This session covered the issue of trust which is now becoming more important due to the advent of Virtual organisations.The concept of virtual organisations have been discussed in Introna’s article but to say that the concept has been articulated or nailed down would be a fallacy.
The notion of virtual organisation is difficult to grasp and the reasons why virtual organisations have started to work well in recent years are still being thought through. Introna’s article has suggested that in the recent years ‘virtual has successfully become the metaphor for technology’. The dictionary definition of ‘virtual’ is ‘almost, even if not exactly or in everyway’ and this is now evident in the neologisms made popular in IT industry as ‘virtual memory’, ‘virtual computer’, virtual reality’, ‘virtual space’. In each of these instances virtual connotes the information technology which possesses the ability to:
- provide a way of making a computer system act as if it had more capacity than it really possessed
- give the user illusion to exist at any time or any place they were needed
Introna’s article has highlighted some elements of the virtual organisations
- Strategic alliance: The key attribute of virtual organisations is partnering and is are all about alliances and outsourcing agreements
- Core Competence: The concept of core competencies furnishes the creation of virtual organisations in that it forges a form of partnership which is essentially made up of partners who are deemed to apply their core competencies to deliver world class products & services.
- Trust: The partners in a virtual organisation exhibit ‘unprecedented levels of trust and commitment’
- Organisation restructuring: Virtual organisation is greatly dependent on its structure for successful execution of identified work tasks.
The second part of Introna’s article presents a critique on the notion of virtual organisations and following points were covered
- Trust & Conflict: Virtual organisations have an issue with trust as people are remotely located and miscommunication often results in conflict
- Whole & Parts: Virtual Organisations assume that all partners will bring their core competence together resulting in knowledge sharing and better execution but that rarely happens
- Knowledge & Language: Organisational knowledge is a tacit commodity and the question remains how do we locate it to make it available to the partners in a virtual organisation.
The concept of trust was taken up in more detail in reference to the offshoring case study in the Kelly & Noonan’s article between an Irish start-up firm and a big Indian outsourcer.
The case study highlights the process of trust building between two stranger organisations and the challenges faced during this journey.
Seamas also touched upon Gidden’s distinctive and non-cognitive conception of trust where it is defined as ‘emotional commitment’ and how this makes the parties involved vulnerable and can potentially risk their very existence.
The reasons why trust is so difficult to generate and maintain in post modern world were analysed. The following reasons for the rising mistrust were given
- Globalisation: Giddens (1990) argues that the risk profile of the modern globalized world has been dramatically altered as institutional reflexivity has increased and social relations are disembedded from local contexts and stretched over extended tracts of time–space. These new social arrangements have problematized the means by which individuals establish and maintain a sense of psychological security and coherent identity (Giddens, 1991), which has resulted in the simultaneous transformation, and renewed importance, of trust relations.
- Decay in social institutions: Decay in institutions like Church, kinship, family, worker unions have resulted in loss of social settings which earlier had helped in generation of trust.
- Technology & complexities around it: Gidden’s distinguishes between two types of trust relations prevalent in modern societies: trust in abstract systems and personal trust. The former are based, to a large extent, on faceless commitments while the latter depend on facework commitments (trust relations that are sustained). The investment of trust in abstract systems like aeroplane, Computer OS is a central feature of modern life. No one can completely opt out of the abstract systems involved in modern institutions yet, due to their diversity and complexity, our knowledge of their workings is necessarily limited. Therefore, trust (or faceless commitments) be-comes a very important means of generating the ‘leap of faith’ that practical engagement with them demands. Often, however, engagement with abstract systems involves encounters with individuals who ‘represent’ or are ‘responsible’ for them (e.g. in the case of visiting a medical doctor who represents a broader system of medical knowledge). Such contacts with experts are very consequential and take place at access points, which form the meeting ground of facework and faceless commitments.