Managing Virtual Teams

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Human Resource Management Review 15 (2005) 69 – 95
www.socscinet.com/bam/humres

Managing virtual teams: A review of current empirical research Guido Hertela,T, Susanne Geisterb, Udo Konradtb
a

Department of Psychology, Work, Industrial & Organizational Psychology, University of Wuerzburg, Roentgenring 10, 97 070 Wuerzburg, Germany
b
University of Kiel, Germany

Abstract
This review summarizes empirical research on the management of virtual teams, i.e., distributed work teams whose members predominantly communicate and coordinate their work via electronic media (e-mail, telephone, video-conference, etc.). Instead of considering virtual teams as qualitatively distinct from conventional teams, the degree of bvirtualityQ of teams is understood as a dimensional attribute. This review is guided by a lifecycle model in which five phases are distinguished in the management of teams with high virtuality: Preparation, launch, performance management, team development, and disbanding. The main focus of the review is on quantitative research with existing virtual teams in organizational contexts. However, experimental research and case studies are considered when no field studies are available. The major research results are summarized for human resource management tasks within these phases, and recommendations for practitioners are derived. D 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Virtual teams; Telecooperation; Virtuality; Management; Leadership; Lifecycle model

1. Introduction
In light of the increasing de-centralization and globalization of work processes, many organizations have responded to their dynamic environments by introducing virtual teams , in which members are geographically dispersed and coordinate their work predominantly with electronic information and communication technologies (e-mail, video-conferencing, etc.). Additionally, the rapid development of new communication technologies such as the Internet has accelerated this trend so that today, most of the T Corresponding author. Fax: +49 931 316063.

E-mail address: hertel@psychologie.uni-wuerzburg.de (G. Hertel). 1053-4822/$ - see front matter D 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.hrmr.2005.01.002

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larger business organizations employ virtual teams to some degree (Duarte & Snyder, 1999; Gibson & Cohen, 2003; Hinds & Kiesler, 2002; Townsend, DeMarie, & Hendrickson, 1998). For instance, a recent survey among 376 business managers from different branches in Germany (AFW, 2002) revealed that about 20% of the managers worked predominantly as a member of a virtual team, and about 40% worked at least temporarily in virtual teams. Similar numbers have been reported for other countries (Gibson & Cohen, 2003; Hinds & Kiesler, 2002). Virtual teams can be found in various fields, such as R&D, problem solving task forces, or customer services, and they also exist in non-economic organizations such as virtual collaboratories in sciences (e.g., Finholt, 2002). Despite the growing prevalence of this new work form, little is known about the management of virtual teams and the human resources within these teams (Axtell, Fleck, & Turner, 2004; Kirkman, Rosen, Tesluk, & Gibson, 2004). A number of conceptual papers provide initial suggestions based on theoretical considerations, experience reports and explorative case studies (for recent reviews see Axtell et al., 2004; Gibson & Cohen, 2003; Hinds & Kiesler, 2002; Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004). However, as a next step, these suggestions should be compared with empirical results from quantitative (field) studies using larger sample sizes. Currently, such comparisons are difficult because the available research is published in quite different journals and books. Accordingly, the main objectives of this review are: a) To summarize empirical research relevant for the management of virtual teams and the human resource...
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