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The promise of virtual teams: identifying key factors in effectiveness and failure

Frank M. Horwitz (Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)
Desmond Bravington (Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)
Ulrik Silvis (Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)

Journal of European Industrial Training

ISSN: 0309-0590

Article publication date: 1 July 2006

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of the investigation is to identify enabling and disenabling factors in the development and operation of virtual teams; to evaluate the importance of factors such as team development, cross‐cultural variables, leadership, communication and social cohesion as contributors to virtual team effectiveness.

Design/methodology/approach

A total of 115 employees in virtual teams using an on‐line survey contributed a 55 per cent response rate. An on‐line survey combining both quantitative Likert scale and qualitative explanatory questions measured the following variables in addition to those above: team member roles and responsibilities, relationships and trust and team dynamics.

Findings

Results indicated that cross‐cultural communication improvement, managerial and leadership communication, goal and role clarification, and relationship building are most important to virtual team performance.

Research limitations/implications

Further research focusing on particular sectors such as knowledge‐ intensive firms (KIF), including information and telecommunications, and research and development is needed to provide in‐depth insights into virtual team operations. In addition this research highlights potential issues in cross‐cultural composition of virtual teams and the need for further work on appropriate team training, selection factors in comprising virtual teams and communications.

Originality/value

While there is a growing body of research on knowledge and information economy issues and the changing sociology of work for example in the ICT sector and in tele‐remote work and call centres, empirical work specifically on virtual team operation is embryonic. This exploratory research begins to add to the understanding of variables important in the operational effectiveness of virtual teams.

Keywords

Citation

Horwitz, F.M., Bravington, D. and Silvis, U. (2006), "The promise of virtual teams: identifying key factors in effectiveness and failure", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 472-494. https://doi.org/10.1108/03090590610688843

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited