Task interdependence as enabler in discerned team performance episodes effecting innovative outcomes in partially distributed global teams : a categorisation-elaboration perspective

  • From an early understanding of organisational theorist (Bartlett & Ghosal, 1989; 1990), the function of global teams in transnational organisations has been conceptualised as the transformation of different embedded cultural practices for the development of a global strategy, products and services. Simultaneously, in the field, from the beginning of the 1990ies to the edge of the new millennium neo-liberal political developments enforced a free flow of capital on a global level (cf. Turner, 2006). In line with the development of respective connectivity via the internet the form of globally distributed team work was spread (Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000). In a study by Biggs (2000), published just after the millennial change, it was shown that 60% of tasks in multinational companies are accomplished by virtual teams. More recent data (Society for Human Resource Management, 2012) showed that the prevalence of such teams stayed more or less constant in the last 10 years. According to the survey 66% of companies are working with distributed global teams. Globally distributed teams were already described by Bartlett and Ghosal (1989) in their functions of articulation and translation of differing market practices for the integration of requirements and needs on a global level. From a European perspective the importance to further develop innovation capabilities in order to compete in the global market is stressed today (Imp3rove, 2012). In a globalised economy not only the big multinational companies are involved in globally distributed research and development activities (R&D). On the level SMEs, for example, in Switzerland the involvement in global development processes is increasing (Gassmann, 2009). From my own experiences in working with Swiss SMEs, the macro-economic processes in regard to the strong Swiss Franc may accelerate such processes. Thus, the form of globally distributed teams, and their functional task in global development processes, can be viewed as highly relevant, in a globalised economy. The crucial question for companies at the moment is, if teams can be enabled for innovative project work, which enables the integration of diverging perspectives in a globally distributed setting? Or, if such teams have to be collocated for more innovative, interdependent task work? Requirements for integrating embedded knowledge from different regionally defined clusters into global innovations at least, seems to indicate for the relevance of interdependent globally distributed team work (cf. Li, Eden, Hitt, Ireland, & Garrett, 2012). Bilateral practices of partnering, for example in the Swiss pharmaceutical sector, lead to the integration of selected subsidiaries in the R&D process of the company (Festel et al., 2010). Thus, the form of dispersion for project teams becomes more critical for effective global R&D practices (Boyer O’Leary & Cummings, 2007). So called partially distributed teams integrating balanced subgroups between two sites, hence, become an important subject of inquiry with practical relevance. The context of partially distributed team work represents by virtue a context involving multiple perspectives influenced by the involvement of actors stemming from different cultural contexts (Dekker, Rutte, & Van den Berg, 2008). It thereby provides the synergetic potential for integrating different perspectives in the resolution of complex problems on a global level (Janssens & Brett, 2006). Simultaneously, cultural diversity engenders challenges for collaboration. Challenges, like different understandings and interpretations regarding tasks, the structuring of communication (Maznevski & Chudoba, 2000) and unexpected events occurring in the collaboration between the actors (Dekker et al., 2008; Oertel & Antoni, 2014) were identified in respective empirical studies. Opportunities and challenges of partially distributed global teams can be compared with the problematic of face-to-face (f2f) teams with a moderate amount of diversity. Studies have shown (see Thatcher & Patel, 2011 for a meta-analysis) that when the distribution of diversity characteristics is aligned to potentially form culture specific subgroups, so-called diversity faultlines (Lau & Murnighan, 1998), negative subgroup dynamics are reinforced. To achieve the above mentioned synergetic potentials it seems important to effectively cope with such negative dynamics and allow for a balanced participation in partially distributed teams (Janssens & Brett, 2006). In the research on faultline teams, especially the structuring of task-related interdependences across respective subgroups has been identified as an important impediment for the mentioned subgroup dynamics. Task interdependences, which cross functional roles across respective group faultlines (Bettencourt, Molix, Talley, & Eubanks, 2007; Marcus-Newhall, Miller, Holtz, & Brewer, 1993), are able to unlock the inherent potentials of globally distributed teams on more complex tasks that require the integration of different perspectives. From a work group diversity perspective (van Knippenberg & Schippers, 2007), partially distributed global teams represent a research object for studying the interaction between social categorisation processes involved in the above mentioned subgroup dynamics, and processes of task-related information processing required for innovative team outputs. The exploration of effects of task structures on the interaction between categorisation processes and task-related information processing (van Knippenberg et al., 2004), will be in the main explorative research focus of this thesis. The research thesis represents a heuristic explorative inquiry (Kleining & Witt, 2001) of respective dynamics and structural as well as process-related enablers. The thesis starts with the theoretical part, in which the historical development of the understanding of teams as open, complex and temporally dynamic systems (Arrow et al., 2005, 2000), will be outlined. A sound definition of partially distributed global teams, including the respective contextual characteristics will be delineated. In a sensitizing framework (Blumer, 1954) which guided the explorative research process, the central boundary condition of task interdependence (Wageman, 2001) and respective episodic theories for explaining global task-related dynamics in teams (Marks et al., 2001), the dynamics of social categorisation (Gaertner, Dovidio, Anastasio, Bachman, & Rust, 1993; Gaertner & Dovidio, 2000), as well as the interaction between social categorisation processes and task-related information processing will be integrated (van Knippenberg et al., 2004). According to the framework, empirical studies on effects of task interdependence on interactions between task-related information processing and social categorisation processes will be addressed (van Knippenberg et al., 2004). The empirical part of the contribution will be split in two parts. In the first heuristic exploratory study eleven partially distributed global teams are followed up during the time of relevant innovation projects. The approach allowed the study of task interdependence, productive interactions with social categorisation processes and there effects on team innovation. In the second empirical step, the developed hypotheses, were tested in an experimental simulation (Arrow et al., 2005, 2000) in undergraduate courses. As a conclusion of the two exploratory studies, an episodic team process model will be outlined. The model specifies interdependence dynamics, which allows for team innovation. Furthermore, on a process level, the episodic categorisation-elaboration model (van Knippenberg et al., 2004) proposes three critical team performance episodes. Dynamics in the interplay between task-related information processing and social categorisation processes allow for the development of hypothesis for further research projects. Finally the implications for theory and the practical relevance of the heuristic model will be discussed.

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Author:Thomas Ryser
Title Additional (English):Task interdependence as enabler in discerned task performance episodes effecting innovative outcomes in partially distributed global teams : a categorisation-elaboration perspective
Referee:Holger HorzORCiDGND, Rolf van DickORCiDGND
Advisor:Holger Horz
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of Publication (online):2016/04/25
Year of first Publication:2016
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Granting Institution:Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität
Date of final exam:2015/12/16
Release Date:2016/04/25
Tag:categorisation-elaboration model; episodic team process model; global and virtual teams; team innovation
Page Number:184
Institutes:Psychologie und Sportwissenschaften / Psychologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 15 Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
Licence (German):License LogoDeutsches Urheberrecht