One of the challenges in teaching management and leadership courses in higher education is the lack of available cases and research that focuses on non-Western examples. There is an urgent need to integrate content that reflects the realities of organizational cultures from around the world into our instructional design. This need to address cultural and organizational differences and similarities in leadership and management styles across cultures provides an opportunity to create content that represents this diversity, along with contextual best practices.

This gap was also what inspired me to edit the book Cases on Global Leadership in the Contemporary Economy, that I co-authored with 11 other authors located in different countries. Three authors are from ISM: Dr. Matthew Andrews, Director of Academic Affairs at ISM based in Paris; Maria Pressentin, PhD candidate at ISM and Leadership Development Senior Consultant at the Ken Blanchard Companies based in Singapore; and me, Dr. Ivonne Chirino-Klevans based in North Carolina, USA.

What does it take to work towards a common goal when you are part of a distributed team whose members are in different geographical regions with different cultures, languages, and expectations? In this article, I share the success factors that contributed to working effectively and efficiently as part of a global virtual team to publish a handbook of cases on global leadership. What follows is a recount of our virtual team development, borrowing concepts from Bruce Tuckman’s model of team development from the mid-60s.

Our virtual team was comprised of a group of twelve professionals with the same goal: disseminating best practices in leading and managing across cultures. That is, we had a common interest, and we were in different geographies: France, Singapore, USA, Turkey, Albania, and Nigeria. Three of the authors knew each other, while the remaining nine had never met each other.

The first stage of team development is what Tuckman calls forming. During this stage, the team identified deliverables and deadlines. There was consistent virtual communication to identify possible barriers, and we held discussions to identify specific deadlines for turning in manuscript drafts. There was great excitement among the team members about the opportunity to work together on a virtual project that was interesting and relevant to our teaching. Most of the facilitation was done by the editor: setting guidelines for the content of the manuscripts, identifying the online tool for posting progress, as well as establishing specific milestones and deadlines.

During the second stage of team collaboration called storming, our team communicated consistently by providing progress reports. Some authors realized that they were not going to be able to commit to the creation of their chapters. It is during this stage that some authors decided to withdraw from our project, but this did not have an impact on team morale.

The third stage was norming. It was at this time that our virtual team had found a way to communicate only when milestones were reached and when reviews were due. If there were specific questions, the authors would communicate directly with the editor, but most of the information was available through the online communication tool. During this stage, it was interesting to observe the heterogeneity in cognitive styles among the team members due to the diverse backgrounds of the authors. Some people preferred to discuss changes made to their manuscripts spontaneously through a real-time chat with the editor; by contrast, other authors preferred to set specific meeting times that had to be scheduled well in advance.

The next stage is performing. It was at this stage that most of the work was completed. Since we had already developed trust among the virtual team members, communication was limited to what was necessary. Everyone knew their deadlines for submitting their corrections to their manuscripts and understood the impact that delaying submitting their revised materials had on the whole team’s performance. Delays of one author would impact the publication time of the whole book.

Communication was important. Most of the communication for the project was done via the editor’s platform, which helped keep document versions under control as well as peer reviews in one place. Authors would receive automatic messages when their manuscripts had been reviewed, along with observations and suggested modifications. Because reviews were anonymous and posted on a neutral site, there was no concern about reviews being taken personally. The editor discussed this with some authors who had shown a bit of concern about the feedback provided. Some reviewers were chosen so that they were not part of the team of authors, providing an opportunity to integrate different perspectives in the review pool.

The project had some expected delays. These delays were due to the nature of individual responsibilities not associated with the project, but these expected delays were discussed with the editor and some deadlines had to be extended.

In summary, editing a book with a virtual team of diverse authors can be a rewarding experience. The book Cases on Global Leadership in the Contemporary Economy is not only an example of successful virtual teamwork across cultures, distances, and disciplines, it is also an example of the important synergies that being part of a global institution can produce. Being a part of a global institution can open the door to many other joint projects between professors, students, and school leadership, working across distances and cultures to disseminate knowledge and share best practices in working across cultures.

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