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Teams and Organizing in the Digital Age: How Team Networks Form and Why They Perform

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This dissertation explores the relationship between how teams form and what they need to perform. It adopts the perspective that technology is fundamental to organizing in modern workplaces and examines how technology may both enhance and constrain teamwork. By adopting this perspective, two questions naturally follow. First, how do teams organize using technologies? Second, how can technologies enable teams to organize effectively? </DISS_para> <DISS_para>Addressing these two questions are of utmost importance due to two recent trends in contemporary organizations. The first trend is the rise of teams in the workplace, whereby firms are reorganizing as team-based structures to promote agility and fluidity. A 2018 Deloitte report that surveyed over 11,000 businesses found that an astounding ninety-one percent of executives ranked redesigning their organizations as a “network of teams” their number one priority (Deloitte Insights, 2018). The second trend is the rise in social media use for internal communications within the workplace. Unlike external uses of social media that cross many public platforms (e.g., Facebook for social networking, Twitter for microblogging), most organizations implement an integrated social media platform for internal communications that contains several functions (Leonardi, Huysman, & Steinfield, 2013). These platforms are collectively referred to as enterprise social media or ESM and recent reports show that two-thirds of organizations are already using ESM for their internal communications and this percentage continues to grow (Bughin, 2015). Yet despite the growing adoption of ESM, organizational scholars have been slow to study their impact on organizing and teamwork. Hence, many of the opportunities that social media offers workers remains at the potential level rather than evidence based. These two trends not only reveal that organizations are replacing traditional hierarchical structures with flatter, team-based designs but also suggest that traditional approaches to studying work teams and technology may no longer be sufficient for understanding how teams function. Accordingly, this dissertation provides a new framework for understanding contemporary teams that specifically examines how teams naturally organize with technologies and subsequently, how technologies may enable teams to organize effectively. Towards this end, it adopts a social network approach to evaluate the structural signatures or network structures that emerge from team members’ interactions. Chapter 1 introduces the framework for investigating team properties and phenomena in this dissertation: the team form-perform paradox. This paradox refers to the disconnect between what teams do and what they ought to do to be effective. In particular, the literature on teams over the past century of research has found that teams need certain enabling conditions (Hackman, 2012) that increase the odds that they are effective. These needs include features such as diverse composition or sharing unique information. Yet the features that research has found to be most important for team performance are often disincentivized by self-formation tendencies or default team behaviors that lead to unintended consequences when people team up together. Chapter 1 proposes that the team form-perform paradox is a useful lens for synthesizing the research on teams to date and proposes that studies on teams ought to consider both the self-formation tendencies and team performance requirements in tandem, rather than as distinct entities. Building on the team form-perform paradox framework introduced in Chapter 1, Chapters 2 through 4 explore how this lens can be used to first assess, and then improve team functioning. More specifically, Chapter 2 examines how team communication networks naturally form, and then explores how formal interventions or simple team messages can improve the effectiveness of communication in the context of online team discussions. This chapter finds that formal interventions aimed at structuring group process can be a useful way to help teams overcome some of their self-formation tendencies. Chapters 3 and 4 then explore how the design features of modern technologies, namely enterprise social media, alter the self-formation tendencies of teams. Essentially, ESM offers teams unprecedented opportunities for organizing, and it is possible that these capabilities may facilitate new ways for teams to communicate, interact, and collaborate that can help teams overcome their form-perform paradox. To better understand the nature of these new opportunities, Chapter 3 develops a conceptual model for examining how social media use impacts teams. It proposes that the teaming environment shapes how social media affordances are enacted to alter how teams carry out team processes. Affordances refer to the potential for new actions that are offered by the features of an object, such as a technology, and provides a useful lens for examining both the positive and negative consequences of social media use on teams. Lastly, Chapter 4 explores some of these new opportunities empirically by examining how team communication networks form on social media and how they perform. Towards this end, Chapter 4 investigates how social media networks may complement and enhance traditional forms of informal communication within the workplace and examines the implications of these new capabilities on performance. >In short, this dissertation is about how contemporary teams use technologies to accomplish their work. The basic premise is that the rapid pace of technological improvement in the digital age offers unprecedented opportunities that potentially enable teams to overcome their self-formation tendencies to achieve their needs and accomplish their goals.

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  • 04/01/2019
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