A reader recently asked me why virtual communities are not comon in public organisations.
As I have emphasized in previous posts, virtual organization is a broad term that covers natural as well as designed communities.
The public/governmental sector is traditionally associated with rigid, policy based structures. It is well known that bureaucracies (as described by Weber, and later – Mintzberg) are not particularly good at stimulating collaborative innovation and sharing of knowledge. Hence the limited number of natural virtual networks in public organizations.
However, the public sector is increasingly “copying” strategic development initiatives from the private sector. For instance, public organisations are increasingly introducing shared services models and even outsourcing, ie what you could call designed virtual organisations.
As far as I know, the studies of virtual teams / virtual organising within the public sector are very limited. My guess would be that the barriers for succesful introduction of virtual teams are at least as high as in other sectors if not higher. However, lets not forget that public servants are embracing various kind of open networks too, such as linkedin, facebook and even twitter. The big question is when public organisations will claim their space and start leveraging the immense opportunities hidden in developing and exploring internal and external networks