teams from a central point using properly constructed policies. With such policies, global teams can be controlled from a central place irrespective of the level and nature of diversity of the group (Erez et al., 2013). The policy provides a guideline on how the group operates which help in controlling it from a central place. In addition, it spells out the duties and responsibility of each team member as well as other key aspects such as tasks, qualifications, skills, and expectations, which essentially enables the team to be controlled (Nielsen & Nielsen, 2013).

As explained by Martin (2014), proper on-job training enables global teams to be controlled effectively from one single central point. With extensive internal training programs, every member of the team can be adequately prepared to handle its responsibilities and task effectively which subsequently reduces the control level needed for effective management of the team (Pangil & Moi, 2014; Cvetkovich, 2018). As explained by Tröster, Mehra, and van Knippenberg (2014), such training are essential for improving cultural awareness as well as building skills of every team member for effective service delivery. In addition, such training help the management properly manage and control the diversity of the workforce.

According to Nayak (2016), organizations have the ability to controlled multicultural global teams from a single central point because the ability of every employee can be determined. When the ability of every employee is identified, the management can develop an appropriate mechanism of controlling a team despite the existing diversity. In addition, organizations can recognize the individual differences in members of their global teams (Groves & Feyerherm, 2011). As explained by Nielsen and Nielsen (2013) and Erez et al. (2013), apart from culture, other several factors contribute to the individual differences such as aptitude, personality, and competence and many others. Janssens and Cappellen (2015) asserted that in a global team, members could understand each other and their responsivities despite their cultural differences, which essentially enables the team to be controlled from a single central location.

Global teams can be controlled remotely; the feature essentially enables the management to control global teams from a single central point (Tjosvold, 2017). In addition, remote team members can know each other and share job-related tasks without having to meet physically (Pangil & Moi, 2014). Team members can remotely cross-pollinate ideas and practices while at the same time still meeting the company requirements and executing their responsibilities and tasks effectively. On the other hand, the management also have the ability and opportunity to connect remotely with each global team member even when they are not within the physical reach of the company, which is an essential feature in enabling the organization to controlled teams from a single central point (Martin, 2014; Crothers, 2017; Cvetkovich, 2018).

As explained by Scott and Wildman (2015), when equipped with an effective workflow system, a company can control global teams from a single place easily. A study by Beuving (2013) indicated that several companies that have implemented global teams are increasingly adopting workflow systems. They are crucial in ensuring that companies effectively control and manage their employees remotely from a single point (Tjosvold, 2017). As explained by Pangil and Moi (2014), there is no limit on the ability of workflow systems; it can control the team virtually irrespective of how wide members are spread apart. In addition, it enables virtual teams to work without the benefit of casual communication and ensures that everyone is doing their part to help the company achieve its goals and objectives (Erez et al., 2013).

With the increased technological innovation, presently the business communities have access to numerous well-crafted information system that enables managers to operate

global teams virtually from a single control center (Martin, 2014; Nielsen & Nielsen, 2013; Nayak, 2016). Such systems work best and only need a manager to control global teams virtually. As explained by Crothers (2017), with such systems, the manager only needs to establish ground rules that apply to the team members. In addition, the support of a well-crafted information system is sufficient to control global teams virtually from a single central point. Cvetkovich (2018) added that systems that enable times and deadlines to be seen more clearly are essential for effectively controlling global teams virtually from a single control point.

Despite the above possibilities, some factors may limit the ability of companies to effectively manage global teams from a single control point. The first limitation relates to the inability of digital communication to broadcast informal signals as well as the loss of important derived meanings, which often leads to conflicts in virtual teams (Tjosvold, 2017; Levi, 2015). As explained by Scott and Wildman (2015), informal signals such as facial expressions and gestures are missing in digital broadcast despite their significance in communication. Beuving (2013) added that the process makes it more difficult to develop togetherness and trust within a global virtual team. The process also limits the ability of managers to interpret communications effectively from virtual team members.

As explained by Rosenmann, Reese, and Cameron (2016), the problem of free riding could surface in an information system, which essentially limits the ability of managers to control the virtual global teams effectively. With the lack of social interactions with team members, the manager may not easily identify free riders especially on the information system platform (Wheelan, 2014). In addition, the fundamental of the information might be lost when using such information system even when they are well crafted. The loss of information may affect significantly how the manager controls the virtual teams from a single control center.

Communication barriers resulting from different cultural and geographical locations also limit the ability of global teams to be controlled effectively from a single control center (Levi, 2015; Crothers, 2017). As explained by Wheelan (2014), different cultures express themselves differently, which may be a big source of communication barrier between team members and the team manager. In addition, the difference in languages and geography can also sabotage the effective management of global teams from a single control center. However, the effectiveness of such barriers is not so huge that the company management cannot develop a mechanism of overcoming them (Rosenmann, Reese, & Cameron, 2016).

Author: David R. Johnson, Ph.D. student at LIGS University



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