Organization and Management of Virtual Teams

Diploma Thesis, 2001

96 Pages, Grade: 1


To my brothers
in honor of his high school graduation

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
It is not easy to write a high-quality master's thesis (which was my intention right from the
start). It takes time. At the beginning, you are full of energy, enthusiastic, curious. But
then, after a while, when you read parts of the thesis the 10
time, when you listen to the
interviews you made again and again, write them down, summarize them ­ then it is not
that fun any longer. But I guess that's how it has to be ­ sometimes you're up, sometimes
you're down.
And at the end you can look proudly at your thesis ­ hopefully ­ like I do now.
All this wouldn't have been possible without the help of a lot of people. I want to thank
those people now.
First of all, my parents Anton and Marianne. Of course for financing my studies and
education. But what is much more important for me, for creating such a warm, secure and
stable environment ­ the family I am living in the last 22 years. I could write a whole book
now about my family, but a master's thesis is not the scope for that, of course. So I
confine myself to five words: Thank you very, very much.
To stick to my family, I want to thank my older brother Christian and my younger brother
Stephan for being what they are: simply great, understanding and caring siblings.
Then I want to say thank you to my uncle Robert and aunt Elfriede (my godfather and
godmother), who supported me whenever they could and leaded me through my life with
god (as my parents, my grandparents and a lot of other people did). Thank you.
Thank you to my friend Dibbo Khan for doing the arduous work of reading and correcting
the thesis. Thank you for the great time we spent together in Stockholm.
Thank you to all who helped me writing this thesis, including
Birgit Waldner, my supervisor
Roland Pauer
Alex Wesendorfer
Henry Cory
Ingemar Fernius
László Huszár
Donatus Schmid
Christof Schwarz
The Jack-In Club, where I found so many friends
Vienna, July 2000
Andreas Pfneisl
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
List of Illustrations
Figure 1-1: Collocated to Virtual Distance ... 4
Figure 1-2:Ages of Organization ... 5
Figure 1-3: Four Ages of Small Groups ... 6
Figure 1-4: Competition conditions and organizational strategies ... 7
Figure 2-1: Group vs. Team... 10
Figure 2-2: Varieties of Teams ... 11
Figure 2-3: Communication links of global teams... 12
Figure 2-4: Types of global teams ... 13
Figure 2-5: Different Teams... 15
Figure 2-6: The Flow of Purpose... 17
Figure 3-1: Building Trust - Collocated vs. Virtual Teams ... 29
Figure 4-1: Communication Media Palette ... 35
Figure 4-2: Time/Place-Matrix ... 37
Figure 4-3: EmotIcons ... 39
Figure 4-4: Simplyfied classification of cooperation material ... 41
Figure 5-1: Differentiation of SOHOs to micro companies and home-based households... 47
Figure 5-2: Emergence of SOHOs ... 48
Figure 5-3: Development of SOHOs ... 49
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
The Idea
The idea to write my master's thesis on "Organization and Management of Virtual Teams"
arose during the 6
term of my studies, which was an exceptional term in many ways.
I was part of several teams then, which is nothing extraordinary, I guess. What made
those teams special were the people I was working with ­ or better ­ I got the possibility to
work with.
I had worked in teams before in the course of my studies and had had some really bad
experience with lazy and unproductive people, who simply couldn't or did not want to
identify with tasks and goals of various projects.
What was so special with those teams in the summer term of 1999 was, that most of the
team members could identify with the goals set, they worked, they tried really hard to stick
to deadlines and targets, they took justified criticism as positive feedback, they were
punctual, they communicated and so on ­ in short: I was part of some very, very
productive, purposeful teams (one of the results was that I did my most successful term
that term ­ the work of nearly two terms during this one).
Well, two seminars during this spring were dealing with the topic "Virtual teams" and I got
really interested in. So I decided to do my master's thesis on this subject. I found a nice
and easy going supervisor who was interested in the topic, as well, and I started to write
on the thesis at the end of my stay in Stockholm, Sweden, as an ERASMUS exchange
But why this topic, why a thesis on virtual teams?
Several reasons should be mentioned:
My interest in the topic: Since I am studying "Wirtschaftsinformatik" (Economical
Computer Science, a mixture between economics and computer science), I am interested
in both economics and technology. What topic suits that combination better than "Virtual
Teams", which have to work for economic reasons across distances and organizational
borders ­ all this with the help of the latest technology.
The challenge: Not a lot was written about the subject "Virtual Teams" when I started to
look for literature suitable for my thesis. I hardly could find books in Sweden and the ones
I finally chose I had to order from the US (which is also a reason why this thesis is written
in English, because all the literature I used was written in English). So it was quite a
challenge (but exciting) to write about something new.
Furthermore, as I did part of the thesis in Sweden and the other part in Austria, I had the
opportunity to do interviews with people from both countries, which - I think ­ adds some
additional value to this thesis.
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
Relevance to the present situation: Global operating companies, teamwork, trust in
teams, Information Technology ­ these are just a few catchwords in today and tomorrows
newspapers and business magazines. Never before has the need to work on an
international level using teamwork to get the most out of your employees in combination
with Information Technology to satisfy the demands of communication been bigger than
today. And that's what "Virtual Teams" are associated with: efficiency, high performance,
The Thesis at one Glance
The thesis is divided into two parts. Part one summarizes the most important points from
several sources on
What are Virtual Teams and what are they good for: Here, the why and what of virtual
teams is described. What is a virtual team, what are the reasons for the development of
this organizational form and what is it good for.
Organization and Management of Virtual Teams: Differences to collocated teams, the
importance of having a vision and goals, leadership, roles and team size is explained in
this section.
Trust: The basic requirement of virtual teams is having trusting relationships between
team members. How to build trust and what can destroy it is shown in these chapters.
Communication and Collaboration: Don't expect some technical details about
Information Technology here. This part mainly deals with the appropriate use of different
media ­ when to use what and how.
SOHO ­ Small Office / Home Office: A brief insight into this quite new form of
collaboration between small companies.
In part two, the results of six interviews with people who are experienced in working with
virtual teams are summarized and conclusions are drawn.
If like to read some entertaining stories about the daily up and down in virtual teams start
reading part two first. You will get a lot of useful information wrapped into stories about
personal experience of various people.
If you are the I-just-like-the-hard-facts type person, start with part one.
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
1.1 Just
Some Concepts... 2
1.2 Why
Virtual Teams? ... 2
And The Definition Of "Virtual Team" Is...? ... 3
1.2.2 Close
Really Close ... 4
1.2.3 Four
Of Small Groups ... 4
1.2.4 Market
And Product Complexity ... 6
Benefits / Barriers Of Virtual Teams... 8
2.1 Groups
And Teams ... 9
What Makes A Team Virtual?... 10
Distinguishing Virtual Teams From "Other" Teams... 14
The Importance Of Vision/Mission/Goal ... 16
All In One - Purpose ... 16
Team Size, Roles And Leadership... 18
2.4.1 Team Size ... 18
2.4.2 Roles ... 18
2.4.3 Singular
Shared Leadership... 19 Social
And Task Leadership... 22
2.4.4 Locomotion
And Cohesion ... 22
How To Support Cohesion ... 23
3 TRUST... 24
Why Is Trust That Important? ... 24
B³ - Builders, Busters And Benefits Of Trust ... 24
3.2.1 How
Build Trust... 25
Collocated vs. Virtual Teams ­ A Comparison Building Trust ... 29
Enemies Of Trust ­ How To Defeat Them ... 29
Benefits And Challenges Of Technology Supported Teamwork ... 33
4.2 When,
What, How ... 34
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
4.2.1 "The
Is The Message" ... 34
4.2.2 One,
Many And FEW ... 34
4.2.3 Digital
Media Is Different ... 35
When To Use What And How ... 37
4.3 Social Issues... 38
4.3.1 Face-2-Face
Communication... 38
Eye Contact And Gaze, Gestures And Body Language ... 38
4.3.2 Text-Based
Communication ... 39 Pace
And Granularity ... 40
4.4 Common
Material ... 40
4.5 Practical Issues ... 42
4.5.1 Online
Etiquette ... 42
A... 52
B... 57
C... 60
D... 64
10 COMPANY E ... 70
11 COMPANY F ... 74
13 ...AND THE FUTURE? ... 81
July 2000

Part One
The Theory

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
1 Introduction
1.1 Just Some Concepts
Since different authors use different concepts meaning the same thing, the following
words can be substituted in most cases in this thesis:
Virtual team = global team = distributed team = dispersed team and all variations (e.g.
globally distributed team)
team = team of several people = team of teams = teams which cooperate = companies
which cooperate = set of cooperation partners
1.2 Why Virtual Teams?
Until recently, when people said that they worked with someone, they meant that they
worked in the same place and for the same organization. This situation is changing
dramatically. Electronic communication and digital technologies give people an historically
unprecedented ability to work together at great distances and across organizational
boundaries (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 1).
The onrushing explosion in information and communication technologies makes changes
in how we team up inevitable (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 2):
Dataquest, the technology market research firm, predicts that personal
computer (PC) sales, of which there were none in the 1960s, will top 100
million annually by the year 2000 ­ one PC for every 60 people on the planet
By the same time, according to Action Cellular Network, more than 60 million
people will use cellular phones ­ which did not exist in the 1970s.
Voicemail, rare in the 1980s, is now widespread and all but indispensable in
most organizations today.
Fastest growing of all in the 1990s is the Internet and the World Wide Web,
with its internal offspring, intranets. The number of new Internet connections
each day surpasses anyone's ability to accurately count them. According to
Matrix Information and Directory Services, which has tracked Internet growth
for years, electronic connections among people and computers are
expanding perhaps on the order of 100 percent annually.
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
Similar to Lipnack and Stamps, Reichwald and Möslein state that new technological
possibilities in the field of information technology and telecommunication are the most
important drivers for the development of virtual teams (Reichwald, Möslein, 1996, p. 3ff).
Here, four trends are of special importance:
decreasing costs of CPU performance and storage media
progressive miniaturization by the integration of components
increasing networking with help of Information Technology
merging of information technology and telecommunication
Jude-York, Davis and Wise mention some other reasons to move towards the
organizational form of "virtual teams" (Jude-York, Davis, Wise, 2000, p. 5):
Global competition
Fast pace of work
Strategic alliances, partnerships
Cross-organizational teamwork
Decentralized decision-making
Traffic and commute challenges
Work/home balance
Cost savings to the organization (less office space)
Accelerated learning and knowledge sharing
Cultural diversity
Customer focus
Flatter organizational structure
1.2.1 And The Definition Of "Virtual Team" Is...?
Lipnack and Stamps do not exactly define "Virtual Team", but state that a virtual team is "a
group of people who interact through interdependent tasks guided by common purposes.
Unlike conventional teams, a virtual team works across space, time and organizational
boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technologies (Lipnack,
Stamps, 1997, p. 6f)."
Jude-York, Davis and Wise define a virtual team as "a group of people within the same
organization, or from different organizations, who work together on a common goal. They
are located at different work sites, or travel frequently, and must rely upon communication
technologies (such as telephone, fax, and computers) to share information, collaborate,
and coordinate their work efforts. Virtual teams are driven by an urgent need to work
together, shared accountability, commitment to teamwork, and active communication
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
(Jude-York, Davis, Wise, 2000, p. 3)."
Regular meetings, encounters in the hallway, getting together for lunch, or dropping into
one another's offices are standard methods for getting things done which are not feasible
in virtual teams, because people rarely see each other when they are in different places,
spread out around the world, or even housed in different parts of the same city.
1.2.2 Close Is Really Close
MIT Professor Tom Allen showed that the probability of people communicating and
collaborating more than once a week drops off dramatically if they are more than 50 feet
apart (Figure 1-1). Since members of any virtual team are much further apart than this 50
feet limit, communication and collaborating habits have to change in order to work
efficiently together. (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 9).
Virtual Teams
Collocated Teams
Around the Globe
50-Foot Rule of
Figure 1-1: Collocated to Virtual Distance (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 9)
1.2.3 Four Ages Of Small Groups
Lipnack and Stamps extend Toffler's "three waves of change" (Toffler, 1990) to divide
human civilization into four eras (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 33f):
"The Nomadic Age, beginning indistinctly between two and three millions
years ago, was when our ancestors acquired the ability to speak, make
tools, and configure social organizations. Populations were sparse and
families were relatively small (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 34)."
The Agricultural Age wave began 10 to 12,000 years ago, and marked a
dramatic shift form the Nomadic Era. Farming herding eventually replaced
hunting and gathering. Populations grew larger, cities and towns developed,
and family size increased as people settled down (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p.
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
"The Industrial Age, running roughly from the 18
through the mid-20
century, saw factories replace farms as the economic engine. Populations
have exploded an urbanized, while families have grown smaller. This age
represents today's tradition, the old from which the new seeks to emerge
(Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 33)."
"The Information Age is growing out of the third wave change, beginning in
the mid-20
century. We are now riding the turbulence of transition. the
world's economies are becoming information-based, electronically
connected, and globally interdependent. Population is still rising and families
are still small but diversified (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 33)."
Each of these ages initiated a new social configuration (Figure 1-2):
Small Groups
Figure 1-2:Ages of Organization (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 34)
"While developing its own signature characteristics, each age also incorporates essential
organizational features of the ones before it. Networks, the emerging organization of the
Information Age, incorporate aspects of its predecessors: the levels of hierarchies, the
specialties of bureaucracy, and the purposes of small groups.
old forms do not, however, persist unchanged. With each new age, new versions of old
forms supplement the human organizational repertoire.
New forms of hierarchy (for example, shared leadership at the top) and bureaucracy (for
example, decentralized) are appearing within networked organizations (Lipnack, Stamps,
1997, p. 34f)."
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
Furthermore, new variants of small groups developed during the different ages
(Figure 1-3):
Mobile family
Extended familiy
Nuclear family
Diverse family
Special interest Clubs
Electronic groups
Virtual communities
House heads
Camp councils
Rulers, elites
Military Units
Direct participation
Virtual government
Figure 1-3: Four Ages of Small Groups (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 35)
1.2.4 Market Insecurity And Product Complexity
As long as stable conditions prevailed in the markets, the companies supplies­ relatively
simple products produced in large numbers ­ dominated the markets. As long as these
conditions where valid, the classical organizational principles such as hierarchy with
tayloristic characteristics guaranteed success for these companies (Reichwald, Möslein,
1996, p9ff).
Today, many companies face dramatically changed market and competitive conditions.
Reichwald and Möslein describe three different strategies of reorganization to cope with
these new conditions, focusing on market insecurity and product complexity (Figure 1-4).
Modular Organization (field 2)
The increasing complexity of products and services demand new concepts. Companies
react by modulating the structure of the company, that is restructuring the organization
into relatively small, manageable units based on integrated, customer oriented processes.
Modular units are characterized by decentralized decision competence and result
responsibility, communicating increasingly by non-hierarchic communication forms. The
common fundamental idea of this concept is applied on different levels of the company:
starting at the level of work-organization by forming autonomous groups till subdividing the
whole company into greatly extended independent profit-centers.
Possible advantages of this type of strategy are better contact with markets and
customers, cost, transport and supply advantages, or increasing quality of life for
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
Strategic Networks/
Virtual Organization
Modular Organization
Market networking: Customer - Supplier
Strategic alliances: Competitors
Joint ventures: foreign partners
Task-oriented ad-hoc-teams
Task-oriented ad-hoc-cooperations
Coordination tasks
Modular organization
Process orientation
Standardized services
Product complexity
Figure 1-4: Competition conditions and organizational strategies (Reichwald, Möslein, 1996, p. 10)
Networks (field 3)
Dynamics and the insecurity of markets have been increasing sharply during the last few
years: markets have changed from sales- to customer markets, demand is increasing
while faithfulness to brands is decreasing and new competitors get established in
previously protected markets. Companies react to this development by forming cross-
organizational co-operations, such as forming joint ventures and strategic alliances, to
split up the risk.
Since this solution clearly requires collaboration across different locations, suitable
telecommunication technology is required, as well.
Virtual Organization (field 4)
If a company faces high complexity and high insecurity of the market at the same time, the
young concept of the virtual organization is best. Virtualization can be seen as the
development of modularization on the one hand, and as the development of
organizational networking on the other hand.
In the course of the virtualization of companies, task- and project specific organizational
structures are set up "ad hoc", to which selected members (single persons, teams,
customers, suppliers, consultants) contribute with their specific knowledge.
A big advantages of virtualization is the ease of accessing scarce intellectual resources
and very specific know-how in order to fulfill different tasks. Also, dynamic adjustment of
the organizational cooperation structure can be done quite quickly and easily.
Different tasks can overlap and members are not seldom part of more than one single
virtual team or cooperation.
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
Even if this kind of collaboration has been imaginable for years, it is the
telecommunication technology which made it possible.
1.3 Benefits / Barriers Of Virtual Teams
Using virtual teams can bring a lot of benefits. In order to gain as much as possible from
these benefits, everybody working with virtual teams should be aware of the problems
going along with this organizational form.
Jude-York, Davis and Wise point out some of the benefits and barriers of virtual teams
(Jude-York, Davis, Wise, 2000, p. 8f).
Flexibility in balancing personal and professional life
Cost savings on central office space
Work goes where the employee goes
"Just in time" feedback
Shared accountability with team members
Increased knowledge base (access to information and experiences of
Potential decrease in travel costs (due to use of technology)
High autonomy and self-direction
Dynamic membership (team membership can shift in response to changing
project needs)
Communication is often in writing making documentation and retrieval easy
Work may occur outside normal business hours
Limited opportunity for daily interactions
Less focus and more distractions
Greater investment in training, equipment, support
Increased difficulty for leaders/managers to motivate employees
More difficult to establish team spirit
Cultural barriers may be difficult to overcome
Social isolation
Individuals may feel less connection to the overall organization
Few non-verbal cues could result in miscommunication and misinterpretation
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
2 Organization And Management Of Virtual Teams
2.1 Groups And Teams
Lipnack and Stamps distinguish between small groups and teams:
"A small group includes three attributes: two or more individuals, interaction among group
members, and interdependence among them in some way.
This is very close to Forsyth's definition of a group, who defines a group as "two or more
individuals who influence each other through social interaction (Forsyth 1983 in Baron et
al. 1992, p. 2)."
This leads to a very short definition of a small group: Individuals interacting
interdependently (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 39)."
They state, that "a collection of people becomes a group when the whole is greater than
the sum of the parts (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 39)."
Lets take a closer look at the three attributes Individuals, Interaction and Interdependence
(Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 39f):
"Individual members of the group define its boundaries. Whatever it is that
enables people to say they are "in" the group while others are "out" of the
group identifies the boundary. When people are on an e-mail distribution list,
they establish themselves as members of that virtual group. If you are not on
the list your are not a member. Membership recognized by insiders and
outsiders alike gives a group its basic boundary (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p.
"Interaction is the multiple links among members. Communication, the
foundation for human interaction and relationships, is inherently a shared
activity. Language, first invented in the earliest forager camps, continues to
be concocted in new groups today. Acronyms, stock phrases, and in-jokes
are all linguistic indicators of group cohesion (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p.
Along with the fast development of new technology, the way of interacting
between group members is changing.
"The words "individuals interacting" are not sufficient to define a small group.
there must be interdependence ­ joint purpose and shared motivation ­ to
incorporate individuals into a group whole (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 40)."
And what is a team?
"Teams exist for some task-oriented purpose (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 40)".
"The orientation to task is what distinguishes teams from other types of small groups such
as family households, social groups, and governing bodies. While all small groups carry
out tasks to some degree [...], task is the focus for teams.
While having a purpose is fundamental to all small groups, teams are specifically and
deliberately result-oriented. [...] In setting goals, teams project desired results and agree
upon tasks to carry them to their objectives.
In addition to the membership boundary found in all small groups, tasks create a team
boundary. The nature of the goals and the work required to carry them out drive the need
July 2000

Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
for certain members and skills to be part of the group. Conversely, different members
shape and reshape the purpose and tasks of the group. Indeed, the goals and tasks often
exist before the team identifies its members. The feedback loop between task definition
and appropriate membership becomes a core defining process during a team's early
development (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 41)."
Larson's definition of team is quite similar: "A team has two or more people", he states, "it
has a specific performance objective or recognizable goal to be attained; and coordination
of activity among the members of the team is required for the attainment of the team goal
or objective (Larson, 1989, p. 19)."
Wheelan distinguishes between groups and teams, as well. In her 1999 book "Creating
effective teams" she states: "A work group is composed of members who are striving to
create a shared view of goals and to develop an efficient and effective organizational
structure in which to accomplish these goals. A work group becomes a team when shared
goals have been established and effective methods to accomplish those goals are in
place (Wheelan, 1997, p. 3)."
In the end, teams differ from groups as the process of creating shared goals are already
finished, that is, members share the same goals and can identify with, and that methods
(tasks) are known to accomplish these goals (Figure 2-1).
2 or more individuals
2 or more individuals
create shared goals
shared goals already established
methods to accomplish goals (tasks)
Figure 2-1: Group vs. Team
2.1.1 What Makes A Team Virtual?
Lipnack and Stamps approach the organizational form "Virtual Team" by looking at the
Space-Time/Organization Matrix (Figure 2-2) (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 42ff).
Space and time are treated here as a single interrelated idea: Distance in space takes
time to cross. At greater distance across time zones, day turns into night and impedes
people's ability to interact simultaneously.
Spacetime and organizational boundaries mix into four kinds of teams, one conventional
and three virtual (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 42).
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
Figure 2-2: Varieties of Teams (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 42)
Collocated Cross-Organizational Teams
Collocated cross-organizational teams are made up of people from separate organizations
who work in the same location. The most well known type of virtual team is probably the
classic cross-functional group of experts and stakeholders who join together to tackle
problems and deal with specific issues that require collaboration across organizational
borders. A good illustration of this is the Shell Offshore project team that developed the
process for designing, building and operating drilling operations and pipelines a mile
under the sea. The team consisted of a geophysicist, paleontologist, drilling supervisor,
production superintendent, construction engineer, human resources training manager and
organization development consultants (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 43).
Distributed Teams
"Distributed teams comprise people in the same organization who work in different places
either interdependently (like a multisite product development group) or separately (like
branches and local offices) (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 44)".
These teams clearly have a distance problem to solve.
Even if not distributed in space, virtual teams can be spread out in time. That is, people in
the same organization who use the same place but at different times (Lipnack, Stamps,
1997, p. 45).
Distributed Cross-Organizational Teams
"Distributed cross-organizational teams involve people from different organizations who
work in different places. [...]
The classic virtual team combines people in different places and organizations with some
need to function at the same time (synchronously) ­ not all of the time, of course. Most
work combines a pattern of individual tasks and group tasks, time spent working alone
and time spent working with others. For most virtual teams, synchronous interaction ­
shared time ­ is a scarce resource. Time together is planned, prepared for and followed-
up on (Lipnack, Stamps, 1997, p. 45)."
When more and more time zones have to be crossed to work together, the window of
synchronicity in the work day narrows or completely disappears. For example, when
people in California leave work their counterparts in Japan start their next day. This
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Organization and Management of Virtual Teams
complication cannot even be solved by instantaneous communication.
Krcmar, Zerbe and Schwarzer define four different types of global teams by looking the
characteristics "interdependence" and "division of labor" (Figure 2-3)(Krcmar et al. 1997, p
Assuming that the intensity of collaboration between two location increases the volume of
communication, and looking at the continuum of loosely linked collaboration and very
intensive collaboration, we can distinguish between two forms of cooperation of global
teams: teamcontact and teamfusion.
Teamcontact refers to loose collaboration between local teams who work to a great extent
autonomously without interacting frequently. The actual collaboration takes place during
the definition of the work and at the delivery of the result to the receiver. Since
interdependency and uncertainty is small, it is enough that certain team members from
different teams get in touch with each other every now and then to exchange information.
The other extreme is called teamfusion. Here, interdependency is so high, that continuos
interaction between the dispersed team members is necessary in order to coordinate the
different tasks and collaborating teams are perceived from the outside as one single
social unit.
Team 1
Team 2
Team 1
Team 2
Types of
in global teams
Continuum of possible interactions
Figure 2-3: Communication links of global teams (Krcmar et al. 1997, p. 21)
Companies distinguish between two fundamental ways of "division of labor": In case of
horizontal division of labor, tasks get allocated to local teams in such a way that the same
task does not have to be done by several teams. This form corresponds with the idea of
specialization. Interactions, which cross locations, can be reduced by grouping and
allocating highly interdependent tasks to a single location.
Vertical division of labor, on the other hand, follows the idea of generalization. Several
local teams carry out the same task.
Looking at the two characteristics interdependency and division of labor, four types of
global teams can be distinguished (Figure 2-4).
July 2000
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