Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW)

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 567-594

First online:

Improving the Effectiveness of Virtual Teams by Adapting Team Processes

  • Daniel J. RiceAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University Email author 
  • , Barry D. DavidsonAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University
  • , John F. DannenhofferAffiliated withDepartment of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Syracuse University
  • , Geri K. GayAffiliated withKenneth J. Bissett Professor of Communications & Information Science, Cornell University

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Results are presented from a study on virtual teams and whether appropriate early training can positively influence their effectiveness. Sixteen teams that worked together for periods ranging from three months to three years were studied. Team processes that emerged naturally from long-duration teams were formalized and taught to shorter duration teams. These shorter duration teams comprised three different cohorts, each of which received different levels of training. It was found that the adoption of formal procedures and structured processes significantly increased the effectiveness of virtual teams. Tasks that lend themselves to a structured approach were most effectively accomplished during virtual meetings, whereas face-to-face interactions were better for relatively unstructured, discussion intensive tasks. The performance of a virtual team was significantly improved when team processes were adapted to the affordances of the CMC environment. It is shown that this adaptation can occur very rapidly if teams are trained on the technology as well as on work processes that best exploit it.

Key words

brainstorming collaboration communication computer-mediated consensus decision-making dispersed distance geographically distributed