Virtual Teams

Virtual Teams: a Literature Review – reviewed

"Matrix Monday"Consultant Phil Stockbridge takes a closer look at ” Virtual Teams; a Literature Review” by Nader Ale Ebrahim, Shamsuddin Ahmed and Zahari Taha – a review of a review!

One of the strengths of the article is a massive – 5 pages – of references of the literature these researchers trawled through, although they missed out “Speed Lead” which would have certainly enhanced some of their conclusions.

The article – as the name suggests – aims essentially to be a literature review of everything written about virtual teams (VTs) in the last 15 years.

One of the first things it does is attempt to define what a VT is. Interestingly the review makes no differentiation between remote and virtual teams in the way that many people we now work with do. What they do is define the common criteria of VTs, being geographically dispersed, driven by a common purpose, enabled by communication technologies, and involved in cross-boundary collaboration. They cited other characteristics, not universally agreed on as being:-

  • not permanent
  • small in size
  • team members are knowledge workers and they may belong to different companies.

They identified four different forms of VTs, differentiating between groups and teams in much the way we do in Speed Lead. This creates ‘Teleworkers’, ‘Remote Teams’, ‘Matrix Teleworkers’ and ‘Matrix Remote Teams’, depending on the number of managers the group or team report into.

A useful couple of tables which would be worth any manager of a remote or virtual team scanning are the benefits and drawbacks of VTs. Whilst for many of us they seem obvious, the handy tables provide the reader/manager with an opportunity to systematically check that they have a plan to deal with them. As before, all the advantages and drawbacks are referenced.

There is another table highlighting the differences in nature of VTs and physical teams – concluding that VTs will not be the answer to every problem.

The authors then conclude with 12 key factors that need to be considered when setting up VTs, stating (as we do) that success in implementing VT working is more about processes and people than about technology.

As we’ve said in our remote and virtual teams training since its early days of development in the 90’s: “You earn the right to manage remotely.”

Source: Virtual Teams; a Literature Review by Nader Ale Ebrahim, Shamsuddin Ahmed and Zahari Taha, Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences , November 6, 2009, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 2653-2669 


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