42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000 A by pptfiles

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									The Myth of Spontaneous Connection:
A Sociological Look Back at the 42V VEI Experience
Julie Rennecker MIT Sloan School of Management May 2000
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Virtual Ideals
 “This new workplace will be unrestrained by geography, time, and organizational boundaries…It will be a virtual workplace where productivity, flexibility, and collaboration will reach unprecedented new levels.” (Townsend et al, 1998)  “Electronic communication enables partners to link across distance, time, culture, departments, and organizations, thereby creating “anyone/anytime/anywhere” alternatives to the sametime, same-place, functionally centered, in-house forms of organizational experience.” (DeSanctis and Monge, 1999, citing O‟Hara-Devereaux and Johannsen, 1994)

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Virtual Teams in the Literature
• • • • History-less Infinitely malleable Inherently democratic Enthusiastically communicative • Acontextual

X X X X

X

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Research Question
• How do the team members‟ physical and cultural contexts affect their work practices, participation, and communication patterns within a virtual team?

Nation Occupation Org. Industry

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Overview
Oct’97: Kick-off

Sept’99: Stuttgart Sept’98: The Paris Summit

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

42-Volt “Virtual Engineering” Team
Task: Develop prototype design of ―next generation‖ automotive electrical system ―leading the industry toward a new set of standards.‖

• First Year
– – – – – – – 5 organizations 8 sites ~15 members 2 industries 2 countries 5 native languages 8 time zones

Second Year
– – – – – – – 10 organizations up to 20 sites ~20 members/meeting 3 industries 3 countries 5 native languages 8 time zones

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Research methods


First year
– Observing: ―shadowing‖ – Participating – Interviewing – Recording meetings – Self-reporting – Document reviewing



Second year
– Observing and recording meetings – Interviewing
• Face-to-face • Telephone • Email

– Group emails

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

The first year… Fall ‟97: Great Expectations
Oct’97: Kickoff Dec’97: Videoconf.
Great expectations

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Fall ‟97: Great Expectations
X X
X X

42V VEI Team

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Winter ‟97-98: Federation of Titans
Oct’97: Kickoff

Mar’98: Video

Dec’97: Videoconf.
Great Expectations Federation of Titans

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Winter ‟97-‟98: Federation of Titans
SuperU

X X
AmeriCar 42V VEI Team X X DeutschCar

AmeriChip

EuroChip

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Spring/summer ‟98: Private Endeavors
Oct’97: Kickoff

Sept’98: Paris Summit
Mar’98: Video

Dec’97: Videoconf.
Private Endeavors

Great expectations

Federation of Titans

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Spring/summer ‟98: Private Endeavors
SuperU X X AmeriCar 42V VEI Team X X DeutschCar

AmeriChip

EuroChip
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

“Document” postings per month--Y1
20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

Nov-97

Aug-97

Sep-97

Dec-97

Mar-98

Aug-98

May-98

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Sep-98

Oct-97

Apr-98

Feb-98

Jan-98

Jun-98

Jul-98

“Discussion” postings per month--Y1
20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

Nov-97

Mar-98

Feb-98

Oct-97

Apr-98

Jan-98

Aug-97

Sep-97

Dec-97

Jun-98

Aug-98

May-98

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Sep-98

Jul-98

Meeting Attendance--Y1
30 25 20 15 10 5 0

Mar-98

May-98

Oct-97

Nov-97

Apr-98

Aug-98

Jan-98

Jun-98

AmeriCar

SuperU

DeutschCar

AmeriChip

EuroChip

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Sep-98

Dec-97

Feb-98

Jul-98

Summary: The first year
Work segmented by organization.  Leadership characterized by ambiguity.  Team communication limited primarily to formal meetings every 2-3 months.  Cross-organizational interaction occurred via established, private channels invisible to most members.  Stable membership with high proportion of OEM managers.  Supplier participation limited to meeting attendance.

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

September „98: Paris “Summit”
Agreement to… • redefine project to better include suppliers. • establish both technical and ―virtual engineering‖ goals for coming year.

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

The second year… Fall/Winter ‟98-‟99: Going Virtual
Sept’98: Paris Summit

Feb/Mar’99: New Members

Going virtual

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Fall/Winter ‟98-‟99: Going virtual
SuperU AmeriCar

DeutschCar

EuroChip

AmeriChip
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Spring/summer ‟99: Expanding membership
Sept’98: Paris Summit

Sept’99: Going public Feb/Mar’99: New Members

Going virtual

Expanding membership

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Spring/summer ‟99: Expanding membership
SuperU AmeriCar

DeutschCar
ConnectCo

USBattery

EuroChip

AmeriChip

EuroBattery
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

September ‟99: Going public
Sept’98: Paris Summit

Sept’99: Going public Feb/Mar’99: New Members

Going virtual

Expanding membership

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

September „99: Going public

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

“Document” postings per month--Y2
20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
Nov-98 Dec-98 Mar-99 Aug-99 May-99 Sep-99 Feb-99 Oct-98 Apr-99 Jan-99 Jun-99 Jul-99

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

“Discussion” postings per month--Y2
20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 Oct- Nov- Dec- Jan- Feb- Mar- Apr- May- Jun- Jul- Aug- Sep98 98 98 99 99 99 99 99 99 99 99 99

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0
10/13/1998 10/27/1998 11/10/1998 11/24/1998 12/8/1998 12/22/1998 1/5/1999 1/19/1999 2/2/1999 2/16/1999 3/2/1999 3/16/1999 3/30/1999 4/13/1999 4/27/1999 5/11/1999 5/25/1999 6/8/1999 6/22/1999 7/6/1999 7/20/1999 8/3/1999 8/17/1999 8/31/1999 9/14/1999

Meeting Attendance--Y2

AmeriCar EuroChip ConnectCo SuperU EuChip2 EuroBatt2 DeutschCar USBattery Misc AmeriChip EuroBattery AmChip2 AutoSupply
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Summary: The second year
• Some tasks assigned to cross-site subgroups. • Leadership roles are unambiguous. • Monthly meetings via NetMeeting supplement faceto-face meetings. • All meeting documents are posted on the Web. • Expanded membership accompanied by shifts in OEM-supplier and manager-technical mix. • Suppliers take the lead on technology development.

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

What happened?
Intra-team shifts • Recognized leader • Clearly-defined goals • Different membership size and mix • Cross-site collaboration • Computer-conferencing Extra-team shifts • Escalating industry interest in 42-volt technology • Mergers, spin-offs and reorganizations • Threats to funding

42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Some things stayed the same… Cultural rules
• Work organization
– Task segmentation by organization – Exceptions: Conference papers; Statemate model

• Communication practices
– – – – Minimize verbiage. Don’t speak out of ―place.‖ Don’t look stupid. Communicate and collaborate with people you know.

• Social order: Status levels
– OEMs call the shots. – Expertise and reputation rule.
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Structure-culture interaction


Structure creates conditions of disparate information access.
– – – – Geographic dispersion Organizational distribution Organizational policies, i.e., travel Meeting structures (i.e., member distribution; technology constraints)



Cultural norms for communication and work organization further complicate the situation.
– Higher status members have greatest access to information and so are often not aware of information asymmetries. – Bias against ―unnecessary‖ communication also limits helpful information exchange – Fear of looking ―stupid‖ restricts helpful inquiry. – Physical distribution and meeting structures constrained members’ opportunities to become acquainted hindering the development of collaborative relationships.
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

What happened?: A look beyond the team
Oct’97: Kickoff
Sept’98: Paris Summit

Mar’98: Video
Dec’97: Videoconf.
Great Expectations Federation of Titans Private Endeavors
DeutschCarStarCar Merger SuperU funding threatened

AmeriChip downsized
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Intra-team shifts as artifact of local events
Apparent increases in interactivity and participation were often rooted in responses to local conditions.

• Organization “face” management:
“I told them [management] that whether 42-volts was on our radar screen or not, that [an automaker] had invited us, and we couldn‟t afford to turn down this kind of an invitation from such an important client.”

• Corporate reorganization:
“Everyone‟s scrambling for a place to land until the reorganization dust settles, so I‟ll take Dean‟s place and will perch here until something else shows up.”
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Intra-team shifts as artifact of local events
• Merger:
“It is okay that Orthmann goes to AmeriCar, but that is not so important. What matters to me is that he is at StarCar [newly merged site] making connections, and when they [new partners] need research, they will call us [instead of another research group within the company], and we will be ready because we have experience with virtual engineering.”

• Funding:
“Frankly, if we don‟t frame this more as a „virtual engineering‟ project, we are going to lose our funding.”
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Summary
• Intra-team factors (goals, leader, membership) impact the qualitative experience of team participation, i.e.,
– Inclusion/exclusion – Work coordination – Member familiarity

• Cultural rules (who speaks when and to whom) interact with team and meeting structures to influence interaction patterns and information flow. • Extra-team events and conditions determine participation and membership patterns.
– Organizational and/or personal ―face‖ – Financial pressure – Performance appraisal criteria
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Implications
• Structural changes can influence information flow and member relationships.

• Intra-team interventions to facilitate teamwork need to be congruent with the underlying cultural rules.
• Factors affecting participation in the team are likely to be either ―strategic‖ or matters of ―face‖ and unlikely to be revealed to the team. • Intra-team changes are unlikely to have much effect on member involvement (some exceptions with respect to the goal).
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Recommendations: Counter structure…
• Maximize use of ―public‖ communication channels. Consider ―cc:‖ to group email list just to keep members apprised of project activity. • Assign tasks to cross-organizational subgroups. • All communication media both enhance and constrain information exchange—use a mix of media to facilitate different participant configurations to counter information asymmetries and increase member familiarity. • Cross-organizational site visits facilitate information exchange that will not likely occur in technology-mediated meetings.

• Share major calendar information several weeks in advance (vacations/holidays; obligations to other projects; etc.)
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Recommendations: …but be congruent with culture.
• Solicit input, offline if necessary, from lower status/non-expert members because they are unlikely to offer it. • Use meetings to maximize breadth of members’ familiarity with one another (the foundation for collaboration), e.g.,
– Bring a new person to each face-to-face meeting until each team member has attended at least one. – Share the role of site ―spokesperson‖ during technology-mediated meetings. – Have each person introduce him/herself so people at least hear one another’s voices.

• Develop an inventory of team member expertise to optimize use of in-team resources and facilitate positive perceptions among members, i.e., consider posting CV’s or listings of members’ roles in former projects.
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000

Food for thought…
One size does not fit all: Virtual work practices will reflect the larger context within which people work and so will differ from one virtual team to another depending on the membership and current conditions. Geographic and organizational dispersion often amplify pre-existing dynamics. Neither ―structure‖ nor ―culture‖ alone are sufficient to explain team performance—one must consider both, and in the context of current conditions. Understanding virtual team dynamics requires looking beyond the team boundary. Ultimately, virtual team participants are first and foremost organizational members. When participation is erratic, assume organizational issues are at play. Things are often not what they seem.
42V Virtual Engineering Initiative—J.Rennecker—July 2000


								
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