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Implications of Space and Time for Distributed Work Essay

In this paper “Implications of Space and Time for Distributed Work: An Interpretive Study of US-Norwegian Systems Development Teams”, Saker and Sahay (2004) present the results of a study they conducted on problems and strategies of virtual collaboration in space and time in the area of Information System Development (ISD). A theoretic presentation of the concepts of space and time investigated in the study is given. By studying the actual experiences of eight teams, the authors show that space and time pose difficulties for virtual teams therefore influencing team organization and strategies.

The teams were selected from the University of Norway and the University of America ensuring that team demographics in terms of gender, age and educational backgrounds were evenly distributed to rule out any factors that may influence the results of the study. The authors used the methodology for studying virtual teams called virtual ethnography. The results show that both separations in time and space posed communication problems resulting in delayed responses that caused tensions and discomfort in meeting of targets and deadlines.

Individual members had difficulties in synchronizing their biological clocks hence the inability to commit to work schedules, missing online meetings and deadlines. The ICT tools used posed difficulties in time management. Some teams failed to understand each other on a personal level due to lack of human interaction. Language and cultural barriers caused misunderstandings resulting in passing of judgments on others’ work ethics. Different levels of skills and knowledge of ISD hindered production of desired outputs by teams in different locations.

Biases in software use were also evident for different country locations forcing teams to use software platforms they had little experience on. Addressing the problems mainly centered on the better use of the ICT tools, reaching compromises, improvising, and developing relations in a bid to approximate real organizations. The teams also came up with engagement rules and codes of conduct to ease their work relations. The authors conclude that electronic and face to face communication is never the same with the former producing some social behaviors that have to be adjusted for.


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