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Trusting virtual strangers: Developing trust online in temporary collaborative groups

Trusting virtual strangers: Developing trust online in temporary collaborative groups

TIHR Lunchtime Talk: 21 October 2015

Professor Niki Panteli & David Drabble

Tavistock Institute

July 11, 2016

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  1. Trusting Virtual Strangers Niki Panteli, [email protected] Professor of Information Systems

    School of Management Royal Holloway University of London David Drabble, [email protected] Researcher-Consultant The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations
  2.  "The [headoffice] people [in the US] are making all of

    the decisions and their goals may be different to ours in Singapore. For example, their goals may be for profit, but they did not discuss this with us. Therefore, when they did certain things it felt as though they were just inflicting their power on us....Maybe our management in Singapore have told us that our [own] objectives are for cost savings, and this can result in conflict and mistrust within the team" (Hi-Tech Co. Virtual Team member).
  3. Rationale  “Virtuality Requires Trust to make it work”  It is

    unwise to trust people whom you do not know well, whom you have not observed in action over time and who are not committed to the same goals…   Yet .. If we are to enjoy the efficiencies and other benefits of the virtual organization, we have to trust more …(Handy, 1995: 44)  But … how do you trust online?
  4. Trust: the concept  A state of a positive, confident, though

    subjective, expectation regarding the behaviour of somebody in a situation which entails risk to the trusting party  A willingness to be vulnerable to the results of another party’s actions  Trust dimensions   Integrity   Competence   Loyalty   Consistency
  5. Trust: the implications  A crucial ingredient for effective and productive

    collaborations  Positive impact on team performance “An important part of working with a team is trusting and getting to know one’s teammates. By allowing this important step, team morale is built and members are more receptive to one another’s contributions”
  6. Types of Trust  Dispositional Trust: natural tendency to trust  Conditional

    (early stages of a relationship) versus Unconditional (when relationships mature)  With familiarity (trust pre-requisite), conditional trust can transform to an enduring unconditional trust
  7. Trust in the Virtual Context (1)  Trust is often cited

    in the virtual team literature  A way to overcome differences and promote creativity & innovation.  Cited as a prerequisite for collaboration and knowledge sharing in the virtual context (Handy, 1995; Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999, Kotlarksy & Orshi, 2005).
  8. Trust in the Virtual Context (2)  One of the key

    challenges of virtual team success (Kirkman et al, 2002).  Literature suggests that virtuality requires face to face communication for trust development.  Time is luxury in Virtual Teams (esp in temporary ones)! Trust needs to develop quickly.
  9. High Tech Co. Global Virtual Teams SHARED GOALS Low Trust

    Teams: Lack of shared goals Lack of awareness of shared goal Individual goals take primacy High Trust Teams Awareness of Shared Goals Takes time to build goals Open debate up front Team goals have primacy  “…You start to wonder whether their motivation is the same as yours. Whether their motivation has dropped back. When you are not sat next to somebody you can’t see how hard they are working or whether they are working on the things that are [more] important to you” (Team 1, Interviewee B).  “We had a very definite vision of how we wanted the relationship to work. We were keen to engage... We …worked hard to …create a vision if you like” (Team 4, Interviewee E)
  10. High Trust Teams Availability of facilitators Facilitators focus on win-win

    Recognition of knowledge as power Recognition that power moves power in many places Power differentials are minimised High Tech Co. Global Virtual Teams POWER Low Trust Teams Power battles Misunderstandings and Conflicts Use of Positional/Coercive Power Perception of ‘I have Power’  “…Power tended to move based on whatever activities were going on at that time. I guess it followed those that were most knowledgeable at any point in time…” (Team 6, Interviewee F).
  11. Face-to-Face where possible Regular synchronous (e.g. skype) Social Interaction High

    Tech Co. Global Virtual Teams COMMUNICATION High Trust Teams Low Trust Teams Asynchronous (email) Time difference matters Little or no Social Interest “We have a travel freeze and I haven’t met any of the global team for more than a year now” (Team 1, Interviewee C)
  12. What makes it difficult to form virtual groups? Multi-national projects

    are generally less successful Greater physical and mental distance between group members Bodiless communication – double blind Tightly coupled work is inappropriate Staff in peripheries feel even more isolated Valence for stereotyping Creating and maintaining common group becomes an active task Fewer mechanisms for leaders to resolve differences
  13. How these issues play out  Three overlapping factors that influence

    trust in project teams:   Pre-conditions   Emerging dynamics   Leadership
  14. 1. Prior risk factors to building trust  Previous collaboration -

    important to have some unconditional trust  Matching skills to tasks: failure can lead to partners appearing incompetent  Diversity in ways of working and standards  High expectations can erode trust and slow momentum  Technical architecture important – great tech for calls/file sharing can help group dynamics
  15. 2. Emergent factors affecting groups  Mirroring processes accentuate issues:  

    – Disengaged client system can lead to uncommitted partnership   – Similarly, management processes become important: poor time keeping can become endemic  Accountability unlikely to occur with poor enforcement, no regular meetings, no clear PM  Sense of responsibility a key part of group membership – without mutual commitment/accountability, group norms erode  Work design can aid commitment e.g. involving all partners in all WPs –permeable boundaries and sense of ownership
  16. 3. Leadership and management issues  Leadership twin aims   –

    performing the primary task   – forming a robust group (distrustful groups perform poorly)  Clear identification of management roles  Committed project manager  Leading from the back can work well, focused on accountability/achieving initial aims  Oversight roles help project manager and de-isolate them  Evaluation is often ignored, online reflective sessions work but less effective/jarring
  17. 3. Trusting online leaders?  Types of leader influence how trust

    is built: 1.  ‘Diplomats’ not suited to lead multi-national projects – partners need motivating and clear messages to communicate aims/goals of project. Anxious about causing disruption 2.  ‘Achievers’ useful if limited – will help a project achieve aims but not as engaged in why and how the project could change the field  First type can erode initial ‘swift’ trust, second type forms functional groups.  Rarely see inspirational leaders in online groups. However:   Inspiration is particularly important in virtual projects as bonds are not developed through human contact but quality of communication
  18. Ameliorating trust barriers Clashes in ways of working Fewer mechanisms

    to resolve differences Giving commands without the full knowledge of their effects Tendency towards disengagement following project difficulties Deeper deliberation with all staff, permeable boundaries Better understanding of project’s ethic, purpose, and collective identity, allowing dissent Embrace minimal critical specification – dispersed leadership, and creating a platform for all staff to visibly participate in Achievement of objectives needs to be alongside motivation and inspiration
  19. Concluding Remarks  Shared goals (or lack of) influence trust  The

    process of constructing shared goals contributes towards trust development  Power shifts, not just in one place (member); evidence of shared/distributed leadership.  Trust (high or low) is Situated in the interactions of the virtual team  Virtuality indeed requires trust to make it work!