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Abstract

This paper reports on a study of the “switching model” of virtual organization. A computer program (voSwitch) has been developed and implemented as a first approximation to a quantitative version of the model. The switching model interprets virtual organization as a management paradigm, rather than as a particular form or type of organization. In this view, “virtuality” is a matter of degree rather than of kind. That is to say, some functions, processes or structures within a given firm or enterprise may be organized virtually and others not. The switching model captures the flexibility and leverage that can be achieved when managers maintain a strict logical separation between the requirements of a task and the means for satisfying those requirements. Switching is an important element in many definitions of virtual organization in the literature and thus the model offers a useful theoretical framework for empirical investigation of hypotheses about virtual organization. The research described in this paper has two major objectives: 1) to develop a precise, quantitative framework for the switching model of virtual organization that helps to specify the model’s domain of applicability; and 2) to demonstrate a quantitative instrument that shows the utility of the switching model and lays the foundation for development of a decision-support tool.

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