Integration of virtual teams into an organization : Insights through revealing organizational patterns

Großer, Birgit

For many employees, the daily routine is no longer represented by the trip to the office and colleges for spending eight hours a day on-site. Virtual working processes that are flexible regarding location and hours, such as digital nomadism on remote islands (Leclercq-Vandelannoitte and Isaac 2016) (Nash, et al. 2018), teamwork distributed across coworking spaces in different cities (Gandini 2015), and working "remotely" from home prestructured by organizations (Coffey and Wolf 2018) are already implemented alternatives. These alternatives concern different types of workers, including long-term employees, freelance workers, so-called short-term gig workers (Nash, et al. 2018), and so-called prosumers. Prosumers are mostly unpaid for creative tasks, such as the design of new flavor combinations at Ferrero (Ferrero Konfigurations-Kampagne 2019 https://www.dein-kuesschen.de/ [accessed 2019/02/13]) as well as salaried producing tasks, for example on the energy market (Parag and Sovacool 2016). Based on these manifold alternatives, organizations are increasingly deploying virtual teams as a way of structuring work and tapping the full potential of a diverse and dispersed workforce (Gilson, et al. 2015). Related phenomena are now also addressed and gradually explained by scientific research, for example concerning management (Dunn, et al. 2015) (Shameem, Kumar and Chandra 2017) and collaboration (Salminen-Karlsson 2014) of virtual teams. Organizations often also introduce virtual teams, as virtual work is more and more requested by employees. People today seek working virtually due to their socialization, their ideas of how to shape their lives, and also because technology gives them the ability to work in a different city without moving (Rump and Eilers 2017). Numerous examples from practice show the successful integration of virtual teams. Zapier is a current example of a for-profit company that has been creating value through virtual teamwork since its founding in 2011, and promotes ideas on virtual teamwork in its own publications (Foster 2015), and publicly (Zapier https://zapier.com/jobs/ [accessed 2019/02/13]). Despite the increasing deployment of virtual teams as additional structure or as basic structure of work within organizations, examples from practice also show shortcomings regarding the organizational integration of virtual teams. As prominent examples, Yahoo and IBM have abolished at least some of their virtual teamwork structures in order to improve speed and quality of communication processes (Kinsey Goman 2017) (Simons 2017). These examples from practice as well as the described insights from scientific literature show a diverse and sometimes contradictive image of chances and challenges for a successful integration of virtual teams into an organization. Based on these findings, the underlying hypothesis for this doctoral thesis is that understanding individual and organizational mechanisms, requirements for virtual teamwork, and its successful integration into organizations lays the foundation for high-performing and resilient virtual teams. Research provides insights on the dynamics and correlations of phenomena associated with virtual teamwork, like leadership (i.a. (Dunn, et al. 2015), (Gladden 2014), (Politis 2014)) and cultural requirements (i.a. (Magnusson, Schuster and Taras 2014), (Riedl, et al. 2015), (Tenzer and Pudelko 2016)). A comprehensive view on integrating virtual teams into organizations and concomitant adaptations of organizational elements, allows for synthesizing these insights, taking their interrelations into account. The goal of this doctoral thesis is thus to present a model of organizational patterns for the successful integration of virtual teams by consolidating and updating scientific insights on adapting organizational elements and exploring as well as evaluating these ideas through case studies. The central research question focused on this goal is: What are manifestations of organizational patterns for virtual team integration that can serve as references guiding the implementation of virtual teams and associated organizational adaptations? In order to reveal these patterns, the elements of the integrated framework by Baumöl (2008) were instantiated for the transformation process analyzed here, the integration of virtual teamwork. In the presented eight conference and journal articles, the elements were examined in a focused manner. Depending on the subquestion addressed in each paper, literature-based deduction and (reference) modeling, interview-based inductive theory formation in accordance with grounded theory and inductive questionnaire-based case study analyzes were applied as methodical approaches. Hence, the application of research methods follows a pluralistic methodology (Zawedde, et al. 2010) (Mingers 2001). The research contributions are positioned in their sequence and context along the steps of the "design science research methodology" (Peffers, Tuunanen and Niehaves 2018). Examples of underlying concepts and theories are the conceptualization of the virtuality degree of teams as a continuum (Schweitzer and Duxbury 2010), the integrated framework (Baumöl 2008), a systematized organizational culture (Schein and Schein 2017) and the Media Synchronicity Theory for the analysis of work processes in context with deployed technology (Dennis and Valacich 1999). Derived insights were finally synthesized and integrated for the last research paper. The modeled organizational patterns provide an understanding of and links for future research endeavors as well as guidance for practical integration of virtual teams. The results of the research papers support the hypothesis that a comprehensive view on interrelated organizational elements is critical for successfully adapting the elements for the integration of virtual teams. Relevant organizational elements include, in addition to the work processes and their technological facilitation, in particular elements in context of organizational culture (Schein and Schein 2017). This is also reflects in the examples of successfully integrated virtual teams. The results contribute to understanding the requirements and dynamics of virtual teamwork and how to successfully integrate virtual teams into organizations, and also provide links for future research in this field.

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Großer, Birgit: Integration of virtual teams into an organization. Insights through revealing organizational patterns. Hagen 2019. FernUniversität in Hagen.

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