Improving Virtual Teams through Swift Structure

Improving Virtual Teams through Swift Structure

Daphna Shwarts-Asher (Tel Aviv University, Israel), Niv Ahituv (Tel Aviv University, Israel) and Dalia Etzion (Tel Aviv University, Israel)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-883-3.ch075
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Abstract

There has been a transformation from individual work to team work in the last few decades (Ilgen, 1999), and many organizations use teams for many activities done by individuals in the past (Boyett & Conn, 1992; Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). The use of virtual teams has also become common particularly in international organizations and global companies. In light of this growing phenomenon, the traditional definition of “team structure” should be redefined, as part of the model that predicts the influence of the virtuallity and structural levels on processes, social, and tasks, that effect team output. A methodology will later be illustrated to examine the research model and a discussion of preliminary finding. The research contributes to better understanding of virtual teams in hope of improving the teams work in the virtual world. Virtual team design has so far been treated as an afterthought by virtual team researchers. Investigation of team structure in the virtual environment holds significant promise for research and practice (Powell, Piccoli, & Ives, 2004). Integration between virtual teams and structural characteristics raises the question: “Has the virtual era put an end to team structure?” Leavitt (1996) claims that the rapid changes impose organizations to relax structures. Hackman (2002), on the other hand, predicts that team structure will always exist and managers will continue to be bothered by team design.
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Virtuallity Level

Virtuallity level of a team has become an integral part of a team’s definition (Martins, Gilson, & Maynard, 2004). Many variables are affected by the virtual level of a team. Face-to-face team members are more cohesive (Huang, Wei, Watson, & Tan, 2003), have stronger social ties (Warkentin, Sayeed, & Hightower, 1997), are more dedicated to the task and to other team members (Olson & Teasley, 1996), have a stronger team identity (Bouas & Arrow, 1996), and have more affection to other team members (Weisband & Atwater, 1999) than in virtual teams. Strong social ties in virtual teams can be achieved but will take longer time than in face-to-face teams (Burke & Chidambaram, 1996). Many researchers have attempted to find the reasons why virtuallity has a negative influence on team output, such as, frequency and distance (Cramton & Webber, 1999), the fact that team members are not personally familiar with one another (Gruenfeld, Mannix, Williams, & Neale, 1996), the difficulty in sharing information, and insufficient and confusing discussions (Thompson & Coovert, 2003). Another group of researchers compared communication technologies, assuming that technology limits information (Straus & McGrath, 1994). The comparisons concluded that face-to-face teams are more efficient than teams using video (Andres, 2002), and video communication is more efficient than audio (Burke, Aytes, & Chidambaram, 2001); adding text into video or audio communication improves performance (Baker, 2002), and satisfaction (Olson, Olson, & Meader, 1997). Maruping and Agarwal (2004) show that teams tend to use different sorts of communication technologies for different kinds of interpersonal interactions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Effectiveness: An absolute objective measure that examines a team success in operating a task.

Satisfaction: A subjective feeling of the team members while working on their task.

Work Process: A set of steps that leads the team towards its goals, namely efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction.

Efficiency: A measure of the team success in terms of time.

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