Virtial Group Management
Business and Management
Submitted By omar878
As I majored in International Business in my undergraduate studies back in the United States, I have worked with international students to generate several presentations of business ideas, similar to the general concept of the Technion Group Project (TGP).
However, the process of the TGP is completely different from my previous experience in this field. Those differences are as follows:
1. The requirements of TGP involves more detail of the group itself:
In my past international group presentations, we were not required to know each other formally, as our focus was just to produce the best and most feasible business idea. In contrast, the TGP made the requirement of "knowing the group members" in such an interesting way. This was done by the requirement of producing a power point presentation for each member via the "Cultural Prototype Exercise" in which each member have to produce 4 slides that describes a typical person from his/her culture and how the member falls under the "stereotypes" of the culture and how they differ from it.
This exercise made me realize how similar I am to my culture even though I believed that I don't fall under the "stereotypical Saudi". Other than learning about myself, I came to be more aware to the cultures of my teammates. I was particularly interested in the cultures of two team members as they are relatively new to me, that is the Russian culture (through Ilya) and Hong Kong Culture (through Eva). I enjoyed knowing about the typical person in their culture and how they are different from those typicality.
Another requirement was the "Interview Each Other" requirement. In this part, my teammates showed most interest in my culture as I was surprised by how little they know about it. We had the interview during the time in which we shared our personal power point presentations. My group members were amazed how in Saudi Arabia it is prohibited to consume Alcohol and for women to drive cars. During the interview, and as much as I was trying to ask questions to get to know my teammates, the conversation seemed to get back to Saudi Arabia's culture. Hence, I learned that my teammates' cultures are aware of each other's more than they are to my culture. Even though this fact made me a little sad that my culture is not known to the outside world as much as I want it to be, it gave me satisfaction that I have more awareness to the cultures of the world than my teammates do.
Nevertheless, this exercise was truly helpful in "breaking the ice" and start a relationship with my team as we have each other's contact information for possible friendships.
2. The physical distance of the group members:
In my past projects, I have extensively worked with my international group members face to face. So, we did not have difficulty in meeting together as we usually have done it on weekends or right after class. However, the TGP meeting times were extremely challenging as two of my group members were based in Hong Kong, an eight hour differential time. In addition, one of those member that lives in Hong Kong is a working student that is also a mother of two children, which made the meeting set up such a huge challenge. So, I knew someone has to give up some valuable time in order to accommodate the other members, which I was willing to do so by giving up my time in my other classes in order to meet with my group.
Also, some members agreed to meet at times that were difficult for them, which resulted in a couple of cancelled meetings. This situation bothered me a little bit as I had to cancel personal plans in order to meet my teammates that were not present at the meeting time.
2. My Role
Through my team's first couple of meetings and getting to know each other phase, I have attempted to remind my teammates of the importance of submitting the cultural prototype presentation on time. I have also facilitated the debates between the team members about what our chosen business and country should be by asking each member to conduct a research and convince the team through the research of their business and country of choice.
During the subsequent chat session, I have asked my team mates of who would like to become the team leader, which turned into them asking me to become the team leader due to my display of responsibility and care.
Being a team leader is new to me, as I have never became one, as in my undergraduate studies, our groups never really had a team leader due to the lack of such requirement.
I was pleased to be the team leader of the group, but disappointed at the same time as I did not want my first experience as a leader to be in such a virtual situation due to the communication difficulties of my group that is a product of the time differential between our zones.
Moreover, another communication difficulty became a product of the mean of communication its self as we have used Skype and email to communicate. This mean of communication surprisingly resulted in a lack of communication as when we were chatting in Skype, the responsiveness of some members to other members' ideas is either slow or non-existent as some members just seemed to not be present or refuse to interact in the chat. Hence, as a team leader, I have made it clear to my teammates that we have unproductive meetings; and I proposed to video/voice chat on Skype instead of writing down our chats as I believed this strategy will promote responsiveness and productivity of our chats. Nevertheless, my team refused this idea as one of the members claimed that she could not video/voice chat with us as she did not want to wake up her kids, and the other members just agreed to her refusal.
3. Conclusions & Best Practices
Now the project is final, I have looked back and realized that, as a team leader, I have committed several mistakes in managing my team. For instance, I have not set specific deadlines for finalizing each member's parts, which is something I should have done in order to expedite the finalization of our project since we only could have finalized our presentation on the last day of the set deadline without having the opportunity to make a collective review of our parts before submission. This issue shall make me aware of the importance of setting deadlines for each team member.
I also agreed for each member to choose which part they would like to do, which later I regret as I believe some members could have done other parts much better than their chosen parts, including myself as I received the part that no one chose. This mismanagement will help me become a clear and precise leader in my next leadership assignment as I would be vocal and specific about what each team member should do.
Moreover, I should have explored the strengths and weaknesses if my team that would help me in making decisions of assigning parts of the project (Dargin). This practice could have been done by looking at the details of the personal power point slides that each member have done for the "Cultural Prototype Exercise". For example, Eva had used the most pictures in her slides that made it stand out from the rest. I should've assigned her to take care of posting pictures in our presentation.
This exploration of strengths and weaknesses also could've been done by simply knowing about previous assignments of the team members and figuring out what they excel at more in their previous work; and assign the parts that fits most with their experience.
On another note, as I suggested to video chat because the written chats were not productive as some members do not interact actively, and the response was not favorable due to personal reasons of the group members. Thus, I felt I gave up since I have not promoted more responsiveness during our subsequent written chats. According to Star Dargin, I should have called each member by name and get everyone involved during the meeting to raise the level of responsiveness.
I believe that the abovementioned issues helped me understand myself more as a team leader from weaknesses point of view. It also was the most important aspect to me in this TGP as I ought to become a Credit Team Leader when I return to my company. After the finalization of the assignment, I went back to the class handouts (Tips for Effective use of Leadership Styles) and some other sites such as the sourced website and figured out that as an introverted leader, there are many areas I need to work on as I believe enhancing myself to be a more productive leader that raises productivity of his team is a lifelong journey in discovering leadership style mistakes and countering them with effective corrective actions.
Dargin, Star (N.D), The 6 Best Practices for Managing Virtual Teams, from: http://www.corpedgroup.com/resources/pm/6BestPracticesMVT.asp