Managing A Virtual Team

Michael Robinson has been newly appointed as the Senior Director of New Product Development in a New York-based multinational manufacturing company. He is informed by his CEO that the company is restructuring to rationalize some of its R&D, IT infrastructure support, product testing and manufacturing functions by migrating them to other countries. Although there are several factors responsible for this decision, three main reasons provided by the management are possibility of 24/7 development cycle as a result of time zone difference, greater availability of talent outside of the U.S., and also lower costs associated with hiring employees elsewhere.

The company has some previous experience in international business, but it has been mainly engaged in only sourcing of materials and components and exporting finished equipment to some countries in Europe and Latin America. The company does not have any experience in working in global teams for new product development work. 

The company has decided to locate the offshore R&D facility in Manheim (Germany); carry out product testing in both Nanjing (China) and Syracuse (USA); have an IT development and support facility in Bengaluru (India), and the final manufacturing near Shanghai (China). While each new location will employ local employees, several existing managers and expert engineers will also relocate from the United States to those four locations for a period of 1-2 years. The chief project manager for all four countries (USA, Germany, China and India) will be located in the U.S. and will report to Michael Robinson.

To be successful, the company will utilize  a model in which they will follow the corporate values based on the U.S. culture but will also need to mold their business practices in accordance with the local cultural models in each foreign location. Therefore, they are considering assessing the cultural variability across the countries involved.

Based on what the CEO has learned from his/her industry peers, he/she does understand that the running of the global virtual team is not going to be easy. The company has no prior experience in this virtual mode of high level product innovation, development or manufacturing work. Therefore, Michael was chosen to investigate the idea and prepare a detailed project report which will guide the formation of the virtual teams and their successful operation. 

Final project deliverables

Michael Robinson has chosen your team as cross-cultural consultants to investigate and present a report providing a comparative cultural assessment of the three countries (China, Germany and India) with the United States.

The project report should address the following outlines:

Provide a detailed comparison of national cultures of China, Germany, India, and the United States in light of the five dimensions of national culture by Hofstede listed below. You should have five tables, one for each dimension, showing comparison among the four countries. Discuss the most important cultural attributes for each dimension that may help your client’s understanding of cultural differences for all locations. Compare them with the United States. Discuss positive and negative cultural attributes in the context of the global teamwork. The dimensions are:

      • Power Distance Index (PDI)
      • Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)
      • Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)
      • Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
      • Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO)
    • In the light of the above, provide proper explanations to the following questions:
      • What are the rationale and drivers for the recent growth of global virtual teams? What justifications can be given for the company’s decision to migrate some product development, testing, IT infrastructure, and manufacturing work to another country?
      • What are the most likely major opportunities and challenges for this global virtual team?
      • Since the other teams will be based in Germany, China and India, what cross-cultural differences are likely to impact on good performance of this global virtual team? How would they cause any positive or negative impact for the company’s overall business mission? What recommendations should be made for fully understanding and bridging these cultural differences?
      • Provide an example of a multinational firm that has expanded into those countries and how it dealt with cross-cultural communication issues.
      • How would mutual “trust” be a significantly potential issue among members of the global virtual team? How to positively address any trust related issues?
      • Based on your findings and responses above, develop a communication protocol for all members of the global virtual team.
      • Provide guidelines for general best practices for sustaining a high performance global virtual team.

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