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Now you see them…now you don't: Toward a greater understanding of virtual team effectiveness

Linda M. Leitch Peters, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Virtual teams have become more commonplace in the corporate landscape of the twenty-first century. These non-traditional teams are typically involved in complex and dynamic projects. They are comprised of members who are located in more than one geographic location and who rely on computer-mediated communication to accomplish their goals. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between various dimensions of virtual teams and team effectiveness. Variables of interest included trust, shared understanding, internal collaboration, external communication, functional diversity, team leadership, and amount of face-to-face communication. Thirty-three virtual teams from high-technology firms participated in the study. Since this study incorporated both individual team member data and project team data into the majority of analyses, Hierarchical Linear Modeling was used to eliminate the problems associated with using regression for cross-level data sets. Three models were developed based on the results of the analyses reflecting the significant relationships between various predictors and the outcomes of overall performance, innovativeness and member satisfaction. The findings indicated that trust, shared understanding, and internal collaboration abilities among the team members had strong positive relationships with effective outcomes of virtual teams. In some cases, the extent to which the team members were geographically dispersed negatively interacted with the predictor variables and lessened their impact on the outcome variables. In addition, teams that were self-managed had higher performance, were more innovative and had more satisfied team members than those led externally. Further, the results indicated that the effect of face-to-face communication varied with the desired outcome. Specifically, teams that brought members together in person tended to have higher innovativeness ratings and increased levels of member satisfaction. Face-to-face communication also positively interacted with internal collaboration, increasing the joint effect of these variables on member satisfaction. The extent that team members communicated with individuals outside the team was also shown to have a direct effect on innovativeness. Finally, functional diversity interacted with trust, which served to increase the joint effect on a team's innovativeness. These models now serve as a foundation for future research on virtual teams. The implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.

Subject Area

Management|Occupational psychology

Recommended Citation

Peters, Linda M. Leitch, "Now you see them…now you don't: Toward a greater understanding of virtual team effectiveness" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110543.