A new organizational form or just 'business as usual'?
This section of the module will examine the concept of the Virtual Organization as a Strategic Vision. It will examine some of the contrasting views concerning what Virtual Organizations are, what their supposed benefits might be and how they might be classified and differentiated.
Organizations have always tried to adapt their organizational structure to suit their organizational strategy. The factory system that brought labour, materials and motive power together in the industrial revolution was one example of this. In later years, organizations have continued this trend of matching strategy with structure and have gone through cycles of centralisation and vertical integration followed by decentralisation and a focus on product groups or geographical markets.
Reorganization on this scale is costly and time consuming and much of the deeply ingrained tacit knowledge about markets and products that a company has built up can be lost in the 'churn' of restructuring. Faced with an environment in which change was becoming the rule rather than the exception, organizations began to look for a more flexible way to approach the problem.
Matrix management was an early example of this but proved difficult to manage in practice, particularly in large, multinational organizations that spanned several time zone. The notion of the 'virtual organization' is now seen as an organizational form is capable of addressing the problem of managing transformations in the social, economic and technological environments in which organizations now operate.
'Virtual organizations' are a set of organizational that rely on multiparty co-operative relationships between people across structural, temporal and geographic boundaries. Flexibility is brought about in part by reconfigurable networks of computer based communications that allow organizations to co-ordinate their activities and in part by a management philosophy based on collaboration and innovation.
The broad issues behind Distributed Collaborative Working are discussed in greater detail in an overview of Distributed Collaborative Work, which is also from the MSc IP HI2 module. Finally, the Encyclopedia from CALT at Insead offers a large selection of material that may be of general interest for this section on and the Virtual Organization, as well as for the later sections on other types of virtual group.
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These case studies present two contrasting views of virtual organizations. The first sees them as 'members bound by a long term common interest or goal' and the second as 'a transitory network of individuals'.
Network Structure in Virtual Organizations Virtual organizations that use e-mail to communicate and coordinate are becoming ubiquitous. Research suggests that virtual organizations will be decentralized and non-hierarchical. This paper examines the behavior of the Soar Group, a group concerned with the development of a general purpose AI architecture.
In Search of a Virtual Organization The concept of a virtual organization - a network of individuals coupled together by advanced communications technologies - continues to grow. However, a lack of real-world cases poses a significant problem, particularly within the small business sector. This paper presents a case study of a UK-based SME - Cavendish Management Resources
The Virtual Corporation As information and communications technologies overcome the constraints of time and distance, it becomes possible to create virtual organizations. Short overview of The Virtual Corporation from David Skyrme Associates.
Taxonomy of Virtual Organizations and the Implications for Effective Management It is too simplistic to give a single definition of the term virtual organization, because various authors differ in their assigned meanings. I will argue that there are in fact at least 4 types of virtual organization. This paper will outline a simple taxonomy for discussing virtual organizations, and will illustrate that taxonomy with several examples.
A Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research n this paper, a virtual community is defined as an aggregation of individuals or business partners who interact around a shared interest, where the interaction is at least partially supported and/or mediated by technology and guided by some protocols or norms. It develops a classification system that could be useful to researchers from various disciplinary perspectives.
Virtual Organizations Links to several articles on Virtual Organizations from the Sociology of Organization page at SocioSite
Everything's Coming Up Virtual Companies are rapidly moving toward a distributed work force that uses technology to link workers and functions at scattered sites. This change is rapidly altering the nature of work. This paper examines the factors behind the growth of the virtual organization.
Communication Patterns as Determinants of Organizational Identification in a Virtual Organization Recent advances in information technologies provide employees the freedom to work from any place and at any time. Such temporal and spatial dispersion, however, threatens the very meaning of firms. We suggest that organizational identification may be the critical glue linking virtual workers and their organizations. We explore the role that information technologies play in the creation and maintenance of a common identity among decoupled organization members.
Towards Web Support For Tacit Knowledge Exchanges Organizations are continually looking for means to stimulate innovation and creativity, within and across working groups, functions and geographical boundaries. One way to achieve this is through tacit knowledge exchange. This paper argues that The Web may be applied in new, innovative ways to draw dispersed community members together virtually and in particular, to promote tacit knowledge exchanges.