Building Trust within Virtual Projects



By Youcef J-T. Zidane, PhD

Algiers, Algeria


The world is becoming more digitized and digitalized; thus more virtual projects. This paper explores and discusses some issues in building trust in virtual project teams, like cultural differences, geographical distance, language barriers, time zone and how that effects the creation and maintaining of trust in that type of project teams. Nevertheless, to what extent is trust needed in the building of virtual teams? Moreover, how can we define it in this situation, is it created or already existing? In addition, if it is created should we think about how to maintain it?  And to what extent the virtual teams experience swift trust and how can that help to achieve the goals correctly or may affect negatively on the project success? We may also list some negative or positive effects of type of leadership on the building of the trust among the individuals of those teams. We should notice that these kinds of teams may have only electronic mediation between them, so what is the effect of virtual communication tools on them and how does that contribute in the trust building or maybe opposite case lead to trust shattering?

Furthermore, as the subject of virtual project is recent one from the academic perspective, how can we interpret that, is it something that existed before but now comes to the surface because most organizations are adopting it, or is it something that we created to be used in the nowadays organizations? However, let us focus more about trust in virtual projects and teams, its existence, and building and sustaining it.

To go a little deeper in this topic and explore those challenges, this work has been done based on some academic works, introducing some trust models and including some empirical findings found in some previous researches and publications

Key words:       virtual projects, virtual teams, building trust, swift trust, leadership, communication.


Nowadays, information and communication technologies changed our life style in general, and particularly our professional life style. Many things have changed, in the way companies make their employees do the work; the existence of information and communication technologies lead global companies to adopt the virtual project teams as norm in their work. However, how can we explain that? Is it a choice, in the objective to make the outputs more efficient and the outcomes more effective, or is it by obligation due to the geographical distancing reason.

Several new industrial paradigms have emerged in recent years as an answer to the fast changing socio-economic challenges, such as the virtual manufacturing, lean enterprise, agile manufacturing, Fractal Company, and holonic manufacturing. Introduction of these concepts in enterprises has made them face successive “waves of restructuring” during the last decades. Emergence of the virtual enterprise / virtual organization paradigm falls in the natural sequence of these restructuring processes, enabled by the “explosive” developments in the information and communication technologies. The need to remain competitive in the open market forces companies to seek “world class” status and therefore, to concentrate on their core competencies while searching for alliances when additional skills / resources are needed to fulfil business opportunities.

These ideas had a more evident impact with the booming of the “outsourcing” wave in the 1980s. Outsourcing became very attractive when managers had to reduce the organization overheads and eliminate the internal inefficient services, the so called lean manufacturing, as it transfers the problem to the outside, namely other efficient service providers. For many enterprises, outsourcing some services allows them to concentrate on their core competencies. For others, outside contractors simply provide complementary services for which the company lacks adequate internal resources or skills. (Luis  and Hamideh, 2005).

So the existence of virtual organization is due to the existence of information and communication technologies which leads to the existence of virtual projects, and from their part lead to the existence of virtual teams.

The term “virtual organization” has been used and widely defined in the management literature since 1990. The major future of this organization is flexibility. Virtual teams are spinal coral of these organizations, which are considered as the most important type of virtual organization. (Kaboli et al, 2006).

Microsoft uses virtual teams to support major global corporate customer sales and post sales services as do other organizations that service global clients with interdependent customer needs crossing country boundaries (Tractinsky and Jarvenpaa, 1995).

Virtual teams promise the flexibility, responsiveness, lower costs, and improved resource utilization necessary to meet ever-changing task requirements in highly turbulent and dynamic global business environments (Mowshowitz, 1997)

From these statements, we can understand that the existence of virtual project teams is more about adding value to the organizations, which are adopting this concept in managing their projects. Nevertheless, to which extent that concept can function and give the desired outcome by the missing of the face-to-face interactions. Is there any secret to maintain effectiveness of these type of teams rather than the traditional teams.

In this paper, I will focus more on global virtual teams as illustrated in figure.1 in the next section, more or less on the virtual teams whose members are separated by location and/or culture and they are mediated by information and communication technologies. Nevertheless, I need take on consideration the language and the time zones. However, managing of global virtual teams requires a rare combination of talents like great leadership skills and the ability to manage high degrees of complexity.


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How to cite this paper: Zidane, Y.J-T. (2021). Building Trust within Virtual Projects; PM World Journal, Vol. X, Issue VII, July. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/pmwj107-Jul2021-Zidane-building-trust-within-virtual-teams.pdf

About the Author

Youcef J-T. Zidane, PhD

Centre for Research in Applied Economics for Development
Location: Algiers, Algeria


Youcef J-T. Zidane is a senior researcher in the Division of Human Development and Social Economics, Centre for Research in Applied Economics for Development in Algiers, Algeria.  He has over 15 years’ experience working internationally as a Senior Project Manager, developing, planning and delivering projects in many media for large-scale telecommunications infrastructure projects in many countries worldwide; then as project manager for research projects in the fields of innovation systems, system thinking, quality engineering and management, good governance, project management, and sustainable development.

Youcef obtained PEng in the field of Electronic and Electrical Engineering from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (INELEC) in Algeria. Then just after a Master of Technology (MTech) in microsystems from Germany; and went on to study a Master of Science in Engineering (Project and Quality Management), and a PhD in Quality Management and Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).  Youcef’s PhD focused on investigating the two dimensions of time (i.e., Chronos and Kairos), and its relationship in managing large-scale engineering projects.

Currently, Youcef works as a Senior Researcher at Centre for Research in Applied Economics for Development (CREAD, Algiers, Algeria), in the Division of Human Development and Social Economics, and he is the lab head of Knowledge-Based Economy. Youcef is in charge for research projects among them building ANIS “Algeria’s National Innovation System”, “Algeria’s Knowledge-based Economy”, “Quality engineering and management for research institutions and research projects”.