From Software to Team Ware: Virtual Teams and Online Learning Culture

From Software to Team Ware: Virtual Teams and Online Learning Culture

Francesco Sofo (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-368-5.ch012
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Social interaction technologies have made it possible for teams to exist in a virtual reality. Such change to the workplace status quo requires a new appreciation of the ways in which team members can create, maintain, transmit and influence their competitiveness and effectiveness. This chapter explores the concepts of virtual teams and online culture; it analyses the key requirements for the successful functioning of virtual teams; for instance, building trust, consolidating authentic communication flows and thinking critically. Commencing with a review of the current research, the chapter concentrates on the rise of virtual teams, the key dimensions, and the importance of establishing online learning cultures to ensure high performance. Additionally, pitfalls of virtual teams and recommendations for enhancing their work are presented.
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Traditionally, a team is viewed as a group of people who bring balanced competencies and accountability to shared purposes, approaches and performance targets. Members of a team have a unified commitment and think of themselves as a whole or as being “more than individuals.” There is usually synergy which means that when the individual efforts and actions are harmonized, something different and unique is created that could not be produced by any single individual of the team. There are six vital elements that comprise the concept of a team: the first element is size which is linked to the scope of the task as well as the other elements of the team; the second element is the fact that members’ skills are balanced which is a strong basis for interdependence; the third element is mutual accountability where members essentially consider themselves as synergistic and trust each other. The fourth, fifth and sixth elements relate to the synergies of purpose, approach and performance targets (Dani, Burns, Backhouse, & Kochhar, 2006). These six elements of a team are all present in a virtual team where commitment, communication and trust are still vitally important to success. A traditional team is usually co-located whereas a virtual team is not, thus, distance is viewed as the seventh element of a virtual team.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Team Ware: Software applications that act as collaborative tools for virtual team members: e.g., audio and video conferencing, instant messaging, e-mail, virtual spaces for document/idea sharing, and meeting management tools.

Telecommuters: Workers or people who work from home (telecommute) using telephone, the Internet and other communication technologies.

Meeting Management Software: Assists the operation of virtual teams by enabling the sharing of information and processes.

Trust: Refers to a sense of reliability and confidence necessary to complete tasks in a working environment.

Asynchronous Communication: Communication that occurs independent of time or location.

Virtual Team: A group of people who rely on communication technologies to achieve their goals.

Online Learning Culture: Includes practices that value and use team ware as the prime communication venue.

Teleworkers: People working remotely from their workplace (includes telecommuters).

All-Hands Meetings: Regular information sessions that include all team members.

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