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Stephan Sembdner

Success Factors of Virtual Teams in the Conflict of Cross-Cultural Team Structures

ISBN: 978-3-8428-5763-6

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Produktart: Buch
Verlag: Diplomica Verlag
Erscheinungsdatum: 06.2011
AuflagenNr.: 1
Seiten: 168
Abb.: 19
Sprache: Englisch
Einband: Paperback


Due to strong competition and to the most recent market requirements, more and more enterprises or organisations have to realign their business activities in a new way to cope with the current economic situation. In the respective organisational structures, specific changes have to be made to manufacture the products and to provide relevant services more effectively. Moreover, services are often provided increasingly no longer from a centralised location. For this reason, decentralised teams in various locations have developed, working together to jointly reach the targets. So overall, organisations are facing new challenges to a growing extent. On the one hand, they have to cope with customers from different cultural areas, and on the other hand, the structure of the employees is changing simultaneously. The organisations have international departments or not. The trend is now clearly towards heterogeneous team structures. Consequently, it is crucial for the organisations to be successful in spite of generally tougher market conditions. And this operational success will not come about automatically but will require well-functioning, efficient teams. A general overview will be given on the central subject matter, and simultaneously, basic concepts will be initially presented. The second chapter deals with the topic of team and team work. Starting with the central topic’s partial aspect ‘virtual team’, the term ‘team’ will be defined and examined more in detail. In this context, first a historical review and the development of the terms will be provided. And hereby a distinct differentiation is made between the individual terms. Additionally, the transition from the (customary) team to the virtual team and its particular characteristics will also be emphasised. A further relevant aspect of the central subject matter is in particular the term ‘cross-cultural’. It refers above of all to the general topic of culture, and this will be in the focus of the third chapter. The goal here is to describe the fundamentals of culture, and the factors on which culture is built on. Another emphasis is on the models explained in the specialised literature. The fourth chapter deals with the central topic of success factors. They are to be described and analysed here which contribute significantly to the success of a virtual team. For this purpose, for each success factor a definition is to be provided and the respective significance will be emphasised. The intercultural context is also a major focus. In the specialised literature, a wide range of factors have been described. The selection of such factors, which are to be considered, result from the findings of research work in the area of specialised literature and are at the same time closely linked to the author’s previous job experiences. Consequently, the work in relation to this book and the findings are of particular importance for the author. Chapter five is to meet the requirements regarding the evaluation of the theoretical findings based on practical experience. As the factors to be analysed have not yet been finally determined, a quantitative analysis cannot be made here. This would require a more comprehensive analysis or survey with a corresponding time frame, with the aim to get complex data material and figures serving as a basis for empirical analysis and evaluation. The basis for the analysis will be the practice-oriented experiences of experts which have been gained through interviews. At the end of chapter five, general statements from experts will be the basis for the final evaluation. In chapter six, major results from the previous chapters’ will be given. Furthermore, the findings of chapter four will be contrasted with the general statements obtained from the interviews listed in chapter five. Based on the hereof resulting final consequences, recommendations for further focal areas of research and analyses will also be given.


Text Sample: Chapter 4.4, Intercultural context: Intercultural communication: Definition: First of all, it has to be noted here that there is no consensus in specialised literature regarding the definition of the term of intercultural communication. Depending on the special discipline and the cultural area, varying approaches and term-related dimensions exist. Litters defines intercultural communication as ‘an interpersonal communication situation between members belonging to different cultural groups’. Schugk differentiates between intercultural communication and international communication. The first definition refers to communication of representatives from different cultures international communication takes place beyond or across national boundaries of states. In this context, it seems as if belonging to a language group simultaneously provides information on belonging to a culture, which is not always the case. Maletzke states in this context: ‘Very often people who belong to a common culture are separated by a state frontier, with the effect that international communication is taking place within a single culture. And, the contrary case, humans of quite differing cultures can be united in the same state, so that within this single state intercultural communication can take place’. This demonstrates that intercultural communication and international communication are two different areas which, without being identical, are partly overlapping. Maletzke extends the previous findings and definitions by the following, namely that ‘the partners are aware of the fact that the respective other person is different, so if one perceives mutually as being a foreigner’. It should be stated here that the larger the cultural distances are, the more the probability of potential communication disturbances increases. In summary, Lüsebrink defines intercultural communication as the ‘communicative dimension of the relations or relationships between members of different cultures.’ In his view, this provides a wide scope for analysis. The interpersonal level with the ‘dialogue based on forms of verbal means also of other communicative means (gestures, physical movement, tone)’ is part of the direct relevant area. The wider area ‘also comprises the level of media-driven or mediatised’ communication. It includes and refers to the medial form of representation or of communication technology such as TV, radio or internet, which conveys and shapes the everyday intercultural communication. Intercultural communication problems: Litters considers communication problems as a result of varying interpretation of signs. In line with the author’s view, problems in relation to understanding can be solved, but this can be considered also as a problem. This is because even members with the same native language can have different fact-based knowledge, and this may lead to varying interpretations, assertions, recommendations or explanations. Foreignness, unfamiliarity or non-equal linguistic (language-related) competence of a non-native speaker implies the additional danger of communication-related problems. Knapp and Knapp-Potthoff put it as follows: ‘Problems of communication, then, that result from differences in shared knowledge are not specific to interaction among members of different cultures, but they are, more generally, problems of communication among new arrivals and old-established residents, among professionals and laymen, among insiders and outsiders – in short: among strangers’. Another problem is the non-verbal part of communication. In case of those persons involved in talks and who are actually meeting, there would be the possibility of avoiding related misunderstandings through repeating or clarifying a gesture. This procedure is not realistic, and it is even impossible in case of participants involved in talks which cannot see one another, which generally applies to virtual teams. An approach for solving the problem, according to Litters, would be the use of ‘Meta Model Questions’ trying to identify the universal images or notions behind verbal utterances. In this regard, a precondition is that the parties involved are aware of a disruption of communication and that they are ready to participate in a public discourse. But misunderstandings also occur if the foreign language skills are excellent and the respective meta-communicative strategies are known. The better the foreign language competence is, the higher is also the expectation in regard to adequate acting or actions. Subconsciously, joined or shared knowledge is assumed according to Litters. Knapp and Knapp-Potthoff have confirmed this with ‘as, for example ethnographic studies in urban communication demonstrate, problems in situations of contact between members of immigrated minorities and those of the majority population within the host society are often made even worse when the immigrants acquire a nativelike fluency in the majority language, which is not paralleled by a shared knowledge of the ways of thinking, acting and speaking which enter into and are usually taken for granted in interaction. Differences in this kind of knowledge, which may cause trouble in any situation of contact between members of different cultural, ethnic or social groups, constitute, in short, problems of intercultural communication’. Significance: Communication has a significant social function for human beings. Staehle defines communication as the ‘inter-personal exchange of news, thoughts and feelings (also non-verbally) as well as the ability of human beings to maintain and keep up social relations in groups … which is mandatory for the work in groups (teams)’. Furthermore, along with the finding and insight that virtual teams need particular support in their communication, the accompanying process will be rendered more difficult if the corresponding team consists of members from different cultures. For this reason, there is the danger of cultural distance, which may be an additional barrier (which is not always the case) throughout the communication process other troubles may be the lacking readiness to participate in active communication, or reservations towards distinct communication media. Management should take this into account accordingly. Another aspect of intercultural communication is the non-verbal part of the exchange of words. During communication, the manifold forms of body language (see chapter on Communication) and speed of speaking, as well as silence will be included. These get lost during communication of virtual teams owing to their specific characteristics. This loss can possibly be compensated if a corresponding language competence exists. Nevertheless, misunderstandings are part of human communication and cannot be avoided completely. These can be overcome through the will to identify and recognise them as well as through the use of appropriate techniques, with the prerequisite being not to merely confront oneself with the own style of communication. It has to be taken into account that with growing foreign language competence also the requirements as to intercultural competence are growing and gaining in relevance. Thus intercultural competence will be analysed in the following.

Über den Autor

Stephan SEMBDNER was born in Sebnitz (near Dresden, Germany) in 1978. His vocational training was in the real estate business, working for a residential housing enterprise in Bautzen. After successful completion, the author of this book decided to take up work in another business field and started as a specialist in charge of Global Business ?Transaction Banking of a large German commercial bank in Frankfurt-on-Main. To further expand his job qualifications, he studied economics at the Frankfurt-based University of Applied Sciences ( Fachhochschule für Oekonomie und Management”, FOM”), in addition to his job in the bank. In 2010 he successfully completed his studies and was awarded the academic degree and university diploma in economics ( Diplom-Kaufmann (FH)”). During his studies, the author of this book was transferred to the bank’s Front Office IT department. He is responsible for the administrative support of the global data collection system focusing on trade transactions in the FX and MM area. His interest in the book’s subject arose from his experience in both jobs and their problems, and, simultaneously, his wish to analyze the subject more thoroughly.

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