In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Global Teams

  • Introduction
  • Core Texts
  • General Overviews
  • Inputs–Emergent States–Process–Outputs

Management Global Teams
Bradley L. Kirkman, Sal Mistry
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 September 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0006


Globalization continues to occupy headlines, and thus the minds of business professionals throughout the world. As a consequence of globalization, organizations have increasingly expanded the markets they serve while simultaneously relying on diverse labor pools to exceed both current and future customer needs. Accordingly, global teams (GTs) have proliferated, relying on the diverse talents within each of these teams to meet organizational goals of reaching overseas markets and to execute and implement complex business strategies. GTs, also called multinational work teams, are defined as a specific type of work team in which members come from two or more national or cultural backgrounds. While the definition we adopt for GTs does not necessarily imply that members are geographically distributed (i.e., working virtually), we do acknowledge that most of today’s GTs do work primarily virtually, and thus our review includes research both on GTs and on global virtual teams (GVTs).

Core Texts

Management and organizational scholars have taken note of the benefits of GTs. A book written on managing across national and geographic boundaries, Bartlett and Ghoshal 1998, asserts that global teams serve as the primary vehicle that organizations use to offset pressures from customer demands, emerging and converging markets, and resource availability, ultimately helping organizations achieve global efficiency. This makes sense: Jarvenpaa and Leidner 1999 maintains that the benefits of GTs are that they can be recomposed and reassigned to respond to shifting opportunities in global markets to meet ever-changing task requirements in highly turbulent and dynamic global business environments. Other scholars have devoted their attention to discovering when GT can be effective. For example, Marquardt and Horvath 2001 identifies five major challenges to GTs and proposes a three-level model to offset these challenges. Adler 2008, an influential book on international management, takes a different view on global teams, stating that GTs, on the basis of extreme assets and liabilities, tend to be either highly effective or highly ineffective, with single-culture groups most likely being moderately effective. Earley and Gibson 2002 also weighs in on the inputs, such as organizational and member attributes that guide the processes of team interaction. Extending this line of inquiry on inputs, Lane, et al. 2003 asserts that leaders serve a central role in global team effectiveness. More recently, scholars have focused their attention on global virtual teams (GVTs). For example, Gibson and Cohen 2003 offers many practical suggestions on developing global teams, and Kirkman and Mathieu 2007 describes necessary conditions for GVT effectiveness. Hence, at present it seems that most scholarly work on global teams tends to focus on their degree of virtualness, with the future of this literature also going in the same direction.

  • Adler, Nancy J. International Dimensions of Organizational Behavior. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson South-Western, 2008.

    Adler posits that multicultural groups will tend to be either highly effective or highly ineffective, with single-culture groups most likely being moderately effective. The author also discusses several moderating factors, ranging from the type of task to the behavioral styles of leaders, that influence multicultural group effectiveness.

  • Bartlett, Christopher A., and Sumantra Ghoshal. Managing across Borders: The Transnational Solution. 2d ed. Boston: Harvard Business School, 1998.

    The authors use a mix of academic research and business cases to demonstrate effective management of transnational corporations. In addition, they suggest that some organizations use teams primarily to help achieve global efficiency (e.g., to develop regional or worldwide cost advantages, or to standardize designs and operations).

  • Earley, P. Christopher, and Cristina B. Gibson. Multinational Work Teams: A New Perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002.

    Authors propose a comprehensive framework on multinational teams (MNTs) that includes individual-level features of team members (inputs), organizational context (inputs), and team interaction (processes). Central to their framework are the concepts of integration, differentiation, and equilibrium, which serve to link the processes between various levels of analysis.

  • Gibson, Cristina B., and Susan G. Cohen. “The Development of Global Virtual Teams.” In Virtual Teams That Work: Creating Conditions for Virtual Team Effectiveness. Edited by Cristina B. Gibson and Susan G. Cohen, 353–380. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003.

    Authors offer practical suggestions on developing various facets of GVTs. Initial conditions include task definition, selection of personnel, and clustering teammates by geography. Some identified processes for development include spending non-work time together, having a trained facilitator, sense making (through members sharing stories), and creating a shared identity (team logo and slogan). Maturation is accomplished through integration (i.e., frequent communication).

  • Jarvenpaa, Sirkka L., and Dorothy E. Leidner. “Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams.” Organization Science 10.6 (1999): 791–815.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.10.6.791

    The authors manipulate the national culture (country of origin) composition of teams to find that cultural composition affects the formation of trust in GVTs. Specifically, authors found that in GVTs, trust takes on the form of swift trust, with some variations (i.e., trust may be imported or created through communication behavior).

  • Kirkman, Bradley L., and John E. Mathieu. “The Dimensions and Antecedents of Team Virtuality.” Journal of Management 3.5 (2007): 700–718.

    Authors define team virtuality by using three dimensions: “(a) the extent to which team members use virtual tools to coordinate and execute team processes (including communication media such as e-mail and videoconferencing and work tools such as group decision support systems), (b) the amount of informational value provided by such tools, and (c) the synchronicity of team member virtual interaction” (p. 702).

  • Lane, Henry W., Martha L. Maznevski, Mark E. Mendenhall, and Jeanne McNett. “Designing and Forming Effective Global Teams.” In The Blackwell Handbook of Global Management: A Guide to Managing Complexity. Edited by Henry W. Lane, 199–226. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

    GT effectiveness is predicated on leaders addressing complexity and structuring a team to manage complexity. When forming a team, a leader plays a crucial role in designing task processes that include establishing a team vision, mission, and objectives; determining roles, responsibilities, and interaction norms; selecting and adopting the right technology; and finally creating a sense of community.

  • Marquardt, Michael J., and Lisa Horvath. Global Teams: How Top Multinationals Span Boundaries and Cultures with High-Speed Teamwork. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black, 2001.

    Authors identify five major challenges to GTs: managing cultural diversity, differences, and conflicts; handling geographic distances, dispersion, and despair; dealing with coordination and control issues; maintaining communication richness over distances; and developing and maintaining “teamness.” To resolve these challenges, the authors suggest various strategies and propose a three-level GT model.

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