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90-766 Managing in a Virtual Environment

Spring 2002 – Mini 4
Tuesday 5:30–8:30 p.m.

General Course Information
Rating Forms
Individual Assessment

This course focuses upon the problems and challenges of managing individuals, groups, and organizations in a virtual or distributed environment. Virtual means that work is accomplished by interdependent people performing at different times, places or organizations. As an interface course in the Heinz curriculum (Mgt/IT), this course addresses current topics associated with the new forms of organizing that new technology and accompanying strategic changes promote.

Denise M. Rousseau—H.J. Heinz II Professor of Organizational Behavior and Public Policy (Heinz/GSIA)—changing employment relationships, managing at a distance, new forms of incentives, and idiosyncratic employment arrangements (Office: 2101D Hamburg Hall, 1-412-268-8470)

Tai Gyu Kim--Doctoral student, GSIA (MS, Texas A& M)--changing employment relations, myopic decision making, and organizational citizenship. While working for Samsung, he experienced a virtual work environment as a trader importing gold from North Korea through intermediate countries, and as a mediator between headquarters and precious metal exploration consultants worldwide. (Office: 29 GSIA, 1-412-268-4674)

Readings: Course pack. You are expected to have completed the readings for each week prior to class. To support your use of the readings, you will receive credit for completing a one page reading log for 10 of the (non-case) readings (your choice which 10).

Reading Logs: Ten one-page reading logs are required for full credit. Each log must be posted to the Blackboard site by Thursday of the week in which the reading was assigned. The log should be posted under the date of the assigned reading. Each log should a) summarize the important themes and insights you wish to remember from the reading and b) how you can apply ideas from the reading in your own (present or future) work.

Virtual Community: To support the virtual experience of this course, we are using Blackboard. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including project collaboration, virtual meetings, community building, information management and on-line brainstorming. You can find the Blackboard site at the following URL: http://courseinfo.web.cmu.edu/courses/S02-90-766/. In this course, we will utilize Blackboard for posting reading logs and coordinating your group’s work.

Group Work: There will be two group projects: 1) an analysis of Euro-Arab Management School Case and 2) Virtualchina.com: The Building of a Virtual Community. All class members will participate in a 4-5 person team. Class members will be assigned to groups by the instructors to promote diversity in background and “virtuality”.

The purpose of these assignments is to provide a virtual team experience and to encourage reflection upon and use of class concepts. Each is also part of your course grade. Ten page maximum (text).

Project #1 Euro-Arab Management School:

  1. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the EAMS learning system.
  2. How successful is EAMS likely to be in delivering quality management education? Would you hire an EAMS MBA (or from another virtual MBA Program)?
  3. What actions do you recommend to overcome the weaknesses and capitalize on the strengths of EAMS as a virtual educational program?

Project #2 Virtualchina.com: The building of a virtual community:

  1. Is this 'virtual community' really a 'community'? What are the differences between an on-line community and a physical community? What are the differences between a virtual community and a portal? What are the key requirements to making building a true community via Virtualchina.com?
  2. What skills will be required to leverage the economic value inherent in the information captured in the Virtualchina.com site? The revenue projections for Virtualchina.com are very ambitious. What skills will be needed if this model is to work over time?
  3. What changes are required to ensure that site visitors become members? Use the information that could be provided by community members to ensure that they have an incentive to return.
  4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the two-phase strategy of building one community (Western China-focused business people and travelers) and then marketing that community to a second community (Chinese companies looking to sell on-line to a Western Audience).

Rating Forms

Rating form for Euro-Arab Management School

Rating form for Virtualchina.com

Individual Assessment: While your group works on the two projects required in this course, we ask you to pay careful attention to the processes the group uses in its collaboration. Following completion of the second project, each class member will provide an individual assessment of the group process experienced in this course (max 5 pages). We recommend that you keep a record of events and issues arising in the course of writing the Group paper. Making notes each week regarding your group’s process will be helpful in preparing your assessment. Consider posting these notes on the Blackboard. The goal of the assessment is to encourage reflection on class concepts in the course of completing the group project.

Your individual assessment should include information on the following issues.


How does your team members communicate with each other? (content, frequency, method)

How well do you believe your team coordinate's its work across members? What works and what does not work well? (Assignments, etc.)

How are decisions arrived at regarding the group’s structure, timeline, and goals? Does the group actively make a decision or just let thing happen?

Describe at least three conflicts that occurred within your team. How was each handled? What is talked about? What is ignored or avoided?

In what ways did your use of technology facilitate your team's work? In what ways did your use of technology hamper your team's work?


When the team first came together, were any promises or commitments made by team members?

What commitments have you made to the group? What commitments has the group made to you?

How well have these commitments been kept?

What concerns do you have that you have shared with the group?

What concerns do you have that you have not shared with the group?


How well do you believe the group is working together?

How successful do you believe the group is in completing a high quality project?

How will your Individual Assessments be graded? Assessments will be graded on the extent to which they provide thorough description of the actual behaviors and processes the group employs and apply class concepts to better understand the group’s process and performance.


Reading Logs (20%)

Group Project #1—EAMS Case Analysis (30%)
Group Project #2—Virtualchina.com Analysis (30)%
Individual Assessment (10%)
Participation in Class (10%)

Code of Conduct:

In a class encouraging the free flow of information, it becomes critical to create an atmosphere of trust. Our norms are as follows:

Team assignments: Each group written case analysis is to be completed in consultation with members of one's own team, without the aid of other teams. You should not discuss the assignment with members of other teams or with students who have completed the assignment in the past.

Reading Logs and Individual Assessment: The reading log entries are to be written independently, without the aid of other people. You may not copy the assignments or portions of the assignments of other students, and you may not collaborate with others in writing individual assignments. However, you are welcome to discuss the readings with classmates prior to writing up your reflections.

Case notes: You should not make use of any case write-ups prepared by current or previous students, or case notes prepared by students or instructors here or at other universities. Use of such notes interferes with the learning process and will be considered a violation of the honor code.

Managing in a Virtual Environment—Outline

March 12: Session One—Getting class organized

Overview of Class

Blackboard System
Creation of Teams

March 19: Session Two—Team work across boundaries

This session will concentrate on understanding the challenges teams face when they work across traditional organizational boundaries. We will addresses differences in goals, coordination mechanisms, and communication processes.

Exocentric teams
Distributedness across space/time/firm


Cascio: Virtual Workplaces

“Managing a virtual workplace,” Academy of Management Executive, 2000, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 81-90.

“Virtual workplaces: Implications for organizational behavior,” Trends in Organizational Behavior, 1999, Vol. 6, Chapter 1. Edited by C. L. Cooper and D. M. Rousseau, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 1-13.

Goodman and Wilson

“Exocentric teams: New forms of structure and process,” manuscript, June 1999.

Hamel, Doz & Prahlad

“Collaborate with your competitors – and win,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1989, No. 89104, pp. 133-139


“The art of managing virtual teams: Eight key lessons,” Harvard Management Update, November 1998, pp. 3-4.

Cohen & Mankin (Optional)

“Collalboration in the virtual organization,” Trends in Organizational Behavior, 1999, Vol. 6, Chapter 7. Edited by C. L. Cooper and D. M. Rousseau, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 105-120.

March 26: Session Three: Collaboration: Working together and developing trust

This session will focus on the differences between collaboration across boundaries (space, time, organization) and more traditional forms of collaboration. We will review what we know about collaborating at a distance, actually experience the difficulties of working with people we can’t see, and work through typical problems in virtual collaboration.

Assignment: Dot.com in-basket


Meyerson, Weick and Kramer

“Swift trust and temporary groups,” Chapter 9, Trust in Organizations, pp. 166-195.


“Information problems in dispersed teams,” Academy of Management Proceedings, 1997, pp. 298-302.

“The mutual knowledge problem and its consequences for dispersed collaboration,” manuscript, 2000.


“Trust and the virtual organization,” Harvard Business Review, May-June 1995, pp. 40-50.

DeSanctis, Staudemeyer & Wong

“Interdependence in virtual organizations,” Trends in Organizational Behavior, 1999, Vol. 6, Chapter 6. Edited by C. L. Cooper and D. M. Rousseau, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 1-13.

Bellotti & Bly (optional)

“Walking away from the desktop computer: Distributed collaboration and mobility in a product design team”

Spring Break

April 9: Session Four--Inter-organizational team work

Inter-organizational conflicts—Differentiation and Interdependence

Case: East Coast Corp. and Silicon Valley, Inc.

Guest Resource Person: Brandi Martin Pearce
(Formerly a manager at Oracle)


  1. What key facts differentiate this team from a traditional team?
  2. What are the major conflicts facing this team?
  3. How is the team currently trying to manage its conflicts?
  4. What strategies for managing its conflicts would you recommend?

If you were to step back to the inception of this team, what approaches would you recommend during the start up phase to avoid the current conflicts?

Debrief of EAMS Case (Group Project #1)

Case #1 Due April 9

Don’t forget to turn in a completed rating form for your team’s performance during the Case Analysis (project #1).

April 16: Session Five: The Virtual Manager

A. How is virtual managing different from managing? In one sense managing is managing. Basic issues remain relevant including:

Motivation and goal setting
Performance assessment
Training and development

However, standard approaches to solving the problems of motivating, evaluating, developing workers often are defeated by difficulties in obtaining adequate information and effectively communicating, giving and getting feedback, and in integrating virtual workers into a broader work system. Technology provides some support, but most solutions are social and interpersonal in nature. We will examine the task of managing virtual workers and best practices in effectively doing so.

Case: Collier’s International Property Consultants, Inc.: Managing a virtual organization

Assignment Questions:

1. What challenges do Colliers and Stewart Forbes, its president, face?
2. Compare and contrast Colliers with a traditionally structured hierarchical firm. How appropriate is the Colliers’ organizational structure in light of the challenges the company faces?
3. What role does information technology play in enabling the organization to meet its challenges effectively? Do Colliers’ brokers and managers use IT appropriately and effectively?
4. What recommendations would you make to Stewart Forbes?

B. The Virtual Community Business Model*

· A distinctive focus
· The capacity to integrate content and communication
· Member-generated content
· Access to competing publishers and vendors
· Commercial orientation

*Hagel and Armonstrong (1997) Net gain: expanding markets through virtual communities (Boston: HBS).


Wiesenfeld, Raghuram & Garud

“Managers in a virtual context: The experience of self-threat and its effects on virtual work organizations,” Trends in Organizational Behavior, 1999, Vol. 6, Chapter 1. Edited by C. L. Cooper and D. M. Rousseau, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 31-44.


“How do you manage an off-site team?,” Harvard Business Review, July-August, 1998, pp. 22-26.

Davenport & Pearlson

“Two cheers for the virtual office,” Sloan Management Review, Summer 1998, pp. 51-65.

Wilson & Goodman: Substitutes for socialization

April 16: First draft of Individual Assessment is due. Instructors will provide feedback.

April 23: Session Six: Telecommuters and Strangers—Employees Working at Home and Independent Contractors Working On Site

This session continues issues raised in the previous one. It will focus first on how to decide whether working virtually is suitable and if so, how to negotiate (as a manager and as a worker) to effectively work in a distributed environment.

We will then examine some of the limits and constraints on effective distributed work including the unintended consequences resulting from overuse and under support associated with contract work.

1. Telework: Negotiating to work at home—the idiosyncratic deal(s)

2. Outsiders Inside: Independent Contractors and Temporaries within the Firm

3. Expatriates--integrating international employees--what we can learn from virtuality

Exemplar: Vivian Clark’s study of part-time professionals


Hughson & Goodman

“Telecommuting: Corporate practices and benefits,” National Productivity Review, Autumn 1986, pp. 315-324.

Hammer & Barbera

“Toward an integration of alternative work,” Human Resource Planning, pp. 28-36.

Rousseau & Libuser

“Contingent workers in high risk environments,” California Management Review Reprint Series, Winter 1997, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 103-123.


"The idiosyncratic deal: Flexibility versus fairness," Organizational Dynamics, 29, pp. 260-273.

April 30: Session Seven: Competitive Advantage from Virtuality

Case: Hewlett-Packard (Singapore A)

Assignment Questions:

1. What resources and capabilities does HP need to develop new products? What are the challenges of creating new products in a distributed environment? What are the advantages?
2. Why did the Alex project fail? How did the distributed work environment impact the project?
3. Would you recommend the HP-Singapore enter the Japanese market with the Deskjet500J printer? Why?



“The contexts for geographically dispersed teams and networks,” Trends in Organizational Behavior, 1999, Vol. 6, Chapter 5. Edited by C. L. Cooper and D. M. Rousseau, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pp. 63-80.

Chesbrough & Teece

“When is virtual virtuous?: Organizing for innovation,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1996, pp. 65-73.

Nunamaker, Briggs & deVreede

“Value-creation technology,” in G. W. Dickson and G. DeSanctis, Information Technology and the Future Enterprise: New Models for Managers, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001, pp. 102-124.

Final project due: May 7, 2002. Don’t forget to turn in a completed rating form for your team’s performance

Individual assessments due: May 7, 2002

Home Vita pdf Professional Summary
Classes Reports Web page at Heinz
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Copyright © 1996-2008 Denise Rousseau