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Virtual and traditional organizations
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DescriptionVirtual and traditional organizations
Virtual organizations that use email to communicate and coordinate their work toward a common goal are becoming ubiquitous. However, little is known about how these organizations work.
Much prior research suggests that virtual organizations, for the most part because they use information technology to communicate, will be decentralized and non-hierarchical.
Thus, this virtual organization is similar to traditional organizations in some ways and dissimilar in other ways.
It was similar to traditional organizations in so far as task-structure fit predicted perceived performance. However, it was dissimilar to traditional organizations in so far as fit did not predict objective performance. To the extent that the virtual organizations may be similar to traditional organizations, existing theories can be expanded to study the structure and perceived performance of virtual organizations. New theories may need to be developed to explain objective performance in virtual organizations.
Today organizations are faced with a dynamic and turbulent environment that requires flexible and fast responses to changing business needs. Many organizations have responded by adopting decentralized, team-based, and distributed structures (DeSanctis & Jackson, 1994; Drucker, 1988) variously described in the literature as virtual, network, and cluster organizations (Beyerlein & Johnson, 1994; Camillus, 1993; Goldman, et al., 1995; Mills, 1991).
Advances in communication technologies have enabled organizations to acquire and retain such distributed structures by supporting coordination among people working from different locations. Despite the rapid increase in the number of organizations that are becoming distributed, little is known about the structure or performance of such organizations.
Lipnack & Stamps (1997) define a virtual team as "a group of people who interact through interdependent tasks guided by common purpose" that "works across space, time, and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technologies" (p. 7). We define a virtual organization as a geographically distributed organization whose members are bound by a long-term common interest or goal, and who communicate and coordinate their work through information technology. Our focus is on a particular type of virtual organization, the virtual research organization, in which members of various corporate and academic research units voluntarily come together to advance a technology on an ongoing basis. These members assume well defined roles and status relationships within the context of the virtual group that may be independent of their role and status in the organization employing them (Ahuja et al., 1998).
A key feature of virtual organizations is a high degree of informal communication. Because of a lack of formal rules, procedures, clear reporting relationships, and norms, more extensive informal communication is required (Monge & Contractor, in press). Formal communication is non-interactive, impersonal, and involves use of media such as reports and structured meetings. It is a function of the formal hierarchy embedded ...
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