Face-to-face interactions in self-organizing distributed teams

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Academy of Management Conference, Honolulu, HI (2005)




We explore the role of face-to-face meetings in the life of distributed teams using data from Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) development teams. Such distributed teams are part of many organizations’ new vision of management in the 21st century. Practitioner research has suggested the need for face-to-face meetings when a team is formed, but few studies have considered the role of face-to-face meetings during a team’s life. Based on a qualitative inductive analysis of data from interviews and observations at FLOSS conferences, we identify a variety of settings in which FLOSS developers meet face-to-face, activities performed in these settings and benefits obtained. Contrary to prior research, we find that FLOSS developers generally do not meet until the project is well under way. We also find that an additional benefit of face-to-face meetings is time away from a regular job. We conclude by noting limitations in our data collection due to a focus on core developers in large projects and with directions for further research.

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