I’ve been writing about working virtually for 3+ years so was excited to see a long article in the Wall Street Journal

Working Together…When Apart (WSJ, 6/16/07, $) is a report by Dr. Lynda Gratton, a professor of management at London Business School. She presents her research findings on seven success factors for virtual teams:

1. Invest in an online resource where members can learn quickly about one another.
2. Choose a few team members who already know each other.
3. Identify “boundary spanners” and ensure that they make up at least 15% of the team.
4. Cultivate boundary spanners as a regular part of companywide practices and processes.
5. Break the team’s work up into modules so that progress in one location is not overly dependent on progress in another.
6. Create an online site where a team can collaborate, exchange ideas and inspire one another.
7. Encourage frequent communication. But don’t try to force social gatherings.

I was disappointed. The article implicitly assumes that companies form teams specifically to meet some new and out of the ordinary goal. Few of the suggestions seem to apply to the more ad-hoc teams that a law firm or other professional service organization might assemble where the duration is weeks or months and the team size under 20. Also, the idea of “boundary spanners” is a concept from social network analysis and, absent doing SNA, it’s not clear how a company would identify these people. That said, I am glad that there are academics studying working virtually – I hope they turn their attention to professional services.