Case 14.1: Can This Virtual Team Work?
Jim Towne heads a newly formed information technology team for a major international
corporation. The team is composed of 20 professionals who live and work in Canada, the United
States, Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia. All members of the team report to Jim.
The team is a virtual team connected primarily via videoconference, group decision-support
software, email, text, and telephone. The team has met twice in a face-to-face setting to set
goals and plan. All of the team members are quite competent in their respective technical
areas. Some team members have a long and valued history with the company; others have
recently joined the company through a corporate merger. The team members have never
worked together on any projects. The task of the team is to develop and implement technology
innovations for all global business units. The team members are excited about the importance
and the innovative nature of their assignment. They respect each other and enjoy being part of
this team. However, the team is having difficulty getting off the ground, and the members
report being extremely overloaded. Most team members travel to business sites at least two
weeks each month. The travel is important, but it causes team members to get farther behind.
The team has one half-time secretary, located in New York. Her primary responsibility is to
organize travel and meetings of team members. Team members are working on several
projects at once and have great difficulty finishing any of the projects. One team member has
500 unread email messages because each team member sends copies of all messages to
everyone on the team. Jim is under great pressure to prove that this team can work and
provide a valuable function to the organization.
• Which of the eight characteristics (Table 14.1) of team excellence are lacking in this
• Based on this analysis of team effectiveness, should Jim intervene at this time, or should
he just keep monitoring the team? If you think he should take action, at what level
should he intervene (internal or external)? If internal, should his action be task or
• What specific leadership functions should Jim implement to improve the team? Why?
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