Cultural diversity in the perception of time. Implications for global virtual teams


Seminar Paper, 2016
37 Pages, Grade: 2,0

Excerpt

Content

Figures

Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 Challenges of diversity for global virtual teams
2.1 Relevance for today’s organizations
2.2 Diversity expressed with national cultures
2.3 Dimensions of virtual collaboration
2.4 Virtual gap and virtual edge

3 The need for temporal coordination for effective teamwork

4 Cultural diversity in the perception of time
4.1 Time perception as cultural core value
4.2 Being on time: meaning across cultures
4.3 Structure of time: monochronic and polychronic time
4.4 Time orientation: past, present and future

5 The role of technology in global virtual teams
5.1 Importance of information and communication technology selection
5.2 Integration and isolation through technology
5.3 Coordination and pace making through technology

6 Discussion

7 Summary

8 References

9 Appendix
A Temporal coordination in Tuckman’s group development sequence
B Perception of time in cultural models

Figures

Fig. 1 The Three Cultures (author’s creation, according to Verghese 2008)

Fig. 2 Virtual gap and virtual edge (author’s creation, according to Lipnack, Stamps 2000, p. 8)

Fig. 3 Input-processes-outcomes model for the perception of time in GVTs (author’s creation; according to Köppel 2010 Fig. 23)

Fig. 4 Temporal coordination development in a team (author’s creation)

Fig. 5 Time values, norms and beliefs in Weaver’s cultural iceberg (author’s creation, according to Weaver 1986)

Fig. 6 Time values, norms and beliefs in the Hofstede’s cultural onion (author’s creation, according to Hofstede 1991)

Fig. 7 Time values, norms and beliefs in Trompenaars’ and Hampden-Turner’s cultural layer model (author’s creation, according to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner 1997)

Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

The continuous progress in the development of modern information and communication technology (ICT) and the need for flexible responses to globalized markets trigger companies to frequently build global virtual teams (GVT). Most of the teams that are assembled in companies work at least to some extend virtually. The team members of a GVT are geographically and timely dispersed and collaborate through the use of ICT. Compared to face-to-face teams, these GVTs face several additional challenges, some of which are caused by the cultural diversity of GVTs and the associated differences in the perception of time. Although much effort was spent in the past to synchronize the clock time and calendars globally, the meaning of time is perceived differently across national cultures. Punctuality, for example, is not valued everywhere around the globe as high as in Germany. This thesis aims at identifying dimensions in the individual’s perception of time that are influenced by some dimensions of national cultures. Further, implications of cultural differences in these time perception dimensions for GVTs and the temporal coordination in GVTs should be identified. Additionally, the influence of ICT on the internal team processes and the team members’ surrounding environment is assessed. Therefore, the current state of the literature with regards to GVTs, its relevance and problems as well as with regards to temporal coordination is reviewed. Moreover, time perception dimensions are discovered in the actual research, combined with existing cultural dimensions and applied on GVTs. The terms GVT and virtual team (VT) are often used interchangeably in academic literature and practitioner journals. Throughout this thesis I will use the term GVT to underline the wide geographical dispersion of the team members across national boundaries, time zones and cultures.

Following this general introduction, I will introduce the GVT applying the characteristics of a VT based on cultural diversity as differentiating characteristic of the team members and explain initial performance lags of GVTs. Following I will highlight the need for temporal coordination in GVTs as well as mechanisms to achieve the coordination. In the fourth part I will introduce three dimensions of time perception that are impacted by the diverse national cultures of the team members. Then, I will explain the role of ICT within the internal processes of a GVT considering differences in the perception of time. Finally, I will shortly discuss the findings and conclude with a short summary.

2 Challenges of diversity for global virtual teams

2.1 Relevance for today’s organizations

In order to flexibly respond to the challenges of a globalized economy, increased customer demands and shorter product life-cycles, organizations increasingly implement GVTs. Simultaneously, advances in ICT enable new forms of dispersed collaboration (Cascio 2000; Ebrahim 2009; Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004). The increasing complexity of problems requires the involvement of specialists that are often locally and functionally dispersed. In GVTs these specialists can collaborate without travel time and expenses. Working asynchronously across time zones can expand the total daily working hours to a global working day, thus shorten the period for task completion (Cascio 2000; Saunders, Van Slyke, Vogel 2004). Moreover, GVTs enable employees to join several projects simultaneously not taking into account the location of the single projects. This further reduces travel times and helps to increase the utilization of employee-time and create a round-the-clock workforce availability (Paul et al. 2004). Without the need to travel and the technical possibilities for teleworking, it becomes easier for employees to balance private and professional live including flexible working hours that can probably be adapted to meet the time-wise and geographically disperse members of the GVT (Cascio 2000). Among others, these reasons facilitate the implementation of GVTs even to the extent that nearly “all organizational teams are virtual to some extend” (Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004, p. 823).

GVTs are assembled more frequently by organizations and in today’s workforce most of the employees are involved in virtual environments. In 2002 only 40 percent of managers worked at least temporary in VTs (AFW 2002). In a recent survey RW3 Cultural Wizard (2016) asked clients, end-users and business associates from 80 countries that work globally on their participation in GVTs. 85 percent of participants work on GVTs and most of them are involved in more than one GVT while in 2010 only 80 percent worked in a locally dispersed team. More than 50 percent of the respondents work more than a quarter of a day in virtual environments. Nearly one half of the investigated GVTs consists of members from three or more cultures and 77 percent of the respondents rate cultural diversity in a GVT as valuable although 41 percent of the GVTs never have the chance meet face-to-face. The RW3 survey also reveals that the dispersion across time zones is the one of the greatest issues GVTs are facing (RW3 2010).

2.2 Diversity expressed with national cultures

Diversity in general describes a property of “being composed of differing elements” (Merriam-Webster 2016). In the context of a team, diversity refers to the demographic differences among the members of a team such as age, race, ethnicity, sex, religion, language and nationality (McGrath, Berdahl, Arrow 1995). National diversity is one aspect of diversity that can be used to differentiate the members of a team (Merriam-Webster 2016). The nationality aspect can be further subdivided into observable (surface-level) and unobservable (deep-level) characteristics such as the value systems people hold (Carte, Chidambaram 2004). Hofstede (1991) defines a national culture as “a collective phenomenon” that “is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it was learned” (p. 5). Members of one culture collectively share “certain norms, values, or traditions that are different from those of other groups” (Cox 1993, p. 3). Culture includes the patterns of how people behave, think and feel that are learned throughout a lifetime (Hofstede 1991). These patterns are examples for the deep-level characteristics. Every individual has its own patterns, so a national culture consists of many different individual patterns part of which is around the average. Thus, national cultures can be seen as normal distributions serving as an indicator for all the individual patterns (Trompenaars, Hampden-Turner 1997). The national culture is a dynamic phenomenon as it is influenced by and adapts to the changing environment, information and technology (Halverson, Tirmizi 2008). Nevertheless, national culture “distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” as a “collective programming of the mind” (Hofstede 1991, p. 5). Thus, cultural diversity within a team refers to the heterogeneity of national cultures of team members with distinctly different sets of norms, values and traditions of cultural significance (Cox 1993; Shachaf 2008). This thesis focuses on the implications of diversity caused by national cultures on the collaboration among the team members in GVTs, although Gardenswartz et al. (2003) assumed in their The Three Culture model that trust and communication as a basis for effective teamwork are established as the interplay of corporate, personal and national culture (Fig. 1).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1 The Three Cultures (author’s creation, according to Verghese 2008)

2.3 Dimensions of virtual collaboration

Before analysing GVTs it is useful to describe the VT in the team environment. Cohen and Bailey (1997) offer a general definition of a team which is able to encompass face-to-face teams and VTs. They define a team as a “collection of individuals who are interdependent in their tasks, who share responsibility for outcomes, who see themselves and who are seen by others as an intact social entity embedded in one or more larger social systems, and who manage their relationship across organizational boundaries” (p. 241). A team consists at least of two members (Hertel, Geister, Konradt 2005) who share a common purpose as well as a responsibility for the team outcomes and are identified as a social structure. This definition excludes loose groups of employees that do not have a shared goal.

A VT possesses the characteristics of a general team and is additionally “geographically, organizationally and/or time dispersed” (Powell, Piccoli, Ives 2004, p. 7). The members of a VT work and collaborate together using ICT as a mediator (Powell, Piccoli, Ives 2004; Cohen, Gibson 2003; Paul et al. 2004). Time and space dispersion as well as the use of ICT form variable dimensions rather than fixed dichotomies. A team can already be considered as virtual if only one member is working from another location while in extreme cases each member is working from a different location at a different time and for a different organization. (Hertel, Geister, Konradt 2005). Further, the locations may be very close to each other (e.g. same city or country). ICT serves as the enabler for VTs, however it cannot be seen as the only differentiator between co-located teams and VTs. Co-located teams also use ICT, although they have face-to-face meetings. Important to distinguish both is the degree of dependence on ICT for collaboration that increases with larger parts of work performed virtually. VTs mostly do not have the chance to meet face-to-face as they are distributed across time and space whereas ICT serves as a supporting collaboration channel for co-located teams. The literature proposes that the majority of collaboration and interaction among the team members needs to be technically mediated in order to specify a team as a VT (Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004). Even though VTs rely on modern ICT, the team members in the virtual environment and the relationships among them mostly affect the performance of the team (Zakaria, Amelinckx, Wilemon 2004; Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004). In contrast to face-to-face teams, VTs have more fluid membership structures that allow to add or remove members if special skills are needed or no longer needed. The life-cycles from forming to adjourning of VTs are also shorter in comparison with face-to-face teams (Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004).

GVTs draw on the time and space dimension and spread it to a more global level. Members of a GVT are located in many different countries or geographic areas across the globe and mostly belong to different functional or organizational entities (Wheatley, Wilemon 1999; Powell, Piccoli, Ives 2004). As the team members originate from different countries, they are likely to have different cultural backgrounds and contexts (Gluesing et al. 2003). The diversity has already been narrowed down to cultural differences in chapter 2.2. Analogically to space dispersion and degree of ICT use, the degree of cultural diversity forms a variable dimension. Homogenous teams only consist of one culture. In these mono-cultural teams the team members share a common native language and behaviour including words and symbols (Gluesing et al. 2003). Bi-cultural teams consist of exactly two different cultures. This results in less complex team structures compared to a multicultural team that consists of three or more distinct cultures. Each distinct culture has its own norms, values and traditions which can lead to conflicts among the team members (Shapiro, Glinow, Cheng 2005, p. 5). GVTs are more likely to be culturally diverse due to the greater geographical dispersion, however VTs in a single country can already be culturally diverse due to among others migration, expats or specialists that are sent abroad. The high degree of geographical dispersion within a GVT results in the presence of different time zones in which the team members interact. To coordinate these different time zones GVTs can either collaborate in an asynchronous or synchronous manner. Synchronous GVTs work together in real time including virtual meetings while the team members of asynchronous GVTs fulfil their tasks at different times enabling them to work at their own pace and within their own limitations. These differences are often caused by the global dispersion of the team members who are situated in various time zones (Paul et al. 2004).

Throughout this thesis I will use the term GVT as a VT consisting of members from various cultures who are dispersed globally, not taking into account neither multicultural teams that work in face-to-face contexts nor mono-cultural teams that are spread across the globe due to temporary stays abroad or emigration.

2.4 Virtual gap and virtual edge

GVTs have to cope with the same problems as face-to-face teams and have to overcome additional challenges due to their cultural diversity, differences in time zones and global dispersion that can negatively influence the overall team performance (Lipnack, Stamps 2000). These additional challenges, specific for GVTs, create additional effort for team and conflict management to close the performance gap to face-to-face teams. If this gap, also called “virtual gap” (Lipnack, Stamps 2000, p. 7), is managed well it can lead to a “virtual edge” (ibid.) exploiting the competences and viewpoints of the diverse team members (Fig. 2). Moreover, culturally diverse teams outperform homogenous teams in the long run (Shachaf 2008). Some reasons for the occurrence of the virtual gap are presented in the following.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 2 Virtual gap and virtual edge (author’s creation, according to Lipnack, Stamps 2000, p. 8)

As mentioned above GVTs are heterogeneous regarding national cultures and possibly across organizations or functional areas causing variation in the member’s attitudes, norms and values. These variations have the potential to create conflicts within the team and to negatively affect the overall team performance (Paul et al. 2004; Watson, Kumar, Michaelson 1993). Members of a GVT have different living and working contexts. A common contextual knowledge or working framework does not exist so that common procedures need to be clarified in advance (Cohen, Gibson 2003). Further, the management styles need to fit to the different cultures of a team as a clash of culture and management style will further decrease the team performance (Dube, Pare 2001). Moreover, members of GVTs usually do not share a common native language, thus misunderstandings caused by language problems are likely to occur. The meaning of the same words is different in various cultures even if a common language is used (Gluesing et al. 2003). English is the de facto language of most linguistic diverse GVTs, but it is often neither first nor second language for the team members. These language issues can easily impede team performance. Language issues and cultural diversity of GVTs add to complexity and hinder interpersonal communication as nonverbal communication cues and direct social contacts get lost or blurred due to ICT as communication channel (Shachaf 2008). Moreover, many GVTs are assembled for only a very short period of time and members may never meet face-to-face so it is difficult to create a basic level of trust among the team members that is crucial for successful collaboration. If employees are not willing to adapt to new technologies and working behaviours required for a successful virtual collaboration, they will decrease the overall team performance. In general collaboration in GVTs usually involves lower levels of social interactions and information content compared with face-to-face meetings (Paul et al. 2004). Working in a virtual environment can cause a feeling of isolation in spite of working in a team, as team members are excluded from the other employees around them at least on a task level.

3 The need for temporal coordination for effective teamwork

Time and location disperse GVTs need to coordinate their interrelated activities, online meetings and work packages on a temporal basis in order to collaborate successfully. It is important that the team members develop a common understanding of time (Montoya-Weiss, Massey, Song 2001). With the technical standardization of time through the world-wide introduction of the Gregorian calendar and the Coordinated Standard Time (UTC) in 1972 in order to facilitate global trade and collaboration, one could argue that time is fixed and understood equally across the globe. However, time has become a social construct more than ever before. People have agreed upon UTC that is not derived from the daylight time for each single location but artificially determined for whole areas. So time is not given by nature but socially constructed through the interaction of human beings (Bluedorn 2002; Bluedorn, Standifer 2006, Zerubavel 1991). Moreover, Bluedorn and Standifer (2006) further argue with formerly inaccurate mechanical clocks and the diverse individual perception of the duration of certain time spans that “times are not the same” (pp. 4f.) from individual to individual. Thus, time has to be coordinated in a team to ensure effective teamwork. The absence of verbal and nonverbal cues that inherently support the structuring of communication and interaction in face-to-face meetings, requires a more structured approach to temporal coordination in GVTs, especially if they work across various time zones. Virtual communication channels hinder the transmission of such cues and delay direct feedback because of interruptions or time lags (Massey, Montoya-Weiss, Hung 2003). Temporal coordination is necessary in synchronously and asynchronously working GVTs. The former need to arrange time slots in which they can collaborate in real-time. One major time related issue according to the RW3 (2016) survey are difficulties of finding an appropriate timeslot across time zones for a synchronous online meeting. The latter additionally need to coordinate their distinct activities as most of them are interrelated in a more complex overarching target system in which one is not working without the other (Massey, Montoya-Weiss, Hung 2003). The temporal coordination can be integrated in Tuckman’s (1965) group developmental sequence (App. A). Temporal coordination issues are likely to occur in the first two stages in which the degree of overall temporal coordination is low and the team members focus on themselves. In the literature three major time related problems in team collaboration are identified that require temporal coordination in a team that can also be applied analogously to GVTs. Firstly, temporal ambiguity describes the problem that it is not clear when certain events will occur or recur. Secondly, temporal interests and requirements of the team members are conflicting. Thirdly, the temporal resources are scarce, meaning that often a decision has to be made how much time to spend on which task within a team (McGrath 1990). Countermeasures to these temporal coordination issues are established in the norming stage of group development in which the team members develop a certain in-group feeling and are aware of the common purpose of the team (Tuckman 1965). These countermeasures are called “temporal coordination mechanisms” (Massey, Montoya-Weiss, Hung 2003, p. 133) and can be performed “intrinsically” within a team individually by each team member or collectively by the whole team or “extrinsically” by someone outside the team (Bardram 2000, p. 163). As collective countermeasures to these temporal coordination issues a team or organization can schedule activities in the team, synchronize them or allocate time explicitly to the activities. The creation of a temporal plan for the activities that need to be carried out by a team which includes temporal deadlines for the activities to be finished or the outcomes to be available is referred to as scheduling. Timeliness within scheduling describes whether an activity is finished at a given deadline or not. With synchronization a team aims at coordinating the different activities of the team members that are related to each other in an adequate timely manner according to the overall common goal of the team. Timing each activity in the context of the other tasks and the overall temporal plan is important. Ancona and Chong (1996) refer to the synchronization of an activity with others as “entrainment” (p. 253). Taking the activities from the temporal plan, allocation assigns specific time periods to the activities that should be spent to perform each activity. Allocation is a temporal prioritisation according to the overall common goal of the team. By allocating the time spent for a specific activity the time costs on basis of staff time and resources needed can be calculated (Bardram 2000, McGrath 1990). Similarly to the group actions the individual team members can react by “making temporal commitments, negotiating norms for behaviour sequencing, and regulating the flow of task activity and interpersonal interaction” (McGrath 1990, p. 36). Temporal coordination in teams can be achieved in a symmetric and a complementary way. “Temporal symmetry” refers to the synchronization of activities between the team members (e.g. synchronized team meeting) while in “temporal complementarity” team members work together in a temporal order but perform different activities (e.g. temporal division of labour). The temporal complementarity of labour is used in GVTs by creating a global working day by applying the follow-the-sun-principle. However, the temporal symmetry is difficult to reach due to the large geographic dispersion (Zerubavel 1981, pp.64-69). In GVTs temporal coordination mechanisms can either be mechanisms for the organization of team-internal and/or -external communication or mechanisms for managing the work processes in a sequential or structured way (Massey, Montoya-Weiss, Hung 2003, p. 133). Temporal coordination in the context of a GVT aims at establishing a common understanding of schedule, deadlines and time in order to focus on the execution of activities without the need to constantly discuss and negotiate about given time frames. With full temporal coordination in the performing stage of Tuckman’s group development sequence, the team is able to focus on the execution of activities.

4 Cultural diversity in the perception of time

4.1 Time perception as cultural core value

So far I have introduced the GVT and the national culture as differentiating charateristic of the team members as well as the necessity for temporal coordination in GVTs. In the following I will describe three dimensions in the perception of time that are affected by cultural values, norms and beliefs. These dimensions require special temporal coordination within a GVT. Time perception is often analyzed on an individual level in duration and motion studies. However, most people are not aware that the individual’s perception of time varies among personages. They simply assume that their own perception is the only possible and correct one (Graham 1981). Several studies were conducted on estimating long and short temporal intervals under shifting external influences such as light, noise or activities, proving that the individuals’ perceptions differ a lot and are never correct (Allan 1979). By observing the accuracy of bank clocks, the average walking speed and several other aspects in various countries Levine (2006) has discovered that whole cultures differ in their perception of time. Further, each culture is likely to develop a dominant perception of time (Saunders, Van Slyke, Vogel 2004). A GVT consists of individuals who have a variety of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, shaped by the individual's national culture. These culturally caused differences in the perception of time can affect among others the individual team member’s perception of deadlines (Waller et al. 2001). Moreover, the attitudes, beliefs and values towards time that influence an individual’s perception of time cannot easily be recognized or managed (Vinton 1992). They can only be derived from the visible actions of the members of a culture (Gell 1992; Levine 2006). Thus, Weaver (1986) placed the conception of time below the waterline that divides the surface of the culture from the invisible part in his two layered cultural iceberg model (Fig. 5). According to Hofstede’s (1991) cultural onion they are situated at the core of the culture. The core of the onion represents the most basic values of a certain culture (Fig. 6). These values are not moving a lot. In their layered cultural model Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997) would situate them similarly to Hofstede at the core that they call basic assumptions (App. B). To analyze the culturally affected dimensions in the perception of time and resulting problems, I will apply the inputs-processes-outcomes (IPO) model (Hackman, Morris 1975), that is frequently used in research to analyze teams and that has been adapted to analyze VTs (e.g., Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004) and GVTs (e.g., Köppel 2010). Usually, the IPO model organizes multiple factors that influence the team performance in the context of a team’s lifecycle as it moves through the three stages. Inputs consists of the compositional characteristics present at the time of the assembly of the team which the company needs to consider when creating a new GVT. Processes describe the dynamic processes taking place among the team members. Outcomes are the results of the inputs and processes. (Hackman, Moris 1975; Martins, Gilson, Maynard 2004). Although the model is criticized for its simplicity consisting of only one dimension (Ilgen et al. 2005), it is sufficient to arrange the implications of differences in the perception of time on the outcomes of a team. The IPO model for the dimensions of time perceptions is displayed in Fig. 3. The inputs of this model are the dimensions of the perception of time, being on time, structure of time and time orientation that are presented in the following subchapters. Processes subsume the resulting conflicts of the three dimensions and the temporal coordination mechanisms that may lead to synergies which indeed affect the team outcomes. ICT is added as a moderating factor that can influence the internal team processes. The moderating role of modern ICT is further explained in chapter five.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 3 Input-processes-outcomes model for the perception of time in GVTs (author’s creation; according to Köppel 2010 Fig. 23)

4.2 Being on time: meaning across cultures

The first dimension of culturally caused differences in the perception of time that is assessed is the definition and application of acceptable punctuality in various cultures. Punctuality refers to timeliness as already explained in chapter three in the context of scheduling activities on behalf of given deadlines as a countermeasure towards temporal issues. For instance, perceptions of how late one may be to an appointment or meeting or of what constitutes an acceptable margin of completion time around a stated deadline will vary from culture to culture (Bluedorn 2002; Levine 2006). Analogous to time as a social construct, (Ch. 3) punctuality also is socially defined. However, the description of what is meant to be punctual or timeless varies widely across time and space. The terms “too late” or “too early” need to be understood relatively in the context given by the cultural background the team members possess (Bluedorn 2002). Appointment times and deadlines are time intervals rather than precise points in time.

[...]

Excerpt out of 37 pages

Details

Title
Cultural diversity in the perception of time. Implications for global virtual teams
College
University of Münster  (Wirtschaftsinformatik)
Course
Seminar: Dark Side of Technology
Grade
2,0
Author
Year
2016
Pages
37
Catalog Number
V353590
ISBN (eBook)
9783668397217
ISBN (Book)
9783668397224
File size
1585 KB
Language
English
Series
Aus der Reihe: e-fellows.net stipendiaten-wissen
Tags
Virtual Team, Global Virtual Team, Dark Side of Technology, Cultural diversity, Perception of Time
Quote paper
Tobias Wulfert (Author), 2016, Cultural diversity in the perception of time. Implications for global virtual teams, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/353590

Comments

  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Cultural diversity in the perception of time. Implications for global virtual teams


Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free