Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Ilsley, Paul J.

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education


Virtual corporations; Communication in management


Within the past decade, the way we do business has changed dramatically. The electronic superhighway has allowed us to expand our thinking in terms of customers, employees and information. A greater concern with work-family balance has resulted in more people preferring flexible schedules and choices about the location of the workplace. Company rightsizing resulted in more independent contractors and small specialty firms as people took a chance on stretching their entrepreneurial abilities. These events have all contributed to the formation of a new type of organizational structure: the virtual organization. This ethnographic study explores the concept of the virtual organization in general, and investigates what makes a virtual organization effective from the point of view of the individuals who work in such structures. The study also shows how adult-education principles are integral to the workings of a virtual organization. Virtual organization workers in all levels of the organization, and representing several different industries, contributed to this study. Over a period of 10 years, informal discussions, formal interviews, and personal experience yielded information about working in a virtual organization. The pivotal themes that emerged from the study are trust, communication, and collaborative learning. In order to succeed in a virtual organization, workers need to trust one another. The higher the degree of trust, the more communication will occur between virtual workers. When an organization is working optimally, the virtual workers are participating with each other and trusting one another to lead the team in their particular area of subject-matter expertise. In this way, active communication and a high level of trust can lead to collaborative learning. Trust, communication, and collaborative learning is the symbiotic relationship that forms the foundation upon which a virtual organization can build and thrive. The ultimate ability of management to create an environment where a virtual worker is encouraged to trust, communicate, and learn from other workers will be a key determinant in the virtual organization's success. Policies encouraging this environment and reflecting human-resources development principles are recommended to managers at the conclusion of this study.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [137]-151)


xvi, 151 pages




Northern Illinois University

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