Operations Management

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MAJOR CHALLENGES IN MULTI-CULTURAL VIRTUAL TEAMS
Robert Vinaja University of Texas-Pan American 1201 W. University Dr., Edinburg, TX 78541 (956) 381-3314 Abstract: Some of the problems that multi-cultural virtual teams experience include: time delays in replies, lack of synergy among cross-cultural team members, communications breakdowns, unresolved conflicts among members, limited hours allowed to be worked and different holidays. This paper reviews major challenges faced by multi-cultural virtual teams and describes some managerial implications. Although many previous studies have focused in various factors such as telecommuting issues, there are few studies that investigate the issues in multi-cultural virtual teams. The main objective of this research-in-progress paper is to empirically investigate multi-cultural challenges in virtual teams and outline the proposed research.

INTRODUCTION
Previous studies have investigated issues in virtual teams (Yoong 2001, Suchan et. al. 2001). A multi-cultural team is a team whose members have different cultural backgrounds, for instance because they are from different countries. In a global marketplace, more and more companies need international presence; therefore the need for creating virtual teams exists. By dynamically allocating people to projects based on expertise rather than location, organizations can more easily assign the most qualified people to appropriate projects without concern for the expense and wasted productivity caused by extensive travel or frequent relocation (Goldman 2000). Multi-cultural virtual teams are important in these days due to the increasing globalization of organizations and the proliferation of new network technologies (LAN, WAN, Internet, extranets). Some of the problems that multi-cultural virtual teams experience include the following: time delays in replies, lack of synergy among cross-cultural team members, communications breakdowns due to cultural variances, unresolved conflicts among culturally different members, limited hours allowed to be worked and different holidays. This paper reviews major challenges faced by multi-cultural virtual teams and describes some managerial implications.

MAJOR CHALLENGES
Multi-cultural issues in virtual teams are not always visible but definitely do exist. Several studies suggest that global virtual teams face significant challenges in four major areas: communication, culture, technology, and project management (Kayworth, Timothy and Leidner 2000). Current research suggests that virtual team failure is directly related to the difficulties of building trust, positive relationships across the three boundaries of geographical distance, time zones, and cultural differences (Kimble et.al. 2001). Time difference is another problem for virtual corporations. Time becomes a problem when people who are not in the same place and need some of their activities to be synchronized. When working with different time zones, individuals can be a day behind of getting something done. Time zones need to be kept in mind when trying to stay connected with someone from another country. The time difference becomes a greater concern as the distance between the virtual teams grows. All over the world we have different time zones and it may be difficult to get everybody on the right team. It may be midnight in one part of the world and it may be the rush hour in another business. This is a problem because everybody needs to be on the same page and doing the same thing. One would not want to schedule a meeting with a virtual team with one team meeting during regular business hours and the other team meeting at 2 a.m. Anytime that a communication for instance needs to be immediately connected to Japan from the United States, users will have a hard time to obtain communication because it will be a different time in Japan and people will probably be asleep and not receive the intended communication in time. The time difference...
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