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Trends and determinants of managing virtual R&D teams

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The past years have seen a decentralization of R&D to local markets and centres-of-excellence. Supported by modern information and communication technologies, ‘virtual project teams’ were formed to facilitate transnational innovation processes. With their boundaries expanding and shrinking flexibly with changing project necessities, virtual teams are believed to be an important element in future R&D organization. Based on 204 interviews with R&D directors and project managers in 37 technology-intensive multinational companies we identify four distinct forms of virtual team organizations used to execute R&D projects across multiple locations. Ordered by increasing degree of central project coordination, these four team concepts are based on: (1) decentralized self-organization, (2) a system integrator as a coordinator, (3) a core team as a system architect, and (4) a centralized venture team. Our contingency approach for organizing a transnational R&D project is based on four principal determinants: (1) the type of innovation (radical/incremental), (2) the systemic nature of the project (systemic/autonomous), (3) the mode of knowledge involved (tacit/explicit), and (4) the degree of resource bundling (complementary/redundant). According to our analysis, the success of virtual teams depends on the appropriate consideration of these determinants.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of St. Gallen, Switzerland 2: IMD International, Lausanne, Switzerland, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 June 2003

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