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Membership and management of a ‘virtual’ team: the perspectives of a research manager

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Many sectors of human activity are growing increasingly dependent on information and its contextual processing in the creation of knowledge. Nowhere is this process more crucial than in distributed R&D communities. This paper draws on experience of working in such communities and on investigations into the role of information and communications technologies. This work may have begun to uncover a framework on which to base the effective application of IT in this context.

A recent research study, supported by the EC Human Capital and Mobility Programme, was undertaken by a team which was itself distributed and comprised those with background disciplines in management science, developmental psychology and information technology. It focused on the communications channels (the media) used by international R&D communities and an analysis of the case study data revealed three significant dimensions:

• individuals and their engagement in the community;

• the nature and stages of R&D tasks;

• management and organization of distributed teams.

This paper focuses on the last of these themes whilst drawing upon the others. It reviews the dynamics of R&D tasks and the way that this requires changing organizational styles which establish, support and maintain each individual's contribution to the collective goal as the task passes through the phases of intention, procedure and operation. It begins to address the issue concerned with capitalizing on diversity rather than the more usual approach of always seeking a unifying consensus.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Knowledge Technology Research Unit, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, UK

Publication date: January 1, 1998


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