Virtual Teams Inquiry LO7310

Jessica Lipnack (
Wed, 8 May 1996 16:29:03 -0500

Replying to LO7208 -- wrote:

>The term *virtual*, unless you're just using it as a buzz word to gain
>interest, would seem to require a steep decrease in "face to face"
>communication and/or some electronic infrastructure or "world" within
>which the work is done and werein the one contributor's work is
>immediately visible to others in this "world" construct.

And..."John Zavacki" <> wrote:

...They work in the same building but very rarely see each
other physically. Additional hallmarks of "virtual" teams and other
virtual organizations include the ability to reform with little or not
effort (as in the Agile Web of manufacturers), to resize and reconfigure
to met rapidly changing market demands,etc.

In my zeal to respond yesterday to Hal's comment, my finger slipped
and instead of typing Command C (copy), I hit Command D (delete), which
is why sometimes I still like PINE over Eudora, but that's another topic.

I agree with both Hal and John and hereby throw some more stuff into the
fray. The question is something like this: *Are* all organizations today
somewhat virtual? If you take Hal's additional qualifiers-- steep decrease
in face-to-face contact and some electronic support, what do you do with
Tom Allen's research? The MIT Prof (for all I know he or his grad
students are reading here) has been gathering research on proximity and
collaboration for 20 years. In short, what he has found is that if people
are out of shouting distance, the chance of them working together falls
off dramatically. Specifically, if people are more than 50 feet apart,
there is only a 10% chance that they will communicate of collaborate more
than once a week. Now for the startling electronic update--people receive
and sent the most e-mail to the people who are physically closest to them.

If you believe the data, then is every group in some sense a virtual one
whether they recognize it or not? As John says, does this logic then
trivialize the concept of virtual?

Writing definitions for books is very difficult which is why I decided to
risk putting out a working definition to a group like this one which seems
to think long and hard about things.

My only quibble is whether *all* organizations, as Hal says, do work that
crosses boundaries. The counter team at the local ice cream shop calls
itself a team--one scoops, one clears tables, one works the register-- but
it's not a boundary-crossing team like the Washington, DC-based Acacia
Mutual Insurance company team that works with its third party
administrator in Connecticut.

So (says the woman here concerned with getting the definition right) what
words need to be added? "Less FTF communication," "electronic support,"
"constantly reconfiguring?" Any others?

I really appreciate the responses. Thanks.


Jessica Lipnack <>
The Networking Institute, Inc., 505 Waltham Street, West Newton, MA 02165 USA
Tel: 617/965-3340 Fax: 617/965-2341 Web page:


-- (Jessica Lipnack)

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