The Impact of Training on Virtual Project Teams: A TIP Investigation

The Impact of Training on Virtual Project Teams: A TIP Investigation

Peggy M. Beranek (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, USA) and M. Cathy Clairborne (University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jitpm.2012010103


As organizations adapt to competitive pressure and simultaneously leverage scarce resources, workers are increasingly operating in virtual project teams where members may never meet face to face. One of the factors that can affect how well virtual project teams communicate is relational links. This study explores the effects of relational link development training on group interactions by administering training to selected groups and tracking measurements of their cohesiveness, perceptions of the process, satisfaction with outcomes over time, and tracking group communications using McGrath’s TIP theory as a framework. This project compared virtual project teams trained in the concept of relational links with teams that received no training. All electronic communications between team members were recorded and analyzed using McGrath’s time, interaction, and performance (TIP) framework and all teams completed pre and post surveys measuring their levels of cohesion, perceptions of the process and satisfaction with outcomes. It was found that teams that received training spent more time in the member support function, more time in the inception mode, and less time in the conflict resolution mode. In addition, teams receiving training had higher ending levels of cohesion, perception of the process and satisfaction with outcomes.
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Most of our knowledge of teams and teamwork comes from the study and analysis of traditional teams in which all team members work face-to-face in the same geographic location. However, the use of virtual teams, which communicate without the limits imposed by geography, time and organizational boundaries, is growing within organizations and globally. As virtual project teams become common place in and between organizations, concern about preparing members to work more effectively in a virtual environment increases.

Many factors can affect how well team members manage virtual work and communication. A few factors have been shown to impact the success of virtual project teams: trust (Larsen & McInerney, 2002; Piccoli & Ives, 2003; Jarvenpaa, Shaw, & Staples, 2004; Araujo & Chidambaram, 2008), team member relationships (Lurey & Raisinghani, 2001), relational links (Chidambaram, 1996; Carlson & Zmud, 1999; Beranek & Martz, 2005) and conflict-management (Souren, Seetharaman, Samarah, & Mykytyn, 2004; Hinds & Mortenson, 2005). Past research on virtual team communication has indicated that relational links (Chidambaram, 1996) may have an impact on the effectiveness of team member communication and that the development of relational links among team members has been found to be a significant contributor to the effectiveness of information exchange (Chidambaram, 1996; Warkentin, 1997). In addition, stronger relational links in groups has been associated with higher performance (Warkentin, 1997).

This study examined 23 teams working on a task and interacting as virtual project teams utilizing a Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) system. Twelve of the teams received training on the development of relational links (RL), and the remaining 11 teams received no training. All electronic communications for all teams were recorded and content-analyzed according to McGrath’s time, interaction, and performance (TIP) theory (McGrath, 1991) to discern if the communication modes and functions differed between the teams that received training and those that did not. Pre and post surveys measuring relational link levels were given to all team members.

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