Given the growing demand for the use of teams as fundamental building blocks in organizations (Furst, Blackburn, & Rosen, 1999), particularly geographically distributed teams, it is essential to establish a means to ensure their high performance and productivity. The first step to improve our understanding of what makes these teams effective is to identify a series of best practices that should be followed by all those involved in what we call online collaborative teams (OCT): their organizations, leaders and members. OCT are groups of individuals who work on interdependent tasks, share responsibility for outcomes, and join their efforts from different locations. These teams are now being used by many organizations to enhance the productivity of their employees and to reach a diversity of skills and resources. Information technology can support their activities by reducing travel costs, enabling expertise to be captured where it is located, and speeding up team communication and coordination processes. Unfortunately, these distributed teams are not always productive.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Collaboration: Literally working together: closely-integrated joint activity between two or more people. Teams are characterized by requiring and building the environment for high levels of collaboration amongst their members. A simple index of the level of collaboration amongst a set of people is the difficulty of replacing someone.
Trust: The judgment that people will predictably act according to their commitments and usually in a positive manner with respect to oneself.
Communication: Strictly, the exchange of meaning. Less strictly, the exchange of information that may have meaning.
Training and Development: In organizational development, the related field of training and development deals with the design and delivery of workplace learning to improve performance. In some organizations the term Learning and Development is used instead of Training and Development in order to emphasise the importance of learning for the individual and the organization.
Online Collaborative Teams: Online Collaborative Teams (OCT) are groups of individuals who work on interdependent tasks, share responsibility for outcomes, and join their efforts from different locations.
Electronic Communication: Electronic communication is a general term that embraces all kinds of computer-mediated communication in which individuals exchange messages with others, either individually or in groups.
Synchronous: Same time. When applied to communication tools, it refers to those such as phone, audio- and video-conferencing, real-time chat and face-to-face meeting, where participants must be in the communication session at the same time.
Asynchronous: Anytime. When applied to collaboration tools, it refers to those such as e-mail and discussion forums where messages are stored and forwarded so that participants do not have to be in the communication session at the same time.
Facilitator: A person who has the role of assisting the progress and success of a communication or collaboration process. Facilitators can be needed in audio conferences, video conferences, and, most significantly, in discussion forums, and, of course, a face-to-face meeting.