Virtual teams are a relatively new fact of life in most organizations. Groupware and other information technologies make them a viable alternative to colocated work groups. Thus, it is important to understand what makes some virtual teams more successful than others, and which organizational factors can be manipulated to improve the effectiveness of virtual teamwork.
This paper contributes to our knowledge of what makes these teams successful by interpreting the results of a survey of 67 individuals, comprising 12 virtual teams. The survey, included as an appendix, contains 84 questions that aim to measure factors contributing to team performance and team member satisfaction. Questions from the survey are combined into 13 distinct factors, and correlation analysis is used to analyze the strength of relationships among these. Several of the factors, including team process, team member relations, team member selection procedures, and executive leadership styles, showed some relationship to the dependent factors of team performance and team member satisfaction. Other factors, including the team’s tools and technologies, showed little or no relationship to team success.
What is missing from the paper is the value of the “virtual” part of the virtual team. There have been many studies published on factors contributing to high-performing teams. There have also been many papers written that provide a theoretical basis for which factors are most relevant or important in ensuring team success. Neither of these is to be found in this paper. As a result, while we get a feel for what these particular team members think about their teams’ successes, we don’t know which, if any, of the relationships are different (more critical, less critical, newly significant, or not) from what they would have been if the group had been colocated. For example, team process is strongly correlated with the success variables. But how is a virtual team process different from a colocated one? And is team process equally critical to a colocated team? The authors don’t tell us, so we don’t know if this finding is an artifact of the virtual or team factor. The same can be said for all of the other factors and relationships.
The bottom line is that the study is interesting, relevant, and well written. Yet, I was left feeling that the results would be more useful if the authors had relied on some baseline data from a previous study, or from their own control group of colocated teams.