Towards the 24-Hour Knowledge Factory: Offshore-Onsite Team Dynamics
30 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2007
Date Written: September 3, 2007
Globalization and the spread of advanced information and communication technologies have encouraged a transition to distributed, virtual work practices. By reducing the costs of communication, these technologies now make it possible for more people than ever before to collaborate and compete in real time on different kinds of work from anywhere in the world - using computers, email, networks, teleconferencing, and dynamic new software applications. Thus, according to Thomas Friedman in his book, The World is Flat, "The global competitive playing field has being leveled" (Friedman, 2005, p.8). Connected to the flattening of the world is the increase in the diffusion of offshoring of knowledge intensive work towards emerging countries, such as India, China, and Romania. Although offshoring is becoming a part of our everyday social lexicon, we find little empirical evidence in the academic literature on the implications of offshoring for organizations and knowledge workers, or on the disruptive forces that offshoring brings to local, day-to-day work practices. Certainly, the literature on geographically dispersed or globally distributed teams (GDTs) shows the many organizational challenges of distributed collaboration, exploring issues like compatibility with existing hierarchical structures, awareness of other team member's activities, increased coordination costs, trust between distant members, status differentials, and leadership (e.g., Mohrman, 1998, Paul and McDaniel, 2004, Metiu, 2006, Weisband, in press). Moreover, previous studies explain how distance limits some of the important benefits that come from collocation, such as spontaneous conversation, collaborative social environments, mutual learning and influence (e.g. Hinds and Kiesler, 2002; Cummings, 2004). Some of this research was conducted in situations involving offshoring, but much of it reflects distributed work that remained onshore and does not distinguish between different types of globally distributed work arrangements (Saunders and Ahuja, 2006). Many of the conclusions and insights from these studies, therefore, may apply to the case of offshoring, but more work is needed to better define the specific upsetting effects of offshoring on knowledge workers and organizations.
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