Paper 2: Review the section on dealing with multiple locations and outsourcing. Review figure 7.2 and not how virtual team communications further reiterates the importance of this model.Instructions:Need minimum 300 wordsNo need ReferencesPlease use side headings to address the content7
Virtual Te ams and
O utsourcin g
Introduction
Much has been written and published about virtual teams. Most
define virtual teams as those that are geographically dispersed,
although others state that virtual teams are those that primarily interact electronically. Technology has been the main driver of the growth
of virtual teams. In fact, technology organizations, due mostly to the
advent of competitive outsourcing abroad, have pushed information
technology (IT) teams to learn how to manage across geographical
locations, in such countries as India, China, Brazil, Ireland, and many
others. These countries are not only physically remote but also present
barriers of culture and language. These barriers often impede communications about project status, and affect the likelihood of delivering a
project on time, and within forecasted budgets.
Despite these major challenges, outsourcing remains attractive due
to the associated cost savings and talent supply. These two advantages
are closely associated. Consider the migration of IT talent that began
with the growth of India in providing cheap and educated talent. The
promise of cost savings caused many IT development departments to
begin using more India-based firms. The ensuing decline in IT jobs
in the United States resulted in fewer students entering IT curriculums at U.S. universities for fear that they would not be able to find
work. Thus, began a cycle of lost jobs in the United States and further
demand for talent abroad. Now, technology organizations are faced
with the fact that they must learn to manage virtually because the talent they need is far away.
From an IT perspective, successful outsourcing depends on effective use of virtual teams. However, the converse is not true; that is,
virtual teams do not necessarily imply outsourcing. Virtual teams can
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be made up of workers anywhere, even those in the United States
who are working from a distance rather than reporting to an office
for work. A growing number of employees in the United States want
more personal flexibility; in response, many companies are allowing employees to work from home more often— and have found the
experience most productive. This type of virtual team management
generally follows a hybrid model, with employees working at home
most of the time but reporting to the office for critical meetings; an
arrangement that dramatically helps with communication and allows
management to have quality checkpoints.
This chapter addresses virtual teams working both within the
United States and on an outsource basis and provides readers with
an understanding of when and how to consider outsource partners.
Chapter topics include management considerations, dealing with
multiple locations, contract administration, and in-house alternatives.
Most important, this chapter examines organizational learning as a
critical component of success in using virtual teams. Although the
advent of virtual teams creates another level of complexity for designing and maintaining learning organizations, organizational learning
approaches represent a formidable solution to the growing dilemma of
how teams work, especially those that are 100% virtual.
Most failures in virtual management are caused by poor communication. From an organizational learning perspective, we would define
this as differences in meaning making— stemming mostly from cultural differences in the meaning of words and differing behavioral
norms. There is also no question that time zone differences play a role
in certain malfunctions of teams, but the core issues remain communication related.
As stated, concerning the Ravell case study, cultural transformation
is slow to occur and often happens in small intervals. In many virtual
team settings, team members may never do more than communicate
via e-mail. As an example, I had a client who was outsourcing production in China. One day, they received an e-mail stating, “ We cannot
do business with you.” Of course, the management team was confused
and worried, seeking to understand why the business arrangement
was ending without any formal discussions of the problem. A translator in China was hired to help clarify the dilemma. As it turned
out, the statement was meant to suggest that the company needed
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to provide more business— more work, that is. The way the Chinese
communicated that need was different from the Western interpretation. This is just a small example of what can happen without a
well-thought-out organizational learning scheme. That is, individuals
need to develop more reflective abilities to comprehend the meaning
of words before they take action, especially in virtual environments
across multiple cultures. The development of such abilities— the
continual need for organizations to respond effectively to dynamic
changes, brought about by technology, in this case, e-mail— is consistent with my theory of responsive organizational dynamism (ROD).
The e-mail established a new dynamic of communication. Think how
often specifications and product requirements are changing and need
virtual teams to somehow come together and agree on how to get the
work done— or think they agree.
Prior research and case studies provide tools and procedures as ways
to improve productivity and quality of virtual team operations. While
such processes and methodologies are helpful, they will not necessarily ensure the successful outcomes that IT operations seek unless they
also change. Specifically, new processes alone are not sufficient or a
substitute for learning how to better communicate and make meaning in a virtual context. Individuals must learn how to develop new
behaviors when working virtually. We must also remember that virtual team operations are not limited to IT staffs. Business users often
need to be involved as they would in any project, particularly when
users are needed to validate requirements and test the product.
Status of Virtual Teams
The consensus tells us that virtual teams render results. According to
Bazarova and Walther (2009), “ Virtual groups whose members communicate primarily or entirely via email, computer conferencing, chat,
or voice— have become a common feature of twenty-first century
organizations” (p. 252). Lipnack and Stamps (2000) state that virtual
teams will become the accepted way to work and will likely reshape
the work world. While this prediction seems accurate, there has also
been evidence of negative attribution or judgment about problems that
arise in virtual team performance. Thus, it is important to understand
how virtual teams need to be managed and how realistic expectations
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of such teams might be formed. So, while organizations understand
the need for virtual teams, they are not necessarily happy with project results. Most of the disappointment relates to a lack of individual
development that helps change the mindset of how people need to
communicate, coupled with updated processes.
Management Considerations
Attribution theory “ describes how people typically generate explanations for outcomes and actions— their own and others” (Bazarova &
Walther, 2009, p. 153). This theory explains certain behavior patterns
that have manifested during dysfunctional problems occurring in managing virtual teams. Virtual teams are especially vulnerable to such
problems because their limited interactions can lead to members not
having accurate information about one another. Members of virtual
teams can easily develop perceptions of each other’ s motives that are
inaccurate or distorted by differing cultural norms. Research also shows
us that virtual team members typically attribute failure to the external
factors and successes to internal factors. Problems are blamed on the
virtual or outside members for not being available or accountable to the
physical community. The successes then tend to reinforce that virtual
teams are problematic because of their very nature. This then establishes the dilemma of the use of virtual teams and ­organizations— its
use will continue to increase and dominate workplace structures and
yet will present challenges to organizations that do not want to change.
The lack of support to change will be substantiated during failures in
expected outcomes. Some of the failures, however, can and should be
attributable to distance. As Olson and Olson (2000) state: “ Distance
will persist as an important element of human experience” (p. 172). So,
despite the advent of technology, it is important not to ignore the social
needs that teams need to have to be effective.
Dealing with Multiple Locations
Perhaps the greatest difficulty in implementing virtual teams is the
reality that they span multiple locations. More often, these locations
can be in different time zones and within multiple cultures. To properly understand the complexity of interactions, it makes sense to revisit
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the organizational learning tools discussed in prior chapters. Perhaps
another way of viewing virtual teams and their effects on organization learning is to perceive it as another dimension— a dimension that
is similar to multiple layers in a spreadsheet. This notion means that
virtual teams do not upset the prior relations between technology as
a variable from a two-dimensional perspective, rather in the depth
of how it affects this relationship in a third dimension. Figure 7.1
reflects how this dimension should be perceived.
In other words, the study of virtual teams should be viewed as
a subset of the study of organizations. When we talk about workplace activities, we need to address issues at the component level. In
this example, the components are the physical organization and the
Virtual organizational
dynamism dimension
Technology as an
independent
variable
Physical organizational
dynamism dimension
Creates
Total
organizational
dynamism
Virtual acceleration
dimension
Acceleration of events that
require different
infrastructures and
organizational processes
Virtual strategic
integration dimension
Virtual cultural
assimilation dimension
Strategic
integration
Figure 7.1  
The three-dimensional ROD.
Cultural
assimilation
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virtual organization. The two together make up the superset or the
entire organization. To be fruitful, any discussion of virtual organizations must be grounded in the context of the entire organization and
address the complete topic of workplace learning and transformation.
In Chapter 4, I discussed organizational learning in communities of
practice (COP). In this section, I expand that discussion to include
virtual organizational structures.
The growing use of virtual teams may facilitate the complete integration of IT and non-IT workers. The ability to connect from various
locations using technology itself has the potential to expand COP.
But, as discussed in Chapter 4, it also presents new challenges, most
of which relate to the transient nature of members, who tend to participate on more of a subject or transactional basis, rather than being
permanent members of a group. Table 7.1 reflects some of the key
differences between physical and virtual teams.
There has been much discussion about whether every employee is
suited to perform effectively in a virtual community. The consensus is
that effective virtual team members need to be self-motivated, able to
work independently, and able to communicate clearly and in a positive way. However, given that many workers lack some or all of these
skills, it seems impractical to declare that workers who do not meet
these criteria should be denied the opportunity to work in virtual
Table 7.1  
Operating Differences between Traditional and Virtual Teams
TRADITIONAL OR PHYSICAL TEAMS
Teams tend to have fixed participation and
members.
Members tend to be from the same
organization.
Team members are 100% dedicated.
Team members are collocated geographically
and by organization.
Teams tend to have a fixed term of
membership; that is, start and stop dates.
Teams tend to have one overall manager.
Teamwork is physical and practiced in
face-to-face interactions.
Engagement is often during group events
and can often be hierarchical in nature.
VIRTUAL TEAMS
Membership shifts based on topics and needs.
Team members can include people from outside
the organization (clients and collaborators).
Members are assigned to multiple teams.
Team members are distributed geographically and
by organization.
Teams are reconfigured dynamically and may
never terminate.
Teams have multiple reporting relationships with
different parts of the organization at different
times.
Teamwork is basically social.
Individual engagement is inseparable from
empowerment.
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16 9
teams. A more productive approach might be to encourage workers to
recognize that they must adapt to changing work environments at the
risk of becoming marginal in their organizations.
To better understand this issue, I extended the COP matrix,
presented in Chapter 4, to include virtual team considerations in
Table 7.2.
Item 7 in Table 7.2 links the study of knowledge management with
COP. Managing knowledge in virtual communities within an organization has become associated directly with the ability of a firm to
sustain competitive advantage. Indeed, Peddibhotla and Subramani
(2008) state that “ virtual communities are not only recognized as
important contributors to both the development of social networks
among individuals but also towards individual performance and firm
performance” (p. 229). However, technology-enabled facilities and
support, while providing a repository for better documentation, also
create challenges in maintaining such knowledge. The process of how
information might become explicit has also dramatically changed
with the advent of virtual team communications. For example, much
technology-related documentation evolves from bottom-up sources,
rather than the traditional top-down process. In effect, virtual communities share knowledge more on a peer-to-peer basis or through
mutual consensus of the members. As a result, virtual communities
have historically failed to meet expectations, particularly those of
management, because managers tend to be uninvolved in communication. While physical teams can meet with management more often
before making decisions, virtual teams have no such contact available.
To better understand the complexities of knowledge management and
virtual teams, Sabherwal and Becerra-Fernandez (2005) expand on
Nonaka’ s (1994) work on knowledge management, which outlined
four modes of knowledge creation: externalization, internalization,
combination, and socialization. Each of these modes is defined and
discussed next.
Externalization
Externalization is the process of converting or translating tacit knowledge (undocumented knowledge) into explicit forms. The problem with
this concept is whether individuals really understand what they know
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Table 7.2  
Communities of Practice: Virtual Team Extensions
STEP
COMMUNITIES-OFPRACTICE STEP
1
Understanding strategic
knowledge needs: What
knowledge is critical to
success.
2
Engaging practice
domains: Where people
form communities of
practice to engage in
and identify with.
3
Developing communities:
How to help key
communities reach their
full potential.
4
Working the boundaries:
How to link communities
to form broader learning
systems
5
Fostering a sense of
belonging: How to
engage people’ s
identities and sense of
belonging.
6
Running the business:
How to integrate
communities of practice
into running the
business of the
organization.
TECHNOLOGY EXTENSION
Understanding how
technology affects
strategic knowledge and
what specific
technological knowledge
is critical to success.
Technology identifies
groups based on
business-related
benefits, requiring
domains to work together
toward measurable
results.
Technologies have life
cycles that require
communities to continue;
treats the life cycle as a
supporter for attaining
maturation and full
potential.
Technology life cycles
require new boundaries
to be formed. This will
link other communities
that were previously
outside of discussions
and thus expand input
into technology
innovations.
The process of integrating
communities: IT and
other organizational
units will create new
evolving cultures that
foster belonging as well
as new social identities.
Cultural assimilation
provides new
organizational structures
that are necessary to
operate communities of
practice and to support
new technological
innovations.
VIRTUAL EXTENSION
Understanding how to
integrate multiple visions
of strategic knowledge and
where it can be found
across the organization.
Virtual domains are more
dynamic and can be
formed for specific
purposes and then
reconfigured based on
practice needs of subjects
discussed.
Communities can be
reallocated to participate
in multiple objectives.
Domains of discussion
have no limits to reach
organizational needs.
Virtual abilities allow for
customer interfaces,
vendors, and other
interested parties to join
the community.
Communities establish
belonging in a virtual way.
Identities are established
more on content of
discussion than on
physical attributes of
members.
The organization functions
more as a virtual
community or team, being
more agile to demands of
the business, and
interactions may not
always include all
members.
(Continued)
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Table 7.2 (Continued)   Communities of Practice: Virtual Team Extensions
STEP
7
COMMUNITIES-OFPRACTICE STEP
Applying, assessing,
reflecting, renewing: How
to deploy knowledge
strategy through waves
of organizational
transformation.
TECHNOLOGY EXTENSION
The active process of
dealing with multiple
new technologies that
accelerates the
deployment of knowledge
strategy. Emerging
technologies increase
the need for
organizational
transformation.
VIRTUAL EXTENSION
Virtual systems allow for
more knowledge strategy
because of the ability to
deploy information and
procedures. Tacit
knowledge is easier to
transform to explicit forms.
and how it might affect organizational knowledge. Virtual communities have further challenges in that the repository of tacit information
can be found in myriad storage facilities, namely, audit trails of e-mail
communications. While Sabherwal and Becerra-Fernandez (2005)
suggest that technology may indeed assist in providing the infrastructure to access such information, the reality is that the challenge is not
one of process but rather of thinking and doing. That is, it is more a
process of unlearning existing processes of thinking and doing, into
new modes of using knowledge that is abundantly available.
Internalization
Internalization is a reversal of externalization: It is the process of
transferring explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge— or individualized learning. The individual thus makes the explicit process into his
or her own stabilized thinking system so that it becomes intuitive
in operation. The value of virtual team interactions is that they can
provide more authentic evidence of why explicit knowledge is valuable to the individual. Virtual systems simply can provide more people
who find such knowledge useful, and such individuals, coming from
a more peer relationship, can understand why their procedures can be
internalized and become part of the self.
Combination
Combination allows individuals to integrate their physical processes
with virtual requirements. The association, particularly in a global
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
environment, allows virtual team members to integrate new explicit
forms into their own, not by replacing their beliefs, but rather, by
establishing new hybrid knowledge systems. This is particularly
advantageous across multiple cultures and business systems in countries that hold different and, possibly complementary, knowledge
about how things can get done. Nonaka’ s (1994) concept of combination requires participants in the community to be at later stages of
multiplicity— suggesting that this form can only be successful among
certain levels or positions of learners.
Socialization
As Nonaka (1994) notes, individuals learn by observation, imitation,
and practice. The very expansion of conversations via technology
can provide a social network in which individuals can learn simply
through discourse. Discourse, as I discussed in Chapter 4, is the basis
of successful implementations of COP. The challenge in virtual social
networks is the difficulty participants have in assessing the authenticity of the information provided by those in the community.
The four modes of knowledge management formulated by Nonaka
(1994) need to be expanded to embrace the complexities of virtual
team COPs. Most of the adjustments are predicated on the team’ s
ability to deal with the three fundamental factors of ROD that I
introduced in this book; that is, acceleration, dynamic, and unpredictability. The application of these three factors of ROD to Nonaka’ s
four modes is discussed next.
Externalization Dynamism
The externalization mode must be dynamic and ongoing with little
ability to forecast the longevity of any tacit-to-explicit formulation.
In other words, tacit-to-explicit change may occur daily but may
only operate effectively for a shorter period due to additional changes
brought on by technology dynamism. This means that members in
a community must continually challenge themselves to revisit previous tacit processes and acknowledge the need to reformulate their
tacit systems. Thus, transformation from tacit knowledge to explicit
knowledge can be a daily challenge for COP virtual organizations.
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173
Internalization Dynamism
Careful reflection on this process of internalizing explicit forms must
be done. Given the differences in cultures and acceleration of business change, individualized learning creating new tacit abilities may
not operate the same in different firm settings. It may be necessary
to adopt multiple processes depending on the environment in which
tacit operations are being performed. As stated, what might work in
China may not work in Brazil, for example. Tacit behavior is culture
oriented, so multiple and simultaneous versions must be respected
and practiced. Further expansion of internalization is a virtual team’ s
understanding of how such tacit behaviors change over time due to
the acceleration of new business challenges.
Combination Dynamism
I believe the combination dynamism mode is the most important component of virtual team formation. Any combination or hybrid model
requires a mature self—as specified in my maturity arcs discussed in
Chapter 4. This means that individuals in virtual teams may need to
be operating at a later stage of maturity to deal with the complexities
of changing dispositions. Members of COPs must be observed, and a
determination of readiness must be made for such new structures to
develop in a virtual world. Thus, COP members need training; the lack
of such training might explain why so many virtual teams have had
disappointing results. Readiness for virtual team participation depends
on a certain level of relativistic thinking. To be successful, virtual team
members must be able to see themselves outside their own world and
have the ability to understand the importance of what “others” need.
This position suggests that individuals need to be tested to the extent
that they are ready for such challenges. Organizational learning techniques remain a valid method for developing workers who can cope
with the dynamic changes that occur in virtual team organizations.
Socialization Dynamism
Socialization challenges the virtual team members’ abilities to
understand the meaning of words and requires critical reflection
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
of its constituents. ROD requires that virtual teams be agile and,
especially, that they be responsive to the emotions of others in the
community. This may require individuals to understand another
member’ s maturity. Thus, virtual team members need to be able
to understand why another member is behaving as he or she is or
reacting in a dualistic manner. Assessment in a virtual collaboration becomes a necessity, especially given the unpredictability of
technology-based projects.
In Table 5.1, I showed how tacit knowledge is mapped to ROD.
Table 7.3 further extends this mapping to include virtual teams.
The requirements support research findings that knowledge management in a virtual context has significant factors that must be
addressed to improve its success. These factors include management
commitment, resource availability, modification of work practices,
marketing of the initiative, training, and facilitation of cultural differences (Peddibhotla & Subramani, 2008).
The following are some action steps that organizations need to take
to address these factors:
1. The executive team needs to advocate the commitment and
support for virtual teams. The chief information officer (CIO)
and his or her counterparts need to provide teams with the
“ sponsorship” that the organization will need to endure setbacks until the virtual organization becomes fully integrated
into the learning organization. This commitment can be
accomplished via multiple actions, including, but not limited
to, a kickoff meeting with staff, status reports to virtual teams
on successes and setbacks, e-mails and memos on new virtual formations, and a general update on the effort, perhaps
on a quarterly basis. This approach allows the organization to
understand the evolution of the effort and know that virtual
teams are an important direction for the firm.
2. There should be training and practice sessions with collocated
groups that allow teams to voice their concerns and receive
direction on how best to proceed. Practice sessions should
focus on team member responsibilities and advocating their
ownership of responsibility. These sessions should cover lessons learned from actual experiences, so that groups can learn
Orientation to risks and
uncertainties
Problem-solving modes
Cultural and social
history
Individual reflective practices
that assist in determining how
specific technologies can be
useful and how they can be
applied; utilization of tacit
knowledge to evaluate
probabilities for success.
Technology offers many risks and
uncertainties. All new
technologies may not be valid
for the organization. Tacit
knowledge is a valuable
component to fully understand
realities, risks, and
uncertainties.
STRATEGIC INTEGRATION
Tacit Knowledge and Virtual Teams
TACIT KNOWLEDGE
Table 7.3  
Technology risks and
uncertainties need to be
assessed by multiple virtual
and physical teams to
determine how technologies
will operate across multiple
locations and cultures.
Individual reflective practices
and intercultural
communications needed to
determine how tacit knowledge
should be applied to specific
group and project needs.
STRATEGIC INTEGRATION
VIRTUAL
How the IT department and other
departments translate
emerging technologies into
their existing processes and
organization.
Technology opportunities may
require organizational and
structural changes to transfer
tacit knowledge to explicit
knowledge.
CULTURAL ASSIMILATION
(Continued)
How can virtual and nonvirtual
departments translate emerging
technologies into their projects
across multiple locations and
cultures?
Technological opportunities may
require configuration of virtual
communities of practice and
explicit knowledge.
CULTURAL ASSIMILATION
VIRTUAL
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17 5
Horizons of expectation
Organizing principles
Worldviews
TACIT KNOWLEDGE
Table 7.3 (Continued)  
Individual limitations in the tacit
domain that may hinder or
support whether a technology
can be strategically integrated
into the organization.
STRATEGIC INTEGRATION
STRATEGIC INTEGRATION
VIRTUAL
Individuals within the virtual
community need to understand
the limitations on strategic
uses of technology. This may
vary across cultures.
Tacit Knowledge and Virtual Teams
Technology has global effects
and changes market
boundaries, that cross
business cultures; it requires
tacit knowledge to understand
existing dispositions on how
others work together. Reviews
how technology affects the
dynamics of operations.
How will new technologies
actually be integrated? What
are the organizational
challenges to “ rolling out”
products, and to
implementation timelines?
What positions are needed, and
who in the organization might
be best qualified to fill new
responsibilities? Identify
limitations of the organization;
that is, tacit knowledge versus
explicit knowledge realities.
CULTURAL ASSIMILATION
What are the dynamic needs of the
virtual team, to handle new
technologies on projects? What
are the new roles and
responsibilities of virtual team
members? Determine what tacit
and explicit knowledge will be
used to make decisions.
Market boundaries are more
dynamic across virtual teams
that operate to solve crosscultural and business problems.
Worldviews are more the norm
than the exception.
CULTURAL ASSIMILATION
VIRTUAL
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
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17 7
from others. Training should set the goals and establish the
criteria for how virtual teams interact in the firm. This should
include the application software and repositories that are in
place and the procedures for keeping information and knowledge current.
3. External reminders should be practiced so that virtual teams
do not become lax and develop bad habits since no one is
monitoring or measuring success. Providing documented
processes, perhaps a balanced scorecard or International
Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000-type procedures and measurements, is a good practice for monitoring
compliance.
Dealing with Multiple Locations and Outsourcing
Virtual organizations are often a given in outsourcing environments,
especially those that are offshore. Offshore outsourcing also means
that communications originate in multiple locations. The first step in
dealing with multiple locations is finding ways to deal with different
time zones. Project management can become more complicated when
team meetings occur at obscure times for certain members of the
community. Dealing with unanticipated problems can be more challenging when assembling the entire team may not be feasible because
of time differences. The second challenge in running organizations
in multiple locations is culture. Differing cultural norms can especially cause problems during off-hour virtual sessions. For example,
European work culture does not often support having meetings outside work hours. In some countries, work hours may be regulated by
the government or powerful unions.
A further complication in outsourcing is that the virtual team
members may be employed by different companies. For instance,
part of the community may include a vendor who has assigned staff
resources to the effort. Thus, these outsourced team members belong
to the community of the project yet also work for another organization. The relationship between an outside consultant and the internal
team is not straightforward and varies among projects. For example,
some outsourced technical resources may be permanently assigned to
the project, so while they actually work for another firm, they behave
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IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
and take daily direction as if they were an employee of the focal business. Yet, in other relationships, outsourced resources work closely
under the auspices of the outsourced “ project manager,” who acts
as a buffer between the firm and the vendor. Such COP formations
vary. Still other outsourcing arrangements involve team members the
firm does not actually know unless outsourced staff is called in to
solve a problem. This situation exists when organizations outsource
complete systems, so that the expectation is based more on the results
than on the interaction. Notwithstanding the arrangement or level
of integration, a COP must exist, and its behavior in all three of
these examples varies in participation, but all are driven in a virtual
relationship more by dynamic business events than by preplanned
activities.
If we look closely at COP approaches to operations, it is necessary to create an extension of dynamism in a virtual team community. The extension reflects the reliance on dynamic transactions,
which creates temporary team formations based on demographic
similarity needs. This means that virtual teams will often be formed
based on specific interests of people within the same departments.
Table 7.4 shows the expansion of dynamism in a virtual setting
of COPs.
Thus, the advent of modern-day IT outsourcing has complicated
the way COPs function. IT outsourcing has simultaneously brought
attention to the importance of COP and knowledge management
in general. It also further supports the reality of technology dynamism as more of a norm in human communication in the twentyfirst century.
Revisiting Social Discourse
In Chapter 4, I covered the importance of social discourse and the use
of language as a distinct component of how technology changes COP.
That section introduced three components that linked talk and action,
according to the schema of Grant et al. (1998): Identity, skills and
emotion. Figure 7.2 shows this relationship again. The expansion of
virtual team communications further emphasizes the importance of
discourse and the need to rethink how these three components relate
to each other in a virtual context.
Vir t ua l T e ams a n d O u t s o ur cin g
Table 7.4  
179
COP Virtual Dynamism
COP PHYSICAL SOCIAL SETTINGS
There is shared pursuit of interest
accomplished through group meetings.
Creation of the “ community” is typically
established within the same, or similar,
departments.
Demographic similarity is a strong
contributor to selection of community
members.
Situated learning is often accomplished by
assisting members to help develop others.
Learning occurs within a framework of
social participation.
Community needs to assess technology
dynamism using ROD in more physical
environments requiring a formal
infrastructure.
COP works well with cultural assimilation
of formal work groups where participants
are clearly identified.
COP can be used for realignment of work
departments based on similar needs.
COP supports continual learning and
dealing with unplanned action.
COP VIRTUAL DYNAMISMS
Interest in discussion is based more on dynamic
transactions and remote needs to satisfy specific
personal needs.
The notion of permanency is deemphasized.
Specific objectives based on the needs of the
group will establish the community.
Demographic similarity has little to do with
community selection. Selection is based more on
subject-matter expertise.
Situated learning to help others has less focus. It
may not be seen as the purpose or responsibility
of virtual team members. Social participation has
more concrete perspective.
Community is less identifiable from a physical
perspective. ROD must be accomplished by
members who have special interests at the
subject level as opposed to the group level.
Cultural assimilation in virtual settings is more
transaction-based. Assimilation can be a limited
reality during the time of the transaction to
ensure success of outcomes.
COP in a virtual environment creates temporary
realignments, based on similar needs during the
process.
COPs are continually reconfigured, and do not have
permanency of group size or interest.
Identity
I spoke about the “ cultures of practice” due to expansion of contacts
from technology capacities. This certainly holds true with virtual
teams. However, identities can be transactional— in ways such that
an individual may be a member of multiple COP environments and
have different identities in each. This fact emphasizes the multitasking aspect of the linear development modules discussed throughout
this book. Ultimately, social discourse will dynamically change based
on the COP to which an individual belongs, and that individual needs
to be able to “ inventory” these multiple roles and responsibilities.
Such roles and responsibilities themselves will transform, due to the
dynamic nature of technology-driven projects. Individuals will thus
have multiple identities and must be able to manage those identities
across different COPs and in different contexts within those COPs.
18 0
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
Skills
Conversational
activity
Identity
Conversational
content
Figure 7.2  
Action
Emotions
Grant’ s schema of the relationship between talk and action.
This requires individual maturities that must be able to cope with the
“ other” and understand the relativistic nature of multiple cultures and
the way discourse transforms into action.
Skills
I mentioned the importance of persuasion as a skill to transform talk
into action. Having the ability to persuade others across virtual teams
is critical. Often, skills are misrepresented as technical abilities that
give people a right of passage. Across multiple cultures, individuals
in teams must be able to recognize norms and understand how to
communicate with others to get tangible results on their projects. It is
difficult to make such determinations about individuals that one has
never met face to face. Furthermore, virtual meetings may not provide the necessary background required to properly understand a person’ s skill sets, both “ hard” and “ soft.” The soft skills analysis is more
important as the individual’ s technical credentials become assumed.
We see such assumptions when individuals transition into management positions. Ascertaining technical knowledge at the staff level is
easier— almost like an inventory analysis of technical requirements.
Vir t ua l T e ams a n d O u t s o ur cin g
181
However, assessing an individual’ s soft skills is much more challenging. Virtual teams will need to create more complex and broadened
inventories of their team’ s skill sets, as well as establish better criteria
on how to measure soft skills. Soft skills will require individuals to
have better “ multicultural” abilities, so that team members can be
better equipped to deal with multinational and cross-cultural issues.
Emotion
Like persuasion, emotion involves an individual’ s ability to motivate
others and to create positive energy. Many of those who successfully
use emotion are more likely to have done so in a physical context than
a virtual one. Transferring positive emotion in a virtual world can
be analogous to what organizations experienced in the e-commerce
world, in which organizations needed to rebrand themselves across
the Web in such a way that their image was reflected virtually to
their customers. Marketing had to be accomplished without exposure
to the buyer during purchase decisions. Virtual COPs are similar:
Representation must be what the individual takes away, without seeing the results physically. This certainly offers a new dimension for
managing teams. This means that the development requirements for
virtual members must include advanced abstract thinking so that the
individual can better forecast virtual team reactions to what will be
said, as opposed to reacting while the conversation is being conducted
or thinking about what to do after virtual meetings.
In Chapter 4, I presented Marshak’ s (1998) work on types of
talk that lead to action: tool-talk, frame-talk, and mythopoetic-talk.
Virtual teams require modification to the sequence of talk; that is,
the use of talk is altered. Let us first look at Figure 7.3, representing Marshak’ s model. To be effective, virtual teams must follow this
sequence from the outside inward. That is, the virtual team must focus
on mythopoetic-talk in the center as opposed to an outer ring. This
means that ideogenic issues must precede interpretation in a virtual
world. Thus, tool-talk, which in the physical world lies at the center of
types of tools, is now moved to the outside rectangle. In other words,
instrumental actions lag those of ideology and interpretation. This is
restructured in Figure 7.4.
18 2
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
Mythopoetic-talk: Ideogenic
Frame-talk: Interpretive
Tool-talk: Instrumental
Figure 7.3  
Marshak’ s types of talk.
Mythopoetic-talk is at the foundation of grounding ideas in a virtual COP. It would only make sense that a COP-driven talk requires
ideogenic behavior before migrating to instrumental outcomes.
Remember that ideogenic talk allows for concepts of intuition and
ideas for concrete application especially relevant among multiple cultures and societies. So, we again see that virtual teams require changes
in the sequence of how learning occurs. This change in sequence
places more emphasis on the need for an individual to be more developmentally mature— with respect to thinking, handling differences,
and thinking abstractly. This new “ abstract individual” must be able
to reflect before action and reflect in action to be functionally competent in virtual team participation.
Because ROD is relevant, it is important to determine how virtual
teams affect the ROD maturity arc first presented in Figure 4.10 and
redisplayed in Figure 7.5.
Tool-talk: Instrumental
Frame-talk: Interpretive
Mythopoetic-talk: Ideogenic
Figure 7.4  
Virtual team depiction of Marshak’ s types of talk.
Individual-based
reflective practice
Operations
Organizational
learning constructs
Management level
Operation and middle
management
Small-group based
reflective practices
Changes brought forth
by technology need to
be assimilated into
departments and are
dependent on how
others participate
Individual beliefs of
strategic impact are
incomplete; individual
needs to incorporate
other views within the
department or business
unit
Department/unit view
as other
Responsive organizational dynamism arc model.
View that technology
can and will affect the
way the organization
operates and that it
can affect roles and
responsibilities
Cultural assimilation
Figure 7.5  
Operations personnel
understand that
technology has an
impact on strategic
development,
particularly on existing
processes
Operational
knowledge
Strategic integration
Sector variable
Middle management
Interactive with both
individual and middle
management using
communities of practice
Understands need for
organizational changes;
different cultural
behavior new structures
are seen as viable
solutions
Recognition that
individual and
department views must
be integrated to be
complete and
strategically productive
for the department/unit
Integrated disposition
Stages of individual and organizational learning
Middle management and
executive
Interactive between
middle management and
executives using social
discourse methods to
promote transformation
Organizational changes
are completed and in
operation; existence of
new or modified employee
positions
Changes made to processes
at the department/unit
level formally incorporate
emerging technologies
Stable operations
Executive
Organizational learning
at executive level using
knowledge
management
Department-level
organizational changes
and cultural evolution
are integrated with
organization-wide
functions and cultures
Department strategies
are propagated and
integrated at
organization level
Organizational
leadership
Vir t ua l T e ams a n d O u t s o ur cin g
18 3
Figure 7.6  
Operations, middle management,
and executive
Middle management and
executive
Interactive with individual,
middle management, and
executive using virtual
communities of practice
Understands need for
organizational changes
across multiple organizations.
Different cultural behaviors
and new structures are seen
as viable solutions that can
be permanent or temporary
because of the dynamic
memberships in COP
Virtual team extension to the ROD arc. Changes are shown in italics.
Operations
Management
level
Changes brought forth by technology
need to be assimilated into
departments and are dependent on
how others participate.
Assimilation of cultural norm may
have very different roles and
responsibilities in other cultures.
Shifting assimilation needs may
differ as different members join or
leave the COP
Virtual group-based reflective
practices are necessary to
understand how to operate in a
COP environment with individuals
who have different perspectives
View that technology
can and will affect
the way the
organization
operates, and that it
can affect roles and
responsibilities
Organizational Individual-based
learning
reflective practice
constructs
Cultural
assimilation
Middle management and
executive
Interactive between middle
management and
executives using social
discourse methods to
promote more transactional
behavioral transitions.
Some transitions may lead
to transformation
Organizational changes are
never completed and may
be in temporary operation.
Existence of new or
modified COP member
positions could be
permanent or transitional
based on project needs
Executive
Organizational learning
at executive level
incorporates virtual
team needs using more
dynamic COP structures
and broadened
knowledge managment
that is more situational
Department-level
organizational changes
and cultural evolution
may remain separate
and case driven. Some
assimilation may be
integrated with
organizaion-wide
functions and cultures
18 4
IN F O RM ATI O N T EC HN O L O GY
Vir t ua l T e ams a n d O u t s o ur cin g
18 5
Figure 7.6 represents the virtual team extension to the ROD arc.
The changes to the cells are shown in italics. Note that there are no
changes to operational knowledge because this stage focuses solely
on self-knowledge learned from authoritative sources. However, as
the individual matures, there is greater need to deal with uncertainty. This includes the uncertainty that conditions in a COP may
be temporary, and thus knowledge may need to vary from meeting to
meeting. Furthermore, while operational realities may be more transactional, it does not necessarily mean that adopted changes are not
permanent. Most important is the reality that permanence in general
may no longer be a characteristic of how the organization operates;
this further emphasizes ROD as a way of life. As a result of this
extreme complexity in operations, there is an accelerated requirement
for executives to become involved earlier in the development process.
Specifically, by stage two (department/unit view of the other), executives must be engaged in virtual team management considerations.
Ultimately, the virtual team ROD arc demonstrates that virtual teams are more complex and therefore need members who are
more mature to ensure the success of outsourcing and other virtual
constructs. It also explains why virtual teams have struggled, likely
because their members are not ready for the complex participation
necessary for adequate outcomes.
We must also remember that maturity growth is likely not parallel
in its linear progression. This was previously shown in Figure 4.12.
This arc demonstrates the challenge managers face in gauging
the readiness of their staff to cope with virtual team engagement.
On the other hand, the model also provides an effective measurement schema that can be used to determine where members should
be deployed and their required roles and responsibilities. Finally, the
model allows management to prepare staff for the training and development they need as part of the organizational learning approach to
dealing with ROD.

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