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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Leadership e tecnologia nei team virtuali (Leadership and technology in virtual teams) - Padua@Research

Poliandri, Vincenza (2013) Leadership e tecnologia nei team virtuali. [Tesi di dottorato]
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Abstract (english)

Virtual teams (VT) are today a pervasive form of work since organizations increasingly use them to perform knowledge intensive tasks and innovative activities. VTs' features are global distribution of members (spatial and temporal dispersion), pervasive use of technologies as the main means of communication and collaboration and functional, organizational, disciplinary, cultural and linguistic heterogeneity of members. In the last years the research interest on VT has grown according to their diffusion in organizations, enabled by the development of new technologies and recent economic changes. Today the effectiveness of these teams is strategic for organizations because they have the potential to increase competitiveness and flexibility.
The literature on VT and work at a distance provides numerous contributions on the factors influencing their effectiveness as technology use and leadership processes. As in traditional teams, even in VT the role of the leader is crucial for the performance of the group, but the traditional leadership models considered so far show their limits when they are moved into a virtual environment. This happens because leadership theories have been studied for co-located teams which are based on face-to-face interactions, while VTs’ dynamics are partially different and cannot be completely explained by traditional theories.
Another important factor related to the effectiveness of VT is technology, seen both as a means of communication and of collaboration. The VTs' leadership is expressed through technology, so leaders choose and use different types of technologies and combination of media; moreover, leaders and members must have the sense and the perception of the presence of technology and also being able to use it.
However studies on how this two elements relate to each other and jointly influence performance are still limited. So we propose an investigation of the joint effect of technology use and leadership processes in distributed work settings to improve teams’ effectiveness.
- What is the relationship between leadership processes and the use of technologies?
- How do the use of technologies and the leadership processes jointly influence the effectiveness of VT?
The exploratory nature of the investigation and the multidimensional aspect of the variables suggest the adoption of a qualitative method. A multiple case study based on five case studies was conducted in order to develop a grounded theory. Data were gathered on a specific type of VT: team science involved in European research projects of the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). These projects are considered VT because they are large collaborative distributed projects which involve peers in an interdisciplinary context. We chose team science for our data collection also because further investigations are needed in that context particularly how expertise, technological infrastructures and organizational behavior can influence their performance.
The two variables used to identify case studies have been the team size, where number of partners is used as a proxy of number of people, and science/humanity area as a proxy of the technological expertise. Team size is closely related to the complexity of coordination and thus to the leadership processes, while scientific field can be used with good approximation as perceived usefulness of the technology and intention to use it.
Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and the program NVivo was used to do the content analysis. Many categories and themes have been obtained through the NVivo coding procedure: interdependence of activities (generic, sequential, reciprocal), quality of relationships and in relational resources, needs of coordination, knowledge and behavioral integration, leadership processes, use of technology, perception of effectiveness and so on.
The qualitative evidence shows centrality of the variable knowledge and behavioral integration as predictor of effectiveness. This variable is strongly influenced by the design of activity and their interdependencies. Even if every project had a detailed and strict design of interdependencies, as the European Community required, the data collection showed that not all of them achieved high levels of integration. So the members perceived the projects as differently effective. The data made clear that there are two variables that affect the integration: process of leadership and use of collaborative technologies. They don't affect it independently, but jointly; moreover, the qualitative evidence shows the importance of achieving alignment between this two variables. Making processes of leadership and use of technologies compatible and synergic leads to more integrated results and to collaborative behavior between members and improves team effectiveness.
On the one hand the two more effective research projects gained a high alignment: the first adopted a distributed leadership and an extensive use of technology and the role of the integrator was played by technology; the second adopted a centralized leadership and a limited use of technology and the role of integrator was played by the team leader. On the other hand the project perceived as less effective is characterized by low alignment, while it chose a decentralized leadership and a limited use of technologies. So neither the leaders nor the technologies of communication and collaboration can ensure integration in this team.
The alignment between leadership processes and technology use is also affected by the size of the project, the priority of the project, the turnover, the economic and relational resources.
Finally, we could connect the main themes to suggest a complex relationship between design of interdependences, knowledge and behavioral integration, perceptions of effectiveness and alignment between use of technology and leadership processes: the perception of effectiveness of VT is explained by knowledge and behavioral integration, which in turn is influenced by the alignment.
This finding contributes to the development of the theory on VT effectiveness: the effectiveness is influenced by the alignment through the achievement of integration. The knowledge on the social dynamics of team science is enriched too: social processes (as relational resources or process of leadership) and technological infrastructure have mutual implications on scientific production, collaboration and success of the team.

Abstract (italian)

Oggi i team virtuali (VT) sono una forma di lavoro molto diffusa e le organizzazioni vi ricorrono sempre più spesso per svolgere attività innovative e ad alto contenuto di conoscenza. Le caratteristiche dei VT sono: la distribuzione geografica dei membri (dispersione spaziale e temporale); l’uso esteso delle tecnologie come principale mezzo di comunicazione e di collaborazione; l’eterogeneità organizzativa, disciplinare, culturale e linguistica dei membri. Negli ultimi anni l’interesse della ricerca per i VT è cresciuto proprio per questa loro crescente diffusione nelle organizzazioni, resa possibile anche dallo sviluppo delle nuove tecnologie e dai recenti cambiamenti economici. Oggi l’efficacia di questi team è dunque particolarmente importante per le organizzazioni perché possono potenzialmente incrementarne la competitività e la flessibilità.
La letteratura sul lavoro a distanza ha individuato molti fattori che influenzano l’efficacia dei VT fra cui l’uso della tecnologia e il processo di leadership. Come per i team tradizionali anche per i VT il ruolo del leader è cruciale per la perfomance del gruppo ma i modelli tradizionali di leadership finora considerati mostrano tutti i loro limiti quando vengono mutuati nel contesto virtuale perché le teorie sulla leadership sono state studiate specificatamente per i team co-locati che si basano su interazioni FtF, mentre le dinamiche dei VT sono in parte diverse e non possono essere completamente spiegate dalle teorie tradizionali.
Un altro importante fattore legato all’efficacia dei VT è la tecnologia, principale mezzo di comunicazione e di collaborazione di questi team. La leadership nei VT è espressa attraverso la tecnologia e così il leader sceglie e usa diversi tipi di tecnologie e combinazioni di queste. Per questo motivo il leader e i membri devono avere il senso e la percezione della presenza della tecnologia e devono essere anche in grado di utilizzarla.
In generale questi due elementi, processo di leadership e uso delle tecnologie, sono stati affrontati separatamente in letteratura. Gli studi su come essi siano in relazione fra loro e su come possano congiuntamente influenzare l’efficacia dei VT sono ancora limitati. Così in questo lavoro ci si propone di investigare l’effetto congiunto di queste due variabili sull’efficacia dei VT.
- Qual è la relazione fra processi di leadership e uso delle tecnologie?
- Come l’uso delle tecnologie e i processi di leadership influenzano congiuntamente l’efficacia dei VT?
La natura esplorativa dell’indagine e l’aspetto multidimensionale delle variabili hanno suggerito l’adozione di una metodologia qualitativa. È stato condotto un multiple case study basato su 5 casi studio, con l’obiettivo di costruire una grounded theory. La parte empirica del lavoro si è basata su un particolare tipo di VT: i team science che partecipano a progetti di ricerca europei del 7° Programma Quadro (7PQ). Questi progetti sono considerati VT perché sono grandi progetti di collaborazione distribuiti che vedono coinvolti gruppi di pari in un contesto interdisciplinare. La scelta dei team science per la raccolta dei dati è anche motivata dal fatto che in letteratura è emersa l’esigenza di ulteriori studi su come l’esperienza, l’infrastruttura tecnologiche e il comportamento organizzativo possano migliorare le performance dei team coinvolti in collaborazioni scientifiche.
Per identificare i casi studio sono state scelte due variabili: la dimensione del team e l’area disciplinare scientifica/umanistica, come approssimazione dell’esperienza tecnologica. La dimensione del team è strettamente correlata alla complessità del coordinamento e quindi al processo di leadership, mentre l’area disciplinare è una buona approssimazione della percezione di utilità della tecnologia e dell’intenzione di usarla.
La raccolta dati è avvenuta tramite interviste semi-strutturate e per l’analisi dei contenuti è stato utilizzato il software NVivo. Dalla procedura di codifica dei dati in NVivo sono emerse molte categorie come l’interdipendenza delle attività (generica, sequenziale, reciproca), la qualità della relazione, le esigenze di coordinamento, l’integrazione della conoscenza e del comportamento, i processi di leadership, l’uso delle tecnologie, la percezione di efficacia e così via.
Le evidenze qualitative hanno mostrato la centralità della variabile integrazione della conoscenza e del comportamento del team come predittore dell’efficacia. Questa variabile è fortemente influenzata dalla progettazione delle attività e dalle loro interdipendenze. Date le richieste della commissione europea in termini di progettualità, tutti i casi studiati presentavano una dettagliata e rigorosa progettazione delle interdipendenze, che avrebbe dovuto generare un alto livello di integrazione. Tuttavia, la raccolta dati ha evidenziato che i progetti hanno raggiunto diversi livelli di integrazione e, di conseguenza, sono stati percepiti come più o meno di successo dai loro membri.
Dai dati emerge come vi siano due variabili che influenzano l’integrazione: il processo di leadership e l’uso delle tecnologie collaborative. Esse non influenzano indipendentemente, ma in maniera congiunta, la capacità di integrazione dei VT e, di conseguenza, la loro efficacia. In particolare, le evidenze qualitative mostrano l’importanza del conseguimento di allineamento tra le due variabili: rendere compatibili e sinergici i processi di leadership e di uso delle tecnologie porta a risultati più integrati e a comportamenti collaborativi fra i membri e, di fatto, migliora l’efficacia del team.
Da un lato infatti i due progetti di ricerca percepiti come più efficaci hanno ottenuto un allineamento alto: nel primo siamo in presenza di una leadership decentralizzata e il ruolo di integrazione della conoscenza e del comportamento è demandato alle tecnologie mentre nel secondo si ha una leadership centralizzata che svolge il ruolo di integrazione, senza aver bisogno di ricorrere a molte tecnologie. Dall’altro canto il progetto percepito come meno efficace è caratterizzato da un basso allineamento. La leadership scientifica del progetto è decentralizzata quindi il leader avrebbero dovuto ricorrere ad un uso massivo delle tecnologie per garantire l’integrazione ma questo non è accaduto. Manca il ruolo di integratore che non è svolto né dalla leadership né dalle tecnologie collaborative.
L’allineamento fra il processo di leadership e l’uso delle tecnologie di comunicazione e collaborazione è anche influenzato dalla dimensione del team, dalla priorità del progetto, dal turnover, dalle risorse economiche e dalle risorse relazionali.
I principali costrutti individuati sono stati quindi connessi per suggerire una complessa relazione fra progettazione delle interdipendenze, integrazione della conoscenza e del comportamento, percezione di efficacia e allineamento fra uso della tecnologia e processo di leadership: la percezione di efficacia dei VT è spiegata dall’integrazione della conoscenza e del comportamento, che a sua volta è influenzata dall’allineamento.
Questi risultati contribuiscono allo sviluppo delle teorie sull’efficacia dei VT: l’efficacia è influenzata dall’allineamento attraverso il raggiungimento dell’integrazione. Si arricchisce anche la conoscenza sulle dinamiche sociali dei team science: i processi sociali, come le risorse relazionali e il processo di leadership, e l’infrastruttura tecnologica hanno implicazioni reciproche sulla produzione scientifica, la collaborazione e il successo del team.
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Tipo di EPrint:Tesi di dottorato
Relatore:Grandi, Alessandro
Correlatore:Bertolotti, Fabiola and Mattarelli, Elisa
Dottorato (corsi e scuole):Ciclo 25 > Scuole 25 > INGEGNERIA GESTIONALE ED ESTIMO > INGEGNERIA GESTIONALE
Data di deposito della tesi:22 January 2013
Anno di Pubblicazione:22 January 2013
Parole chiave:Team virtuali, leadership, efficacia del team, tecnologie di comunicazione e collaborazione, integrazione della conoscenza e del comportamento. Virtual team, leadership, team effectiveness, collaboration and communication technology, knowledge and behavioral integration.
Settori scientifico-disciplinari MIUR:Area 09 - Ingegneria industriale e dell'informazione > ING-IND/35 Ingegneria economico-gestionale
Struttura di riferimento:Dipartimenti > Dipartimento di Tecnica e Gestione dei Sistemi Industriali
Codice ID:5328
Depositato il:22 Oct 2013 14:03
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Leadership e tecnologia nei team virtuali - Padua@Research

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