Global Virtual Teams

The GMAT is well known to all MBA students as the meter by which candidates can qualify for selection for most Business Schools. The numerical and verbal aspects are necessary content in what is essentially an exam testing Executive Reasoning, the ability to prioritise your time and make effective decisions under substantial time pressure. At the time I thought little of it but looking back the same principles have universally applied since the 28th of August. We are drawing towards the end of February and it feels like my feet have hardly touched the ground since Christmas. That small extra hour of brightness in the evening makes it that much easier, somewhere in the back of my mind I know that it’s not too long now until I’ll see my car during daylight hours!


Dolly Parton once said, “If you want the rainbow you’ve gotta to put up with the rain” and it never seemed more apt than over the last few weeks with assignments due dates coming thick and fast and the small matter of our Global Virtual Teams (GVT) project.

Forecasting aspects such as re-order quantities, job wait times, customer contract values and most importantly revenues, myself, Karl McEntegart and our two counterparts from Yale SOM managed our own virtual production facility for the week.

What started out as a friendly, co-operative atmosphere in the MBA suite early on Monday morning turned quickly into levels of secrecy and espionage not seen since the Cold War. Incognito meetings and guarded secrets regarding customer orders levels and optimal machine utilisation rates were commonplace as we were pitted against our classmates in a winner takes all competition to see who would finish the week with the greatest cash balance.

The jostling for top position amongst the 160 teams was akin to the Grand National at times and the competitive streak of certain individuals came to the fore. Despite the much-publicised traffic laws in this country, one unnamed Full Time MBA Student was heard to complain that he couldn’t check inventory levels on his phone whilst driving in to college.

We worked well with our American counterparts, dividing the workload evenly and playing to our respective strengths as we set out our action plan for the week. Our new-found appreciation for operations management was put to a stern test throughout and regular Skype calls and WhatsApp messages at unsociable hours re-assured us that our Yale team mates were as invested in the process as we were.

We finished off on Friday evening in a respectable 51st position after working our way back from an early hiccup which set us back on the previous Sunday night. Pats on the back all around, except for one team from the Full Time class, who somehow managed to sell off their machines for scrap rather than purchasing additional units.

All in all, this was a unique and enjoyable experience, giving valuable insight into the challenges of working across time-zones and cultures towards a common goal. It’s interesting to note that during the same week I also negotiated the sale of a high quality smart phone platform, participated in an invaluable mock interview with a Manager from a large consultancy firm, underwent an interview skills workshop, a career coaching session and negotiated funding for the MBA Rugby World Cup which nine of our class will be attending in Danville, VA in April.

Between now and then we have the small matter of the ‘Doing Business in International Markets’ module which will take us to Santiago and Lima. Having already spent a week in NUS in Singapore for GNAM in October, the international focus of the course is obvious.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe that we have been together for six months at this stage- as I said, it feels like my feet have hardly touched the ground.


Peter Condon, Full Time MBA 2017-2018

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