8340 Global Virtual Teams

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8340 Global Virtual Teams


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Geographical Diversity in Global Virtual Teams: 

Geographical Diversity in Global Virtual Teams Jeffrey T. Polzer C. Brad Crisp Harvard University Indiana University Sirkka L. Jarvenpaa Won-Yong Kim University of Texas Harvard University


Agenda Theory Study overview Hypotheses Methods Results Discussion


Theory Global virtual teams (O'Hara-Devereaux and Johansen 1994) Highly geographically dispersed; transcend temporal and geographical boundaries Group diversity research (Williams & O’Reilly, 1998) “Value in diversity” approach Members’ differences cause misunderstandings, destructive conflict, and decreased trust due to social categorization processes Faultline hypothesis (Lau & Murnighan, 1998) “Faultlines” are differences that divide a group into distinct subgroups. Strongest intergroup dynamics occur across strong faultlines. Our interest is geographical dispersion as a dimension of diversity

Group Diversity: 

Group Diversity Geographical Dispersion: Configuration of locations where a location entails a unique class in a unique university (colocated people were physically present in the same classroom at regular intervals) Diversity arises from differences that are readily and immediately obvious (Pelled, 1996) in virtual teams, geographical differences are potentially more salient than other differences such as demographic characteristics ( the type of electronic media affects the salience of temporal dispersion). Location can influence the amount and nature of interaction – the differential availability of communication media


Definitions: Global virtual team: A self-managing knowledge work team, with distributed expertise that forms and disbands to address specific organizational goals; fluid membership, leadership, and boundaries; advanced use of communication and information technologies Trust: “the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other party” (Mayer et al, 1995, p. 712). Conflict: Conflict refers to disagreements (manifested or latent) among group members that imply perceived incompabilities or discrepant views and goals among the members (Jehn, 1995).

Study Overview: 

Study Overview Research question How does geographical diversity affect trust and conflict? We compare three configurations of geographical diversity in six-person groups: Fully dispersed (six locations, one person in each location) Three subgroups (three locations, two people in each location) Two subgroups (two locations, three people in each location)

Three Configurations of Geographical Diversity: 

Three Configurations of Geographical Diversity Fully Dispersed Three Subgroups Two Subgroups


Hypotheses Diversity hypothesis Greater geographical diversity will cause more conflict, less trust. H1a: Fully dispersed groups will experience more conflict and less trust than groups with three subgroups, which will in turn experience more conflict and less trust than groups with two subgroups. Faultline hypothesis Stronger faultline will cause more conflict, less trust. H1b: Groups with two subgroups will experience more conflict and less trust than groups with three subgroups, which will in turn experience more conflict and less trust than fully dispersed groups.

Diversity Hypothesis: 

Diversity Hypothesis Fully Dispersed Three Subgroups Two Subgroups Most Conflict Least Trust Least Conflict Most Trust

Faultline Hypothesis: 

Faultline Hypothesis Fully Dispersed Three Subgroups Two Subgroups Least Conflict Most Trust Most Conflict Least Trust


Methods Participants 270 MBA students at 15 schools Each assigned to a six-person group for six week project (45 groups) Group task: Conceive and write a business plan Design Three colocation conditions: Fully dispersed, three subgroups, two subgroups Dependent measures Ratings of conflict and trust on end-of-project survey Ratings of group overall and each group member

Methods cont.: 

Methods cont. Controls By Design Equal size subgroups Maximum demographic heterogeneity (e.g., each group had at least 4 home countries represented) By Measurement Team experience Nationality Gender Age Communication volume Temporal dispersion Possible Confounds: university and class however potential confounding factors do not favor either hypothesis


Results Group-level analyses (ANCOVA): Mean Conflict Fully dispersed Three subgroups Two subgroups 2.40 a 2.53 a,b 2.85 b Mean Trust Fully dispersed Three subgroups Two subgroups 3.20 a 2.88 b 2.76 b Group-level results support the faultline hypothesis (H1b)


Results Dyad-level analyses Quadratic Assignment Procedure to account for non-independence Significantly less conflict, more trust between colocated dyads than distant dyads Pattern of results holds within two-subgroup and three-subgroup conditions Dyad-level results support the faultline hypothesis (H1b)


Discussion The configuration of the virtual team matters! Watch for hybrid forms! Colocated subgroups provide many practical benefits in virtual teams, but this study suggests a potential downside. Colocated subgroups can create faultlines that increase conflict and decrease trust compared to greater dispersion (and presumably no dispersion). Faultline strength may increase with: Greater similarity within subgroups (language, local culture, etc.) More face-to-face communication within subgroups Purely electronic mediated communication can alleviate the boundaries between ingroup and outgroup

Future Research: 

Future Research Team Design/Team configurations Fluidity in teams (e.g., changing membership) Manager (vs. self-managing team) perspective Remedial Interventions enabled by IT Theorizing the “context” Multilevel research

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