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Author Tucker, Robert ♦ Panteli, Niki
Source ACM Digital Library
Content type Text
Publisher Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
File Format PDF
Language English
Abstract Introduction Our broad contention in this article is that though the current understanding of virtual teams has advanced in significant areas over the last few years, it has not taken sufficient account of power dynamics within virtual teams nor sought to explore the nature of power within geographically distributed teams. Indeed, despite the overwhelming interest on virtual teams, our understanding of computermediated interactions and virtual team dynamics has remained limited. Reliance on mediated interactions and especially those that are text-based and asynchronous such as email has been seen to inhibit the development of good working and collaborative $relationships;^{2,3,4}$ such views often derive from the media richness theory which suggests that face-to-face is a richer information $medium.^{1}$ Our argument, however, is that even though the value of face-to-face communication in creating and promoting a rich information context needs to be highly appreciated, we also have to acknowledge that significant interactions remain computermediated and provide extensive opportunities for trust development. The challenge is to be able to manage power differentials effectively in order to allow collaboration to foster within a virtual team environment. Power, defined as the capability of one party to exert influence on another to act in a prescribed manner is often a function of both dependence and the use of that dependence as $leverage.^{5,6}$ The question therefore is: how is power exercised in global virtual teams and how can it effectively impact trust development and overall team performance in such distributed environments? We pursued a qualitative study of 18 global distributed teams within a global IT organization, a Fortune 500 organization. The study involved interviews with individuals in the specific organization who were part of culturally diverse, geographically dispersed and technology-enabled global virtual teams. Interviewees were encouraged to recall their experiences from working in a global virtual team that they judged to have 'worked well,' and conversely their experiences from working in a team that 'did not work well.' This approach resulted in two case scenarios from each interviewee. The interviews were guided by open-ended questions which aimed to explore the background to the team, the performance levels, the distribution of power amongst the team members, the levels of trust within the team, and how trust changed over time. Analysis found 11 scenarios where teams worked well, seven where teams did not work well and two where the performance improved over time. From these, 7 teams experienced good trust relationships, seven did not, and four developed trust over time. Table 1 presents the main findings from our interviews and shows the key characteristics or each team in terms of performance, power differentials and trust. The findings are interpretivist in nature and are based on the interviewees' own experiences and perceptions. Based on the findings, the teams were categorised as 'High-Trust' and 'Low-Trust' teams and are distinguished here in terms of their power dynamcis. The four teams that developed trust over time fall within the former category; also when conflicting views were expressed, the decision was based on the consensus of the team members interviewed (such as Team 1). Table 2 details the common power issues identified within 'High-Trust' and 'Low-Trust' global virtual teams.
Description Affiliation: University of Bath, Bath, U.K. (Panteli, Niki)
Age Range 18 to 22 years ♦ above 22 year
Educational Use Research
Education Level UG and PG
Learning Resource Type Article
Publisher Date 2005-08-01
Publisher Place New York
Journal Communications of the ACM (CACM)
Volume Number 52
Issue Number 12
Page Count 3
Starting Page 113
Ending Page 115

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Source: ACM Digital Library