Global Virtual Teams: Opportunities And Challenges

Features of Global Virtual Teams

Global virtual teams, also referred to as “multinational and multicultural distributed teams” are defined as “temporary, culturally diverse, geographically disperse, and electronically communicating work groups.” From the above definition, it is clearly evident that these groups have some primary distinguishing features such as encompassing individuals from different places, probably having different time zones, different cultural background, among other key primary features. In the exploration of Global Virtual Teams (GVT), it is imperative to dip into what motivates these groups into formation, the advantages that accrue to them has a result of the unique features stated, as well as the challenges posed to then by these distinguishing factors. From another writer’s point of view, GVTs are working teams with people from different geographical location which sprout in the line of duty. Evidently, the fact that these groups span over a diverse geographical location and that they come along to meet certain objectives has been given more weight. Similarly, the fact that most of these groups, if not all, have similar challenges is undeniable. In this paper, therefore, we are going to discuss Global Virtual Teams from two writer’s point of view, comparing the similarities and differences of their publication.

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While the two articles show contrasting opinions on the opportunities that GVTs have and the challenges facing them, their arguments seem to converge at a certain point. Firstly, these teams are formed by individuals of different geographical background. The article, Harvard Business review says that they are “made up of people in different locations.” Similarly, the journal of international management holds that these teams are “multinational and multiculturallly distributed. (Zakaria, 2016)” According to both articles, this aspect is advantageous since members are able to learn more and improve their knowledge databases by interacting with individuals from different cultural backgrounds. It also presents the advantage of improved performance and stronger decision making due to presence of positive conflict which reduces the aspect of groupthink.

These groups improve productivity as opposed to groups sharing the same office space (Kelley, 2017). Again, both articles argue that ineffective communication is one of the major challenges affecting these groups. That is because it is difficult to accompany someone’s message with nonverbal cues, gestures and mimics as well as tonal variation that enhance the understanding of the intended message. One of them says that trust may go down by up to 83% if the send message is not understood when poor channels of communication are used (Jarvenpaa, 2016). The other article says that most of these groups use means of communication that can’t support nonverbal communication and therefore inability to build relationships and trust.From both articles, it is evident that these groups are a cheaper way of approaching production for most of the companies and estates.

Advantages of Diversity in Global Virtual Teams

These groups are preferred to groups sharing the same floor office space since there are no transportation costs and that teams work at the comfort of their locations (Saunders, 2016). Acquisition of these teams, therefore, has been argued to serve as a competitive advantage for most of the companies. That is because the firm is in a position to utilize different talents from different geographical locations without necessarily transporting the manpower to the geographical location of the firm (Shachaf, 2016). In fact, one the articles says that “most professionals can do their bob from anywhere. “  The journal of international management argues that “GVT member diversity also increases the diversity of the resources available.” Again there is need of having a better communication technology that is able to capture the intended message and take care of the individuals who support their messages with nonverbal cues (Gibson, 2016). They argue that most of the team members feel confused and overwhelmed by the unsupportive current communication technology (Paul, 2017).

The two journal articles have proved to have varied arguments on how the features of GVTs present opportunities and challenges to these groups. For instance, the journal of international management holds that the aspect of different geographical location is both an opportunity and a threat (Jarvenpaa, 2016). It argues that having individuals from different locations increase productivity as projects can be worked upon in 24 hours a day. That is made possible by the fact that the team members reside in places with different time zones and therefore when some are asleep others are awake (Sarker, 2017). For instance, when a group is made up of individuals from Japan, America, Africa and Australia, the members who are awake can handle the project and pass it to the next team as they go to sleep.

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This aspect has also attracted challenges and brought about conflicts and mistrust. When a person in Japan emails another person in America, the email is likely to be seen in the morning. When the American individual promptly replies the email, it is seen the next morning by the member in Japan. That brings about a feeling that there is no determination and that members are unwilling to cooperative (Daim, 2017). In the journal Harvard business review, having people from different time zones is only an opportunity as different talents are brought together. Secondly, journal of international management argues that a constant communication is not practically possible as individuals come from locations with different time zones (Jarvenpaa, 2014). The other journal argues that constant calling and texting between members is necessary to make the team functional.

Challenges of Global Virtual Teams

The Harvard business review argues that these teams can also be formed by individuals in the same office but different floors while the other journal limits the definition of these teams to “multinational and multicultural’ context. While the Harvard business review journal argues that the size of the group dictates performance and productivity, the other does not have a mention of the same. The Harvard business review journal holds that there exists a possibility of these team members meeting someday while international management journal holds that these members may even reach the adjourning stage without even singly meeting (Jarvenpaa, 2015). The table below summarizes the differences between the two journals:

Journal of international management

Harvard business review

Geographical separation is both a pro and a con

Geographical separation is only advantageous

There are less possibilities of constant communication

Constant communication is inevitable

There is less possibility of physically meeting

Members will someday meet physically

The size of the group does not dictate performance

Small size groups perform better than large groups

Performance oriented

Communication oriented

There is possibility of conflict of interest

No mention of the same

Some members may be despised due to poor communication

All members are assumed to be effective communicators

While there are several challenges that come along as a result of establishment of global virtual teams, these challenges can be overcome. It is important to appreciate that communication is very imperative in every team as it creates relationships and strengthens brings about trust within members. This trust improves individual performance and consequently increases the total output. It is therefore important that these teams go for the best communication channels that are capable of transmitting both audio and visual messages so that there is understanding. It is also important to understand the weakness of each member and not attach communication problems to decision making capability. It is wrong to assume that individuals with difficulty in understanding the universal language have retarded brains and therefore ignore them in chief decision making. Teams should also turn the distance barrier into an opportunity so that they can have the team functioning 24 hours a day such that when some are asleep others are working. Lastly, members should not divide themselves in lines of cultural similarly as this brings about conflict in the teams. They should also not allow their personal goals to compromise the goals of the entire team. When individuals from different organizations come together to form a group that has different goals and objectives, it is possible that some of them want to reshape the group objectives to look like those of their domestic organizations. That leads to unresolvable conflict that may lead to disbandment of the team without meeting its objectives. Team members should also work in the best interest of the team and not focus on reaping from the team for individual benefit.


Global virtual teams have proven to be very crucial as they improve performance hence increasing productivity. They give individual members opportunity to learn from their fellows who have different experience depending on their past experience and cultural background. It brings together different individuals with different knowledge, talents and skills thereby improving the chances of strong decision making. These teams also make it possible to have projects completed in a restively shorter time than if they were to be completed by members in the same location as some members can work when the rest are asleep. Thus, the team’s activities will not stop all along the day.


Daim, T., 2017. Exploring the communication breakdown in global virtual teams. International Journal of Project Management, 7(89), pp. 78-89.

Gibson, C., 2016. Virtual teams that work. Creating conditions for virtual team effectiveness, 7(9), pp. 20-43.

Jarvenpaa, S., 2014. Antecedents of trust in global virtual teams. Journal of management information systems, 14(4), pp.29-64., 7(9), pp. 56-77.

Jarvenpaa, S., 2015. Toward contextualized theories of trust: The role of trust in global virtual teams. Information systems research, 9(8), pp. 45-73.

Jarvenpaa, S., 2016. Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Organization science, 7(78), pp. 76-89.

Jarvenpaa, S., 2016. Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Journal of computer-mediated communication, 98(8), pp. 78-87.

Kelley, L., 2017. Global virtual teams for value creation and project success: A case study. International journal of project management, 56(7), pp. 45-87.

Paul, S., 2017. Impact of heterogeneity and collaborative conflict management style on the performance of synchronous global virtual teams. Information & Management, 8(8), pp. 56-85.

Sarker, S., 2017. The role of communication and trust in global virtual teams: A social network perspective. Journal of Management Information Systems, 76(8), pp. 56-87.

Saunders, C., 2016. My time or yours? Managing time visions in global virtual teams. Academy of Management Perspectives, 89(8), pp. 78-95.

Shachaf, P., 2016. Cultural diversity and information and communication technology impacts on global virtual teams: An exploratory study. Information & Management, 78(89), pp. 54-86.

Zakaria, N., 2016. Working together apart? Building a knowledge?sharing culture for global virtual teams. Creativity and innovation management, 7(56), pp. 89-107.