Control enactment in global virtual teams
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This dissertation examines how control is enacted in global virtual teams. Literature on virtual teams asserts this phenomenon has features, such as limited physical observation of behavior, that diminish the usefulness of control. Theories about formal control support this prediction, although little is known empirically about the development of any form of control in such a context. Global virtual teams are distributed work groups whose members focus on a global task, span multiple boundaries, and interact primarily via communication technologies. Control enactment refers to the development of processes and structures that attempt to influence members to engage in behaviors that accomplish collective goals. Background literature for this study examines small groups, information technology, and control, revealing the need to examine processes and structures internal and external to the team and consider the development of control over time. This dissertation presents a longitudinal, qualitative analysis of the communication archives for three virtual teams. The results suggest that control enactment includes team processes such as specifying control structures, pressuring teammates, terminating team membership, as well as team and member monitoring. Team processes, along with team structures and external processes and structures, are integrated in a framework for control enactment in global virtual teams; this framework differs from much of the literature that has adopted (or actively rejected) cybernetic conceptions of control theory. Also, the results suggest that, although members frequently relied on their teammates for information about their activities, members in some instances were able to monitor the behaviors of other members based on their electronic communication and work products. Specifying task activities to combine task coordination with technology appropriation enabled this process. As such, the concept of behavior observability may need to be reconceptualized for virtual work. These findings are based on analyses of teams formed for an eight-week student exercise coordinated by the author. Teams in field settings or with different external environments may have occasioned different control processes from those observed here. Further, the data were primarily archival in nature, so access to member perceptions was somewhat limited. The reader should examine the appropriateness of generalization to other settings.