In This Article Virtual Teams

  • Introduction
  • Organizing Framework

Management Virtual Teams
M. Travis Maynard, Diana Sanchez
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0095


As organizations face increasingly complex environments, they continue to seek out ways in which to increase their competitive advantage. In response, some organizations have relied heavily on the use of teams in hope of garnering the synergistic benefits thought to accrue with the use of teams, and thereby enhance the overall performance of the organization. Accordingly, the use of teams within organizations continues to increase. However, the teams that are being leveraged within today’s organizations are different in many ways from traditional teams. For instance, many organizational teams are composed of individuals who are geographically dispersed and communicate through computer-mediated means. These two characteristics (geographic dispersion and the use of computer-mediated communication) are the primary differentiating factors included in many definitions of virtual teams. Given the prevalence of virtual teams (VTs) in practice, the academic literature has increasingly sought to understand these teams, and our hope here is to try to encapsulate this work.

Organizing Framework

As mentioned above, the academic literature has increasingly sought to understand factors that shape VT performance. To start, it was important for the literature to begin to coalesce regarding the defining nature of VTs. For example, Bell and Kozlowski 2002 provides a nice typology of VTs and how they differ from traditional, face-to-face (FtF) teams. Likewise, there have been several reviews of the VT literature that we have tried to leverage in conducting this review. Martins, et al. 2004 reviews the early history of VT research, and more recently, Gilson, et al. 2015 provides a review of VT research conducted over the prior decade. Additionally, Mesmer-Magnus, et al. 2011 is a meta-analytic review of the VT literature with a focus on how virtuality impacts information sharing. Some of these literature reviews have leveraged the input-process-outcome (IPO) model that was introduced in Hackman and Morris 1975. Here, we will use the adapted input-mediator-outcome (IMO) framework introduced by Ilgen, et al. 2005. The main distinction between the IMO and IPO framework is that the IMO framework considers not only team processes but also team emergent states as mediating the link between various team input constructs and team performance outcomes. To provide more detail to the framework that we utilize here, inputs represent starting conditions of a group, such as its material or human resources as well as the design and composition features of the team. Processes represent dynamic interactions among group members as they work on a group’s task. Likewise, emergent states have been defined by Marks, et al. 2001 as “cognitive, motivational, and affective states of teams (p. 357). Finally, outcomes represent task and non-task consequences of a group’s functioning. In our review, we summarize exemplar empirical investigations of VTs by highlighting the key findings within each category of the IMO framework.

  • Bell, Bradford S., and Steve W. J. Kozlowski. “A Typology of Virtual Teams Implications for Effective Leadership.” Group & Organization Management 27.1 (2002): 14–49.

    DOI: 10.1177/1059601102027001003E-mail Citation »

    This article provides a definition for VTs, distinguishing them from conventional teams and explaining the characteristics of different types of VTs. The authors also provide a theoretical framework for understanding VTs and effective team leadership.

  • Gilson, Lucy L., M. Travis Maynard, Nicole C. Jones Young, Matti Vartiainen, and Marko Hakonen. “Virtual Teams Research: Ten Years, Ten Themes, and Ten Opportunities.” Journal of Management 41.5 (2015): 1313–1337.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206314559946E-mail Citation »

    This review provides an examination on a decade of research organized into ten themes: research design, team inputs, virtuality, technology, globalization, leadership, mediators and moderators, trust, outcomes, and VT success. The authors discussed ten areas they have identified as future research opportunities.

  • Hackman, J. Richard, and Charles G. Morris. “Group Tasks, Group Interaction Process, and Group Performance Effectiveness: A Review and Proposed Integration.” In Advances in Experimental Social Psychology. Vol. 8. Edited by L. Berkowitz, 45–99. New York: Academic Press, 1975.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60248-8E-mail Citation »

    In this work, the authors review various factors that influence the performance of organizational teams. Based on this review, the authors also propose an alternative team effectiveness framework (the IPO model), which became the foundation for organizational team research for several decades.

  • Ilgen, Daniel R., John R. Hollenbeck, Michael Johnson, and Dustin Jundt. “Teams in Organizations: From Input-Process-Output Models to IMOI Models.” Annual Review of Psychology 56 (2005): 517–543.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.56.091103.070250E-mail Citation »

    This review examines organizational team research with an emphasis on mediating mechanisms between team inputs and team outcomes. In particular, it highlights temporal considerations as well as affective, behavioral, cognitive, and combinations of these mediating mechanisms.

  • Marks, Michelle A., John E. Mathieu, and Stephen J. Zaccaro. “A Temporally Based Framework and Taxonomy of Team Processes.” Academy of Management Review 26.3 (2001): 356–376.

    E-mail Citation »

    Leveraging a multiphase episodic framework, this article defines team processes and then provides a taxonomy of team processes. In particular, within this work the authors highlight three categories of team processes: transition, action, and interpersonal team processes, and distinguish these processes from another mediating mechanism—team emergent states.

  • Martins, Luis L., Lucy L. Gilson, and M. Travis Maynard. “Virtual Teams: What Do We Know and Where Do We Go from Here?” Journal of Management 30.6 (2004): 805–835.

    E-mail Citation »

    This review paper provides an integrated definition of VTs and examines similarities and differences in research findings through the perspective of the inputs, process, outputs model.

  • Mesmer-Magnus, Jessica R., Leslie A. DeChurch, Miliani Jimenez-Rodriguez, Jessica Wildman, and Marissa Shuffler. “A Meta-Analytic Investigation of Virtuality and Information Sharing in Teams.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 115.2 (2011): 214–225.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.03.002E-mail Citation »

    This study reviews ninety-four articles through the reconceptualization of information sharing as two-dimensional. The authors discuss three insights from this activity: (1) virtuality hinders openness but improves sharing unique information, (2) openness is more important to VTs than sharing unique information, and (3) virtuality impacts information sharing in a curvilinear pattern.

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