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Working in Virtual Teams
Overcoming Time and Geography?

Following from the section on Virtual Organizations, this section will look at a different form of virtual group: The Virtual Team. The Encyclopedia from CALT at Insead offers a large selection of material that may be of general interest for this and other sections concerned with different types of virtual group.

The concept of the virtual team is not clearly defined and it often overlaps with notions of the networked organization, virtual communities, electronic commerce and teleworking. Viewed in this way, virtual teams are seen as a way of overcoming differences in time and geography through creating a virtual co-presence (sometimes called virtual co-location) through the application of technology, i.e. they exploit reliable and consistent communications in order to work together and overcome some of the 'frictions' of time and geography.

In contrast to home based work and telework described earlier, but a greater proportion of the work is carried out 'on-line' as hot distributed collaborative work. When teams are physically co-located, the co-presence required for 'hot' working is not a problem. However, when work becomes temporally or geographically distributed is what is meant by 'presence' can be problematical, as can the mediating effects of the technologies used to achieve this.

Virtual Teams are seen as project or task focused groups. Team membership may be relatively stable (e.g. in an established sales team) or change on a regular basis (e.g. in project teams). Members may be drawn from the same organization or from several different organizations, (e.g. when projects involve consultants or external assessors). Further distinctions can be made on physical proximity, (i.e. whether or not the team members are co-located) and by work-cycle synchronicity, (i.e. whether or not the team members are in the same time zones).

For a task group, the task usually provides the initial motivation to work together over time and space. However, in order to keep working together and/or to make working together a success more is needed. A team is more than a group of individuals working in isolation. A balance of dealing with factual content, relationships and the coordination of a central process is required. Social aspects such as a shared social context, a feeling of trust and a human interest in each other need to be balanced against the more process orientated aspects such as the planning of work and the scheduling of activities to maximize the overall performance of the group.

For a further discussion of this topic, see Virtual Teams: An example of Hot Distributed Collaborative Work? from the MSc IP HI2 course.






General Identity in Virtual Teams

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