Are Virtual Teams the Next Revolution of Work?

PMI Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

Virtual teams may well be the next step-change in the evolution of work. So it is interesting to ask if today’s management principles and processes are optimized to support them. To help answer this question, let’s take an illustrated tour of work through the ages and also review how management has progressed along the way.

Work patterns have evolved through revolutionary and evolutionary waves. Some have brought major, irreversible shifts; others, step-changes and refinements. Tens of thousands of years ago, population densities were generally low as people worked at farming, fishing and still some hunting and gathering. You needed space to do this, and too much local human competition was not helpful. Then, as crafts, trading and specializations emerged, towns became useful hubs for exchanges and population patterns changed. Access to fresh food sources was still a major concern, but trading and money allowed for easier centralized living.

These were slow, likely imperceptible advances, quite unlike what happened next with the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. People were needed to work in factories, and a major migration from rural to city living occurred within decades. Factory-funded schools began focusing on time keeping, discipline and following instructions to better condition children as future workers. The Victorian work ethic promoted by many…

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