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The Desire for Cohesion in Virtual Teams: Be Careful What You Wish For

The Desire for Cohesion in Virtual Teams: Be Careful What You Wish For
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Author(s): John McAvoy (University College Cork, Ireland) and Tom Butler (University College Cork, Ireland)
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 22
Source title: Virtual Technologies: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Jerzy Kisielnicki (Warsaw University, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-955-7.ch096


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Cohesion is regarded as something to strive for in virtual teams yet difficult to attain. What happens, though, when cohesion is achieved; does cohesion, as assumed, enhance the virtual team? During a longitudinal participant observation study of a virtual software development team, a strange paradox was noted. A new software development methodology was introduced to the project, and the developers were initially committed to its use. Over time, the commitment gradually decreased to the stage where aspects of the new methodology were practically ignored. As the team was a virtual team, with group members rarely congregating as a whole for any length of time, it was hard to explain why this diminishing of commitment occurred. The remoteness and part-time participation of group members meant that the team deciding themselves to ignore aspects of the methodology was not a likely possibility. A review of existing research suggested that the concepts behind the diffusion of innovations (specifically software process innovations) may have a bearing. Although pertinent to the area of introducing new software development methodologies, diffusion theories did not provide a complete explanation for the decrease in commitment that was observed. The theory of competing commitments was applied, and it was discovered that one cause of the decreased commitment among team members was groupthink. Groupthink should not be a problem with virtual teams as there should be less cohesion: a lack of contact between members dictating the low level of cohesion. Further analysis showed that traditional peer groupthink was not the issue, but hierarchical groupthink influenced by the project manager had a large influence. These findings are in contrast to most expectations concerning cohesion and virtual teams, including the project management of virtual teams.

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