Effective Virtual Teams Through Communities Of Practice


This paper examines the nature of virtual teams and their place in the networked economy. It presents a framework for categorising virtual teams and argues that fundamental changes have taken place in the business environment which force people and organisations to operate in 'two spaces' simultaneously: the physical space and the electronic space. It highlights some of the issues of trust and identity that exist in virtual teams and argues that, due to certain barriers, only a small proportion of these teams reach a satisfactory level of performance. Using the evidence from two recent sets of studies, it highlights some of the barriers to effective virtual team working and demonstrates the critical importance of trust and social bonding to the functioning of such teams. It reports on the use of a 'Community of Practice' in a virtual team and argues that this may provide one mechanism for overcoming some of the barriers. Finally, it argues that many of the problems stem from a lack of understanding of the new geography of the information economy and that, rather than accepting the notion that 'geography no longer matters', continued efforts must be made to understand the relationship between the physical world in which we live and the electronic world of virtual team working. Research News Join our email list to receive details of when new research papers are published and the quarterly departmental newsletter. To subscribe send a blank email to managementscience-INTRODUCTION Globalisation is an issue currently affecting many organisations and is one that has profound implications for the nature of work In order to work effectively in an international setting companies are increasingly turning to trans-national teams (Castells 1996; Lipnack 1997; West 1997). These are seen as an effective and flexible means of bringing both skills and expertise to bear on specific problems. Working in a distributed environment will affect teams in that they will lose many of the opportunities for informal collaboration and knowledge sharing. Working in a more internationalised context places further strains on the way a team works as they not only have to cope with geographical distance, but also time, culture and possibly language differences.

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