Virtual Team Maturity Model

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Virtual Team Maturity Model® or VTMM® is a Business process modeling developed by GeProS GmbH designed for the Virtual management Teams. It is based on the doctoral thesis[1] of Dr. Ralf Friedrich, published in 2017[2] in cooperation with the Cork Institute of Technology, Ireland and Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences, Germany. The thesis was also published as part of the Project Management and Process Models[3] series by the German Informatics Society.

In 2017, the VTMM® Thesis was awarded a prize by the German Project Management Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement).

Overview

The aim of the Virtual Team Maturity Model® is to gauge the level of virtual teamwork competence in Project team. The model focuses on the internal processes of virtual project teamwork which are necessary to compensate for critical factors such as the lack of face-to-face interactions in virtual teams.

The VTMM model defines a Meta-process modeling, which helps to create a highly motivated virtual project team, leading to trust, cohesion, and consequently leading to an improved High-performance teams and better project results. VTMM® serves as a Business reference model against which virtual teams can be assessed and whereby Gap analysis in performance can be identified and closed[4].

VTMM focuses on internal project team processes, which are necessary to compensate for critical factors, such as lack of face-to-face interactions in Virtual team, challenges in imparting tacit communication[5], building trust, giving feedback, establishing work rules and offering rewards and recognition. The model is composed of 11 virtual team processes and four Maturity model[4]. Each process is described by inputs, methods and outputs. These are measured by Key performance indicators(KPIs), which measure to what extent or level a given process exists in a virtual team. VTMM® uses four levels of maturity, to provide a balance between good differentiators of virtual team maturity and practical applications.


The theoretical foundations of VTMM® were first tested in 2015 in a real work environment[6]. The case study was carried out, applying the concept of VTMM® to a multinational virtual team by assessing the team’s maturity level and deducting corresponding measures to improve the team’s maturity. The case study demonstrated how the synergistic effects of a softer process such as Giving and Receiving Feedback influences virtual team maturity and overall performance[7].

Base Theories and Previous Studies

The 11 processes by which VTMM® evaluates the performance of virtual teams incorporates Tuckman's stages of group development processes and various other research studies,[8] along with practical investigation[9] on team development.

In her book on psychoanalysis in theme-centered interactions[10], author Ruth Cohn details her Theme-centered interaction (TCI) theory on the relationship between the team as a whole and its individual team-members. She states that an individual’s Theme-centered interaction#The basis of TCI of autonomy becomes more refined when his/her consciousness of everyone’s interdependence expands; and that the respect for growth necessitates value judgments in decisions.

In typical virtual teams with very basic processes in place, the focus is mainly on the task(s) while simultaneously ignoring the needs of the individual team members. VTMM® addresses these needs using a structured approach to build relationships between individual team members and with the team as a whole.

The approach employed by these 11 VTMM® processes links to Bruce Tuckman team phase theory which identifies Tuckman's stages of group development of team development. The five stages and their relationship to VTMM are detailed in the table below.

Relationship between VTMM® Processes and Tuckman's Stages of Team Development[11]
Team Development Stage VTMM® Process
Forming Organize & get-to-know-each-other, Agreeing on Rules, Defining Goals, Define Information

Management, and Meeting Management

Storming Giving & Receiving Feedback, Decision-Making, and Trust-building
Norming Task-Management
Performing Rewards & Recognition
Adjourning Arranging Ramping-Down (Closing / End of Projects)

VTMM® applies the theories of both Tuckman and Cohn for traditional in-person team interactions and extends them to the virtual environment. The model for virtual team development allows for a tailored approach to maturity based on the needs of specific virtual teams, as virtual teams may have a higher need for maturity in some processes, while a lower level for others[12]. For example, a team may not have the need for a Rewards & Recognition program, because team members receive commissions on each sale, but at the same time have a higher need for more maturity in other areas such as feedback management, trust building, etc.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The VTMM® model is defined by Key Performance Indicator, which have individual qualities for each of the four maturity levels. These maturity levels follow the process level descriptions as per the Capability Maturity Model Integration at its staged representation[13], where they represent the overall maturity of an organization, which is achieved by a set of improvements for a process. A VTMM® Maturity Level is defined by manifestations of KPIs for a given process (i.e. the existence or absence of certain KPIs, and the quantification of these KPIs). The KPIs used in the VTMM® model are deliverables on the outcomes of individual processes referenced by models defined in J.E. Nemiro (2008)[14] and M. Hildebrandt (2013)[15].

In order to be applicable to a various virtual team situations, the KPIs within VTMM® are designed to represent an evaluation of the core business processes of a given virtual team. These KPIs map process deliverables as well as interactions between individual members within a virtual team.

VTMM® Maturity Levels

VTMM® uses four levels[4] to define the maturity of a virtual project team. Based on the prevailing processes and procedures followed within any given virtual team, the team as a whole can be classified as being at one of the following four levels:

Undefined Level

At this level, several Gap analysis in comparison with the reference model. The competence of the virtual team cannot be traced back to conforming to the VTMM® Business reference model. Virtual teams at this level can be successful, but rely on individual strengths and charisma of the leader and/or its team members. With a few of the processes and methods implemented (most of which coincidentally by virtual team members, leaders, and sponsors), the team is ill-prepared to make informed decisions to improve performance.

Basic Level

Teams classified as being at the Basic Level are aware of the measures that must be implemented to increase the performance of the virtual team. Some easily-implementable processes have been put in place to improve team performance and productivity. There is some level of trust between team members.

Advanced Level

At the advanced level, all elements of VTMM® are present resulting in the virtual team having a Organizational positive culture. Teams at Advanced VTMM® Level use various tools and techniques for individual tasks; and complex tasks are successfully managed. The performance of such teams is high with a corresponding low Team conflict. The team invests time into building relationships with fellow team members. Complex tasks are managed successfully with issues being tabled early and dealt with efficiently.

Mastery Level

Virtual teams at this level are defined as having fully implemented all aspects of the Virtual Team Maturity Model®. They are in a state of flow with high levels of performance. Knowledge management processes have been put in place, and the team continually works towards optimizing its processes, methods, and culture. The team will maintain their high level of performance regardless of changes to the team structure (members leaving or joining the team).

VTMM® Assessment

There are two different approaches to a VTMM®-Assessment. One approach supports an internally driven virtual team improvement process, and the other supports assessment of supplier team capability. The Virtual Team Maturity Model uses the former as the basis for assessing individual virtual teams.

VTMM® Assessment Procedure

The VTMM® Assessment follows PDCA cycle[16] and is comprised of the following steps:

  1. VTMM® Assessment of all processes with all team members A questionnaire on the various processes and KPIs is filled-out by all team members of the virtual team.
  2. Presentation of the Assessment Results After collating the results of the questionnaire, a report is generated for the team leader and members. It contains results on team maturity on all the 11 processes of the VTMM® model, as well as recommendations for further improvement. In order to obtain accurate data, the generated reports contain data that is not traced back to individual team members - as some team members may not be very forthcoming in their responses if data traceability exists.
  3. Agreement on choice of improvement initiatives and their implementation Team leader and/or team decide on improvement activities recommended by the report and formulate a plan for their implementation.
  4. Re-assessment after agreed time with all team members Once the action points have been implemented within the team, the assessment is repeated to ascertain the effectiveness of the implemented measures. The goal is to measure quantitative changes to a defined set of KPIs as a measure of the success of the action plan.
  5. Interpretation of results Another report reveals change in team maturity and recommends further steps to further improve team maturity.
  6. Repetition of steps 3 to 5 until desired team performance has been reached. Should the outcome of the Assessment not be satisfactory, the team discusses and implements further improvement activities.

In the questionnaire, each team member rates the existence of a given process within the virtual team by choosing appropriate KPIs. The KPIs of each level of the VTMM processes have a point value, according to the maturity level to which they are assigned. The points assigned to each Maturity Level are as follows:

VTMM® Maturity Level Points Assigned
Undefined Level 0
Basic Level 1
Advanced Level 2
Mastery Level 3

The overall Maturity Level for the virtual team being evaluated is defined as the sum of points for each process divided by the number of team members. If the resulting number is a decimal, the fraction is usually ignored, and the Maturity Level is defined only by the integer value.

The Assessment also serves to highlight any differences in perception within the team. When individuals within the team rate a process with a high degree of variance (e.g. one team member rates a process with 0 points, while others rate the same process with 2 points), the issue is brought to the attention of the team leader, who then determines an appropriate course of action to address and resolve the issue.

The assessment is not intended to be a static evaluation of the team´s state of development, but a comparison of the team´s current status with the VTMM model along with identifying measures to reach the next highest maturity level. The VTMM model is dynamic in the sense that it aims to continually drive team development by repeating the procedure until the desired maturity level is attained.

Other Applications

Although designed for virtual teams, the Virtual Team Maturity Model can also be adapted to measure the performance of traditional teams that work together in the same space. In such cases, the relevant KPIs applicable to traditional teams will first need to be defined and quantification of these KPIs assessed with the VTMM® model.

Several models already exist for traditional teams. These models are part of Project Management Institute and other Agile Project Management. The approach chosen by the Virtual Team Maturity Model (i.e. assessment, evaluation, re-assessment approach) can be easily automated and better ritualised when compared with other traditional models. Moreover, the allowance of the model to target specific KPIs with each evaluation is a distinguishable feature when compared with other similar models for traditional teams.

Limitations of the Virtual Team Maturity Model

The limitations of the model lies in the fact that individual team members fill-out the questionnaire based on their individual perceptions of the 11 processes within VTMM. Therefore, the report on the maturity level of the team depends entirely on the truthfulness of the data provided by the team members.

Another factor affecting the assessment of the team´s maturity is the participation of the entire team. A more comprehensive evaluation of the team´s maturity level is only possible when all team members actively participate in the assessment process. Incomplete, or partially fill-out questionnaires tend to bring down the team´s score in terms of maturity calculations.

Since VTMM relies on the Motivation of the team members to continually work towards improving their processes and procedures, the model can tend to be less effective when team members lose the motivation to assess and reassess themselves. The loss of motivation could be attributed to team members not seeing any positive changes despite repeated assessments. Therefore, for the model to be successful, the suggested changes or action points must be effectively implemented to have any positive effect on the team´s efficiency and/or productivity thereby having a positive effect on team satisfaction and motivation.

References

  1. Friedrich, Ralf; Keil, Andrea (2017). Verbesserung der Teamleistung bei virtuellen Teams durch das Virtual Team Maturity Model - VTMM® (in Deutsch). Gesellschaft für Informatik, Bonn. ISBN 978-3-88579-670-1.
  2. Friedrich, Ralf (2017). The virtual team maturity model : performance improvement of virtual teams. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer. ISBN 978-3-658-19771-1. OCLC 1008760236.
  3. Projektmanagement und Vorgehensmodelle 2016 : Arbeiten mit hybriden Projekten: das Sowohl-als-auch von Stabilität und Dynamik ; gemeinsame Tagung der Fachgruppen Projektmanagement (WI-PM) unhd Vorgehensmodelle (WI-VM) im Fachgebiet Wirtschaftsinformatik der Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V. ; 6. und 7. Oktober 2016 in Paderborn. Martin Engstler, Masud Fazal-Baqaie, Eckhart Hanser, Oliver Linssen, Martin Mikusz, Alexander Volland. Bonn. 2016. ISBN 978-3-88579-657-2. OCLC 962105650.CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 R. Friedrich, U. Bleimann, I. Stengel, and P. Walsh, “VTMM - Virtual Team Maturity Model,” in Proceedings of the 7th European Conference on Management, Leadership and Governance: SKEMA Business School, Sophia-Antipolis, France, 6-7 October 2011, C. Despres, Ed, Reading: Academic Publishing, 2011, pp. 159–166.
  5. Suchan, Jim (2001). "The Communication Characteristics of Virtual Teams: A Case Study". IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. 44 (3): 174–187. doi:10.1109/47.946463 – via IEEE Professional Communication Society.
  6. Friedrich, Ralf (Oct 25, 2017). The Virtual Team Maturity Model: Performance Improvement of Virtual Teams. Germany: Springer. p. 265. ISBN 9783658197711.
  7. Friedrich, Ralf (Oct 25, 2017). The Virtual Team Maturity Model: Performance Improvement of Virtual Teams. Germany: Springer. pp. 277–278. ISBN 9783658197711.
  8. The handbook of high-performance virtual teams : a toolkit for collaborating across boundaries. Jill E. Nemiro. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2008. ISBN 978-0-470-22970-5. OCLC 228136315.CS1 maint: others (link)
  9. Zofi, Yael (2011). A Manager's Guide to Virtual Teams. New York: AMACOM. pp. 251–256. ISBN 978-0814438329.
  10. Cohn, Ruth C. (1994). Von der Psychoanalyse zur themenzentrierten Interaktion von der Behandlung einzelner zu einer Pädagogik für alle (12. Aufl ed.). Stuttgart. ISBN 978-3-608-95288-9. OCLC 75398164.
  11. Friedrich, Ralf; Bleimann, Udo (2015). "Enhancing Virtual Team Performance via VTMM - A real world case study". Bavarian Journal of Applied Sciences. Deggendorf Institute of Technology. 1: 65. ISSN 2366-3952.
  12. Friedrich, Ralf (2017). The virtual team maturity model : performance improvement of virtual teams. Wiesbaden, Germany: Springer. ISBN 978-3-658-19771-1. OCLC 1008760236.
  13. A Maturity Model for Public Administration as Open Translation Data Providers - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Capability-Maturity-Model-Integration-by-Sally-Godfrey-2008_fig1_305007265 [accessed 19 Feb, 2021]
  14. Nemiro, Jill E. (2008). The Handbook of High Performance Virtual Teams: A Toolkit for Collaborating across Boundaries. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 59–84. ISBN 978-0-470-17642-9.
  15. Hildebrandt, Marcus (2013). Closeness at a Distance: Leading Virtual Groups to High Performance. Faringdon, Oxfordshire: Libri Publishing. ISBN 9781909818002.
  16. Bin-Abbas, Hesham; Barky, Saad Haj (March 2014). "Assessment of IT governance in organizations: A simple integrated approach". Computers in Human Behavior. Elsevier Publishing. 32: 261–267. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.12.019.

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