Project management, “the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet project requirements,” may be used in a variety of situations, but such situations do not only have to be local; project management skills may be utilized within projects where members of the team are not centralized in one location, necessitating the usage of virtual teams instead of in person meetings, and may even be expanded to a global scale, allowing individuals and teams from around the world to work in conjunction with each other without the need of traveling to a centralized location in order to do so (Project Management Institute, p. 6). As a result of the increasing trends toward globalization, virtual teams are becoming more common, and the need to create the most effective team can become quite a pressing matter, allowing for the unification of a team regardless of distance without sacrificing quality, productivity, or team effectiveness.
While there are many different projects that may require the use of a global or virtual team, perhaps the easiest to understand would be a scenario in which a company or corporation had offices on two separate coasts or in multiple countries, yet needed individuals from all branches of the organization to work together on a project in order to accomplish a set goal, such as the determination of whether or not a new division needs to be created in order to address the growing needs of a corporation, and if so, the best way to go about doing so in order to ensure that the needs of all offices are met. Alternately, if a company is comprised of a majority of individuals who are able to telecommute, these individuals would be able to work best on a project of a larger scale through the use of a virtual team as opposed to having to physically commute until such a time as the project has been completed.
Holton (2001) reported on the reliance of organizations on these types of virtual teams and how such relationships may be utilized when structuring a global environment. The change in locale of such team members, i.e. the fact that they are meeting virtually only and are not present within the same building or even necessarily within the same time zone, does work to have an effect on the manner in which the project itself is executed. Holton (2001) identifies the variations in team building strategies that must be utilized within a virtual environment as a result of the virtual environment of which they are a part, and looks at the applicability of standard team building tools and how they may be utilized or must be adapted to the needs of each specific virtual team and the organizational structure contained therewith. As with all teams created, it is of necessity for virtual teams to have a “solid foundation of mutual trust and collaboration” in order for them to function effectively (Holton, 2001). Through the establishment of a strong group dialogue and a clear delineation of responsibilities it is possible for a virtual team to function effectively, in spite of the fact that certain studies indicate that the ability to reach a consensus, work equally on the project, and work more favorably together does take longer within a virtual team setting (Holton, 2001).
It is because of these potentialities for delays, which may be avoided if there is an individual who displays strong leadership and motivational tactics heading the project management team, that it is necessary to select the appropriate project management style that will be best suited not only to the virtual or global environment in which the team will be working, but one that will also work best to motivate the individuals that comprise the team, given their specific personality types. While such a project management style will need to be uniquely selected based on the types of individuals who will be selected to work on the project at hand, there are still certain styles of project management that work better in a virtual setting than others. The project management style discussed by Sivunen (2006) looks at the most appropriate methods of strengthening identification as a team member in a virtual environment through the effective application of leadership skills.
This particular style works to address the different issues that may arise as a result of distance, location, and/or cultural diversity in addition to providing information on how a team leader may work to strengthen identification between team members with the use of computer mediated communication (Sivunen, 2006). Regardless of the management style chosen for use within a virtual team it is necessary to utilize four specific tactics in order to ensure the effectiveness of the team overall including the need to cater to the individual team member, the necessity of providing positive feedback, bringing out common goals and workloads while working at the same time to talk up the importance of those activities and employing face to face meetings when and if possible as a means of touching base (Sivunen, 2006). Regardless of which of the five primary leadership styles are chosen for use within the project, as the most effective will be best determined based on the type of leadership that team members are most responsive to (Hopkin, 2012), as long as the team leader works to employ the aforementioned tactics, the virtual team has a high likelihood of success. Perhaps the most important aspect of the application of such project management styles to a virtual team is to be fluid and to adapt different styles based on team members and based on what a specific situation calls for in order to ensure that the team is at its most effective.
Project management may be applied to a wide variety of situations, and in today’s global environment, the ability to create and work effectively with virtual teams has become a necessity. By ensuring that the appropriate tools are applied and the appropriate knowledge is utilized, it is possible to create not only an effective team, but an efficient and productive one as well.
- Holton, J. A. (2001). Building trust and collaboration in a virtual team. Team Performance Management, 7(3), 36-47. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/217102531?accountid=8289
- Hopkin, M. (2012). Five leadership styles for successful project management. [online] Retrieved from: http://leadonpurposeblog.com/2012/10/20/five-leadership-styles-for-successful-project-management/ [Accessed: 13 Feb 2014].
- Project Management Institute. (2000). Project management body of knowledge. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.cs.bilkent.edu.tr/~cagatay/cs413/PMBOK.pdf [Accessed: 13 Feb 2014].
- Sivunen, A. (2006). Strengthening identification with the team in virtual teams: The leaders’ perspective. Group Decision and Negotiation, 15(4), 345-366. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10726-006-9046-6