A Practice Run – Global Virtual Teams (GVT)

One of the main attractions of an MBA is leadership development. Within the first semester of the Smurfit MBA, we were presented with two challenges to develop our leadership skills. The first was an introduction to the Leadership Development Programme which is a yearlong, standalone program that develops student’s self-awareness, team skills and organisational leadership. The second challenge was the Leadership & Organisational Behaviour module which addressed the complexity of organisational structure.

In semester two, we will be challenged with a project where we work with students from around the world in a global virtual team (GVT). This project is part of the involvement with GNAM (Global Network for Advanced Management) and will partner with students from EGADE (Mexico), HEC(Paris) and Yale(US). The project will involve a simulation of a production line where cooperation and engagement from all team members is critical. This follows on from the learning in the Leadership & Organisational Behaviour module which included a trial GVT project.

The trial GVT project was designed to practice working in the unfamiliar situation of having remote team members who you had not interacted with before. The task was to analyse organisational issues within a case study, review related literature and provide a plan of action for the organisation. The submission format was not your typical MBA report or presentation, instead we had to create a video to provide our recommendations. One last curveball was that we were told not to meet in person.

The case study involved a character – Greg James, who had trouble managing his global team of 45 employees in the company Sun Microsystems. A sub optimal team performance had caused a recent problem for a customer and the organisation was starting to suffer. We identified GVT issues within Greg’s team as problems in communication, feelings of separation, feelings of unequal working conditions and lack of team spirit and camaraderie. I will omit our suggested solutions!

My trial GVT team included two full time MBA members, two mid-week EMBAs and one weekend EMBA. Some of our challenges included communication channels, finding meeting times to suit everyone, changing schedules, fluctuating engagement of team members, rapidly approaching deadlines and completely different personalities. We experimented with different IT solutions to facilitate remote meeting and work flow management. After many headaches, we settled on Google hangouts and Google Drive which gave us the most hassle-free work environments. We managed to scramble together an unpolished video and submit within the timeline . . . not our finest work but the learning is far more important.

Working in a global virtual team is never going to be straightforward, there are no perfect solutions and there will always be hurdles to overcome. I am looking forward to working with the GVT project next semester, the added variables of schools, locations, time zones and cultures will bring our skills to the next level. With the range of theory, challenges and experiences covered during the Smurfit MBA, we should be well positioned to excel in the increasingly global environment.


Eoin Carroll, Full Time MBA 2017-2018