Information and Communication Media Assignment

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Literature ReviewDistributed work across different locations and/or working times is not a phenomenon of thelast 15 years. There are many instructive examples of how people collaborated across largerdistances in earlier times (King & Frost, 2002; O’Leary, Orlikowski, & Yates, 2002).However, with the rapid development of electronic information and communication media inthe last years, distributed work has become much easier, faster and more efficient. The first istelework (telecommuting) which is done partially or completely outside of the main companyworkplace with the aid of information and telecommunication services (Bailey & Kurland,2002; Konradt, Schmook, & Ma ̈lecke, 2000). Virtual groups exists when several teleworkersare combined and each member reports to the same manager. In contrast, a virtual team existswhen the members of a virtual group interact with each other in order to accomplish commongoals (Lipnack & Stamps, 1997). This distinction between virtual group and virtual team isparallel to the distinction between conventional groups and teams in the organizationalliterature (Kozlowski & Bell, 2003). Finally, virtual communities are larger entities ofdistributed work in which members participate via the Internet, guided by common purposes,roles and norms. In contrast to virtual teams, virtual communities are not implemented withinan organizational structure but are usually initiated by some of their members. Examples ofvirtual communities are Open Source software projects (Hertel, Niedner, & Herrmann, 2003;Moon & Sproull, 2002) or scientific collaboratories (Finholt, 2002). For reasons offeasibility, the current review is restricted to virtual teams. Apart from these more generaldifferentiations, the more specific definition of virtual teams is still controversial (Bell &Kozlowski, 2002; Griffith & Neale, 2000; Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000). As a minimalconsensus, virtual teams consist of (a) two or more persons who (b) collaborate interactivelyto achieve common goals, while (c) at least one of the team members works at a differentlocation, organization, or at a different time so that (d) communication and coordination ispredominantly based on electronic communication media (email, fax, phone, videoconference, etc.). It is important to note that the latter two aspects in this definition areconsidered as dimensions rather than as dichotomized criteria that distinguish virtual teamsfrom conventional face-to-face teams. While extreme cases of virtual teams can be imaginedin which all members are working at different locations and communicate only via electronicmedia, most of the existing virtual teams have some face-to-face contact. At the same time,electronic communication media are not only used in virtual teams but also in conventionalteams. Instead of trying to draw a clear line between virtual and non-virtual teams, it might bemore fruitful to consider the relative virtuality of a team and its consequences formanagement (Axtell et al., 2004; Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Griffith & Neale, 2001). From thisperspective, virtuality of a team is one aspect among other team characteristics (e.g.,diversity, autonomy, time-restriction) that might broaden our understanding of teamwork ingeneral. Potential indicators or measures of virtuality are the relation of face-to-face tononface-to-face communication, the average distance between the members, or the number ofworking sites represented in the team together with the number of members at each site(Kirkman et al., 2004; O’Leary & Cummings, 2002). Similar to other human resourcepolicies, the consequences of implementing high virtuality in teams can be evaluated at theindividual, organizational, and societal level. At the individual level, potential advantages of
high virtuality include higher flexibility and time control together with higher responsibilities,work motivation, and empowerment of the team members. Challenges on the other hand arefeelings of isolation and decreased interpersonal contact, increased chances ofmisunderstandings and conflict escalation, and increased opportunities of role ambiguity andgoal conflicts due to commitments to different work-units. At the organizational level, virtualteams have particularly strategic advantages. For instance, teams can be staffed based onmembers’ expertise instead of their local availability, teams can work around the clock byhaving team members in different time zones, speed and flexibility in response to marketdemands can be increased, a closer connection to suppliers and/or customers can beaccomplished, and expenses for traveling and office space can be reduced. Potentialchallenges at this level include difficulties to supervise team members’ activities and toprevent unproductive developments in time, along with additional costs for appropriatetechnology, issues of data security, and additional training programs. Finally, at the societallevel, the implementation of virtual teams can help to develop regions with low infrastructureand employment rate, to integrate persons with low mobility due to handicaps or family careduties, and to decrease environmental strains by reducing commuting traffic and air pollution.However, virtual teams can also increase the isolation between people due to a technicalwork environment. These numerous advantages and challenges at all three evaluation levelscall for guidance in order to profit from the advantages and to minimize the potentialdrawbacks.Most research has focused on the advantages and disadvantages of virtual teams. Relative toface-to-face teams, benefits attributed to the use of virtual teams include the ability tocompose a team of experts flung across space and time, increases in staffing flexibility tomeet market demands, and cost savings from reduced travel (Kirkman, Gibson, & Kim, 2012;Kirkman & Malthieu, 2005; Stanko & Gibson, 2009). Disadvantages include lower levels ofteam cohesion, work satisfaction, trust, cooperative behavior, social control, and commitmentto team goals; all factors that can negatively impact team performance. There is consensusamong scholars that virtual teams are more difficult to lead than face-to-face teams (Bell &Kozlowski, 2002; Duarte & Snyder, 2001; Gibson & Cohen, 2003; Hinds & Kiesler, 2002;Lipnack & Stamps, 2000). As a consequence of the lack of face-to-face contact andgeographical dispersion, as well as the (often) asynchronous nature of communication, it ismore difficult for team leaders to perform traditional hierarchical leadership behaviors suchas motivating members and managing team dynamics (Avolio et al., 2000; Bell & Kozlowski,2002; Purvanova & Bono, 2009). It has been argued that leader influence can be extended byhaving leadership augmented by new media (Avolio & Kahai, 2003; Avolio et al., 2000) andthat team leaders simply have to learn how to use and apply those media properly. Findingsfrom empirical research show that getting virtual teams to function equivalently to face-to-face teams requires virtual team leaders to invest much more time and effort (Purvanova &Bono, 2009), although showing more initiative, trying harder, and investing more time andenergy might not always be feasible. Some scholars suggest that leadership functions shouldbe supplemented by providing structural supports (Bell & Kozlowki, 2002; Hinds & Kiesler,2002; Kahai, Sosik, & Avolio, 2003). For example, structuring rewards to provide incentivesfor performance should result in higher motivation. Another suggested approach is to
supplement leadership by distributing leadership to team members (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002).Sharing leadership with team members is based on the premise that leadership should not bethe sole responsibility of a hierarchical leader, but should be collectively exercised byempowering and developing individual team members (Kirkman, Rosen, Tesluk, & Gibson,2004). Although this view of leadership challenges in virtual teams has consensus in theliterature, it has not been subjected to empirical verification. With respect to improving teamperformance, it is important to understand the extent to which the influence of hierarchicalleadership is attenuated (or not) as team virtuality increases. Moreover, if the influence ofhierarchical leadership is diminished as is suspected, then the extent to which it can besupplemented by structural supports and shared team leadership (and, potentially, othersupplements) becomes a critical target for theory and research extensions. To examine theseissues, our conceptual model treats hierarchical leadership, structural supports, and sharedteam leadership as inputs to team performance. The model is illustrated in Figure 1. The basicpremise of our approach is that supplementing hierarchical leadership with shared leadershipand structural supports will be more relevant when teams are more virtual in nature. Thus, thedegree of team virtuality is predicted to moderate the relationships between hierarchicalleadership, structural supports, and shared team leadership with team performance. There aretwo notable aspects of the model. First, it is focused on the contribution of these input factorsto team performance. The model does not focus on mediating processes at this stage of theresearch. The primary reason for this focused approach is to enable a clear evaluation of themoderating effects of virtuality on the contributions of hierarchical leadership, structuralsupports, and shared leadership to team performance. Second, the inputs are conceptualizedas distinct higher-order factors or construct composites, rather than unitary constructs. Thisallows each of the inputs to be conceptualized as a composite of established constructs. Forexample, hierarchical leadership is represented by transformational leadership, leader–member exchange, and supervisory mentoring. Each of these constructs, as core aspects ofhierarchical leadership, is supported by a body of theory and empirical research withestablished measures. Using established constructs and measures of hierarchical leadership asinput factors allows us to clearly assess the potential supplementary influence provided bystructural supports and shared leadership. The same conceptual and measurement approachusing established constructs and measures is applied to structural supports and sharedleadership.With the growth and evolution of virtual teams during the past decade, researchers havefocused on the conceptualization and measurement of team virtuality (e.g., Bell &Kozlowski, 2002; Hinds, Liu, & Lyon, 2011; Kirkman & Malthieu, 2005). In early research,virtuality was treated as distinctly categorical; researchers applied a simple dichotomouscharacterization of virtual and face-to-face teams. More recently, however, scholars haveasserted that this simple characterization glosses over a variety of nuanced dimensions thatunderlie a range of differences in the degree of virtuality (Gibson & Gibbs, 2006;MacCallum, Zhang, Preacher, & Rucker, 2002; Mesmer-Magnus et al., 2011). Whereas earlyconceptualizations focused exclusively on geographic distribution, subsequentconceptualizations added electronic communication and noted differences between the use ofasynchronous and synchronous communications (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002). Empirical
research, accordingly, refers to both the facets of geographic distribution (e.g., O’Leary &Cummings, 2007; O’Leary & Mortensen, 2010) as well as the relative amount of e-communication media usage (Griffith, Sawyer, & Neale, 2003; Kirkman et al., 2004;MesmerMagnus et al., 2011) as indicative of “team virtuality.” This is now the establishedapproach to conceptualizing virtuality.However, virtual teams increasingly span national boundaries and differences in culturalbackground are becoming more important to consider as an aspect of virtuality (Hinds et al.,2011; Staples & Zhao, 2006; Tsui, Nifadkar, & Ou, 2007). Indeed, Hinds et al. (2011)criticized the lack of inclusion of national and cultural differences in conceptualizations ofvirtuality. As “organizations are increasingly compelled to establish a presence in multiplecountries as a means of reducing labor costs, capturing specialized expertise, andunderstanding emerging markets... they often create conditions in which workers mustcollaborate across national boundaries” (Hinds et al., 2011, p. 136). Accordingly, researchersneed to put the global back into “global work” by considering cultural differences. Researchis increasingly considering cultural differences as an important component of virtuality inglobally dispersed teams (Chen, Kirkman, Kim, Farh, & Tangirala, 2010; Gibson & Gibbs,2006; Tsui et al., 2007). Based on this evolving view of virtuality, our conceptualizationcomprises geographic distribution (e.g., O’Leary & Cummings, 2007), relative amount of e-communication media usage (e.g., Kirkman et al., 2004), and cultural diversity (e.g., Gibson& Gibbs, 2006; Hinds et al., 2011; Tsui et al., 2007) as an addition to the establishedcomponents of team virtuality.In virtual teams, the stability and reduction of ambiguity provided by structural supports maycompensate for the turbulence and unpredictability that characterizes virtual teamwork(Zaccaro & Bader, 2003; Zigurs, 2003). Bell and Kozlowski (2002) argued that because ofthe geographic dispersion of virtual teams, an important function of leadership is to createstructures and routines that substitute for direct leadership influence and regulate teambehavior. Consistent with research that suggests structural supports have direct relationshipswith outcomes that supplement hierarchical leadership (Podsakoff et al., 1996), our modelconceptualizes them as having a direct relationship rather than a moderating one. Virtualteam members usually work on virtual teams in addition to their line function and researchhas highlighted the importance of rewarding virtual team members for both aspects.Geographical dispersion can result in a lack of motivation to focus on virtual teamresponsibilities, makes monitoring of virtual team members difficult, and also creates higherlevels of anonymity (Wiesenfeld, Raghuram, & Garud, 1999). Further, reward systems needto be fair, such that individual employees perceive they are being rewarded according to theirinputs (e.g., effort, time, performance, etc.) on their virtual team work (Colquitt, 2004;Dulebohn & Martocchio, 1998; Schminke, Cropanzano, & Rupp, 2002). Being rewarded in afair and transparent way for the work performed on the virtual team will lead employees toput more efforts toward virtual teamwork. Second, a major component of structural supportsis the communication and information management systems used for virtual teams. Buildingand managing communication and information management systems that facilitateconnectivity, remove perceptions of distance, and facilitate the organization and accessibility
of information can reduce feelings of lack of trust, anonymity, deindividuation, andperceptions of low social control. In addition, virtual teamwork is typically white-collar,knowledge based, intellectual, and interdependent. The management of communication andinformation is central to cognitive tasks (Clampitt & Downs, 2004; Faraj & Sproull, 2000).Thus, a key aspect of performance in virtual teams is managing the “triangle” of factors:shared knowledge (in changing and flexible organization structure), via electroniccommunication systems, and with experts as primary collaborators (Griffith et al., 2003;Kanawattanachai & Yoo, 2007; Malhotra & Majchrzak, 2004). As a form of structuralsupport, managing communication and information flow (Fleishman et al., 1991) includeinformation infrastructure and quality of information received, as well as the transparencyand adequacy of communication and information management. Communication andinformation management are posited to influence virtual team performance. We expect thatteam virtuality moderates the relationship between structural supports and team performance.Shared team leadership describes a mutual influence process, characterized by collaborativedecision-making and shared responsibility, whereby team members lead each other towardthe achievement of goals (Day, Gronn, & Salas, 2004; Pearce & Conger, 2003). Shared teamleadership is presumed to create stronger bonds among the team members; facilitate trust,cohesion, and commitment; and mitigate disadvantages of virtual teams (Pearce & Conger,2003). Thus, sharing leadership functions with team members provides a mechanism tosupplement hierarchical leadership in virtual teams (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Pearce, Yoo, &Alavi, 2004; Tyran, Tyran, & Shepherd, 2003). Scholars have argued that shared leadership isa more appropriate form of team leadership than hierarchical leadership represented by thesolo leader (Brown & Gioia, 2002; Day et al., 2004; Yukl, 2010). Reasons for this include thenotion that team member communication is less formal and less hierarchically based, and,therefore, team members can more easily overcome communication difficulties (Bell &Kozlowki, 2002; Pearce et al., 2004). In addition, work processes in virtual teams arecharacterized as cognitively loaded, highly interdependent, yet autonomous. Complexteamwork requires the use of self-managing teams (Bell & Kozlowski, 2002; Pearce, 2004;Pearce & Manz, 2005). Team self-management and empowerment, in this context, has beenshown to enhance virtual team performance in a sample 35 sales and service virtual teams ina high-technology organization (Kirkman et al., 2004). There is no “one best way” tomeasure shared leadership. The concept is in its infancy (Avolio, Jung, Murry, &Sivasbramaniam, 1996; Carson, Tesluk, & Marrone, 2007; Mayo, Meindl, & Pastor, 2003;Mehra, Smith, Dixon, & Robertson, 2006; Pearce & Conger, 2003), and, thus, a challengefacing researchers is determining how to measure shared team leadership. One primaryapproach has simply treated shared team leadership as analogous to hierarchical leadership,but conceptualized at the team level of analysis (Pearce & Sims, 2002). This approachassesses shared leadership as collective concept in the form of traditional leadershipbehaviors (e.g., transformational leadership) that are performed by team members. Typically,a traditional leadership measure—like transformational leadership—is referenced to the teamas a collective to comprise shared team leadership. However, consistent with otherresearchers (Carson et al., 2007; Mayo et al., 2003; Mehra et al., 2006), we do notconceptualize shared team leadership as parallel with hierarchical leadership. Team members
do not need to necessarily perform the same kind of leadership behaviors as their supervisors(Künzle et al., 2010; Morgeson et al., 2010) in order to engage in shared leadership. Rather,shared leadership can be conceptualized as the extent to which team members behave in waysto prompt the team processes that underlie team performance. Team process researchers havedistinguished cognitive, affective-motivational, and behavioral functions as keys to teameffectiveness (Kozlowski & Bell, 2003; Kozlowski & Ilgen, 2006). Team leadereffectiveness, as outlined in functional leadership (McGrath, 1962), is based on leadersaddressing the cognitive, affective, and behavioral functioning of their teams (Zaccaro,Rittman, & Marks, 2001). These leadership functions can be performed through informalleadership mechanisms (Morgeson et al., 2010) such as shared team leadership. In capturingshared leadership in virtual teams, affectivemotivational functions can be represented interms of perceived team support, which is related to building trust and team cohesion(Kasper-Fuehrer & Ashkanasy, 2001) and may compensate for specific gaps resulting fromthe lack of face-to-face meetings in virtual teams, that is, lack of trust, and higher levels ofanonymity (Jarvenpaa, 2004; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999).In the industrial economy organizations were typically structured hierarchically and,consequently, information was filtered through hierarchical structures and formal authority(Jarvempaa & Tanriverdi, 2003), whereas in the new networked economy, power andinformation are hyperlinked and informal (Pulley, McCarthy, and Taylor, 2000). Insideorganizations, there has been a movement from hierarchies towards flat, web-likeorganizations that enable better knowledge flows among business and allow spanning oforganizational boundaries (Jarvempaa & Tanriverdi, 2003). The boundaries have becomeblurred (Jarvempaa & Tanriverdi 2003), which facilitates relationship-building insideorganizations mainly through strong ties, and between different organizations through weakties (Granowetter, 1973). Organizations no longer operate as stand-alone entities, but createnetworks of customers, suppliers, and partners (Jarvempaa & Tanriverdi, 2003) enabled byinformation and communication technologies. At a broader level, economic development,such as the deregulation of many product and service industries, have led to reformulations inorganizations (Cascio & Shurygailo, 2003). The growing popularity of inter organizationalalliances, and a shift from production to service-related business (Kayworth & Leidner,2002), have changed the ways to organize and manage work. Such changes have mainly beenfacilitated by information and communication technologies that improve knowledgemanagement (Jarvempaa & Tanriverdi, 2003) and dissemination of information on the globallevel, and have created new working methods and organizational structures increasingflexibility (Townsend, DeMarie, & Hendrickson, 1998), enhancing more effectivegoalreaching and enabling organizational success in global setting. In consequence, theexponential explosion in communication technologies has resulted in greater frequency ofdaily interactions with different actors (Zaccaro & Bader, 2003) who may be dispersed indifferent units of the same organization, in diversified geographic locations nationally orinternationally, and in different time zones throughout the world. As a result, organizationalwork as well as leadership have become increasingly global (Zaccaro & Bader, 2003) due tospanned organizational boundaries (Jarvempaa & Tanriverdi, 2003), and web-like workingenvironments based on the use of information and communication technology. Companies
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