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CENTRIM Research A to Z Managing Knowledge Spaces: Mapping the Effects of Dispersed Teamworking on Project Performance

Managing Knowledge Spaces: Mapping the Effects of Dispersed Teamworking on Project Performance

Benchmarking dispersed and co-located project teams to produce the Knowledge Spaces Tool.

Managers in industry currently have no framework showing the effects of different spatial arrangements on project teams. The virtual team model claims that spatially dispersed individuals can work together effectively, through using the expanding capabilities of network technology. By contrast, recent work on knowledge management (KM) increasingly stresses the importance of co-location, for a shared context between team members, through which they can communicate. While the debate is jammed, managers designing teams need to better understand the effects of spatial decisions firstly, on how teams manage knowledge, and secondly the consequences for project performance.

Aims and objectives

The ultimate objective of the proposed research was to advance knowledge and understanding of the effects of spatial decisions and thereby to improve the effectiveness of users in industry. Specifically, our aims were:

  • To research and compare the knowledge management processes of project teams working in different spatial configurations from virtual organisation to co-location.
  • To develop indicators to assess effects on project performance.
  • To develop a diagnostic tool that will help managers to quickly understand the ramifications of differing project team designs and associated KM processes, for project performance in different industrial contexts.


The method involved three tasks: first, close observation and interviewing of project teams in their spatial contexts to identify the KM practices; second, the design and implementation of a project survey to assess the effects on performance; third, the development of a diagnostic tool. Each stage was refined and validated by workshops with the project's industrial partners.

The Knowledge Spaces Tool

When designing teams, managers and team leaders using the diagnostic tool are able to evaluate systematically firstly, the informal and formal practices associated with different spatial configurations, and secondly, the expected impact of these on project performance. The structural constraints around dispersed teamworking are shown, while revealing the scope for control and intervention. The effects of introducing organisational practices, tools and technologies are made explicit and grounded in real-world observation.

More information about the tool 

Other outputs and activities

Please find a comprehensive list of publications, academic seminars, industry-oriented presentations and workshops available to download as pdf:  Other outputs and activities

Research team

Nick Marshall

Jonathan Sapsed

Ammon Salter (SPRU)

Research partners

Bombardier Transportation

CAE Invertron


Montgomery Watson

Ove Arup

Runtime Collective




2002 - 2004