CSCW Session – Distributed Interdisciplinary Teams


Coordinating High Interdependency Tasks in Asymmetric Distributed Teams

Petra Saskia Bayerl and Kristina Lauche, Delft University of Technology

Challenges of remote teams

  • Coordination of tasks and processes
  • Technology restrictions
  • Process and motivation losses
  • Conflicts and trust

Whoah, they looked at offshore oil production teams and the control people onshore.

Study aim: coordination for highly interpendent taks in distributed teams in foffshore oil and gas production. Implications for technology support.

Cutting Into COllaboration: Understanding Coordination in Distributed Medical Work

Collaboration is important: when it’s distributed it gets more difficult.

Loose collaboration structure can make coordination difficult.


  • understand work practices ian coordination in research
  • tie practice to cscw issues sush as awareness and informal interaction

Research context:

  • Hospital in big city, biomedical engineering dept in small down, 240 miles separated.
  • Surgery dept: Define requirements, apply materials, conduct animal studies, analyze patient data
  • BME side: develop and design materials, developm modesl, build materials and devices.


  • Different views of time: surgeons go to OR all the time, engineers are timely and pissed off when surgeons miss meetings.
  • Communication: surgeons had different views of how they should be communicated to.

Research goals conflicts

  • Surgeons: clinical stuides, clear application, quick adoption
  • BMG: Innovation and new materials, patents, try several attempts.

So, successful projects sometimes, how did they overcome challenges:

  • Use human mediators
  • Opportunistic schedule adjustment (but not always aware of remote colleagues)
  • Optimize joint retreats and one-day trips

Implications for design

  • Flexible calendaring
  • Improved activity awareness

Future work

  • what makes project succeed: how much does coordination matter, how do these strategies work longer term
  • What does low-level coordination look like? Who and when do collaborators communicate? What do they share?


  • Key difficulties in coordination: perceptons of hierarchy; priorities, scheduling and work locations; research goals
  • Strategies to overcome: human mediators; maximizing face to face contact; opportunistic schedule adjustment and ad hoc communication

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