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Organizational Psychology – Virtual Teams

Answers the Question

How do organizations successfully utilize virtual teams?

How it began

Research into virtual teams continues with the growth of global organizations and remote working. The improvements in communication technology has enabled virtual teams to become normalized in most organizational settings but the setting is recognized as being messy.

They share many challenges as those experienced by face-to-face teams but these challenges are exacerbated by their virtuality: poor line management;

Underperformance from individual members leads to greater levels of dysfunction.

Other theoretical issues are also raised including: Where does team boundaries begin and end? How can technology be used to improve performance? What is the balance between local responsiveness and global integration?

Virtual Teams

Key Terminology

Virtual Teams – groups of interdependent coworkers who are geographically dispersed, dependent on technology, structurally dynamic and culturally diverse

Emergent states – important mediational influences with explanatory power accounting for variability in team performance.

In Brief

Input-process-output (IPO) Framework (Hackman & Morris 1975; McGrrath, 1984)
Inputs are factors that are controllable by organisations for example; leadership behaviours, team composition; HR policies; job design
Team processes are the interdependency of team activities required for teamwork leading to the achievement of team goals. Categories include action, transition or interpersonal. The lack of understanding of group values; regulative information and social cues negatively affect individual’s ability to reduce ambiguity, establish social identity to establish collaborative partnerships
Outputs include performance; attitudes and behaviours.

Individual-Level

Four themes are highlighted at individual level; 1) Communication effects caused by technology; Computer mediated communication is highlighted where individual or social identity will determine conformity to either personal or social norms. 2) relational demography where diversity affects individual expectations about teamwork 3) individual differences; where individual differences including personality characteristics and cognitive styles and the resulting commitment to virtual teams and 4) task type and characteristics; where relation to positive individual outcomes including trust, task attraction, social attraction and self rated task success impact adherence to a set of team work rules.

What does this mean for OD

  1. Reviewing technology to ensure leaner media (video-conferencing; e-mail) is used to facilitate communication clarity when team members have less task-relevant knowledge
  2. Check team composition; heterogeneous virtual teams are more superior that Face to Face teams, but Homogeneous teams are more satisfied, cohesive and experience less conflict.
  3. Keep virtual teams small – smaller teams participate more actively, are more committed to the team, have high goal and team member awareness and higher levels of rapport.
  4. Pay attention to the four critical success factors for virtual teams – communication; culture; technology and project management.
  5. The most successful virtual teams have more concentrated leadership behaviour focused on performance and keeping track of group work.
  6. Length of leader’s tenure increases levels of trust and technology support.
  7. Social communication is linked to building trust early in global virtual teams.
  8. Substantive and timely response and leadership are involved in maintaining trust at later stages.

References

Hackman, J. R. and Morris, C. G. (1975) Group tasks, group interaction process and group performance effectiveness: A review and proposed integration. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.) Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 8 pp. 47 – 101). New York. Academic Press

Kirkman, B. L, Gibson, C. B. and Kim, K. (2012) Across Borders and Technologies: Advancements in Virtual Team Research. In Kozlowski, S. W. J. (Ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psychology (Vol. 2. pp. 789 – 858). Oxford. Oxford University Press

McGrath, J. E. (1984). Groups, interaction and performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

 

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Recommended Reading – The Roles of Organisation Development

Role of OD

Garden, A. (2015) The Roles of Organisation Development. Gower Publishing

I have been practicing OD for over ten years, and in that time have never found an adequate way of describing exactly what it is that I do… until now.

Thanks to Annamaria Garden, The Roles of the OD practitioner are articulated in a way that makes sense,  that actually mean something and explains what we do.  I also absolutely love the way the end of each chapter provides the opportunity for you to self assess using questions and exercises, so you can build your own practitioner personal development plan.

The roles are:

Seer – It is the skill of seeing things; of seeing through appearances and looking into the future. Knows what to begin to prioritise or pay attention to.  They may know before other do, what needs to be focused on.

Translator – The hearing equivalent to seeing.  It is the skill of listening in order to translate one person to another.  Listens to the organisation’s speech, looking for the intentions and purpose behind the problems in the organisation.

Cultivator – A role of understanding the rhythm and pacing in the organisation.  Recognizing when to go slow, or when to operate at great speed.  Aims to heal people and the organisation, focusing on organisational wellness.

Catalyst – Hits the bullseye.  Good at combining different things or people to create something quite new and exciting.

Navigator – Charts people and the organisation through psychological space.  Knowing the direction, the current space as well as propelling people to get to the direction.

Teacher – Focuses on teaching well.

Guardian – Creates an ethical, not just effective organisation.  Being aware of oneself and having disciplines to encourage that.

Each chapter is joyous to read.  It’s like unveiling a mirror and understanding what an OD practitioner looks like for the first time.  Its also clearly written, practical as well as theoretical and… well just makes sense.

This is a truly excellent book, but a word of warning, it is also one of the most irritating books I have read as well.  I blame the burgeoning academic in me, which given that Garden has such as stella academic background perhaps is more a reflection on my failings than her.  If you don’t mind her name dropping the OD greats every other sentence, this book will probably not be irritating in the slightest, but I found myself mentally thinking “lets just pick that up from the floor” for every name she dropped… which is often.  To my British sensibilities its all a bit boastful.  Furthermore there is something rather smug (and academically wrong) about the way she calls Shutz, “Will”, Schein, “Ed” and Beckhard “Dick” – yes we get it, you were mentored and taught by the greats, you don’t have to remind us every five seconds.

But despite my personal irritation this is still an excellent book and one I would highly recommend you get for your bookshelf.  Get it here.

 

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Organisational Psychology – Team Participation and Empowerment: A Multilevel Perspective

Answers the Question

How can organisations leverage their human resources to meet complex challenges?

How it Began

Interest in empowerment and participation can be traced back to Kurt Lewin’s classic research on leadership styles and the 1930’s Hawthorne studies.  Individual agency needs (e.g. need for control and achievement) have long supported motivation provided by employee involvement and empowerment.  At an organisational level the growing importance of self-managed and self empowered teams has led to a growing interest in participation and empowerment especially with the shift to a knowledge economy and delayering within organisations.

Psychology

Much research into empowerment has been conducted at an individual level.  However, Kirkman and Rosen (1997, 1999) explored empowerment at a team level, arguing that team members can share the belief that their team has autonomy, performs meaningful tasks, is competent and can make an impact.  There is an assumption that these dimensions have the same conceptual meaning as those at individual level analysis.  However, team empowerment is distinct from individual empowerment in that individual members may differ in their beliefs about personal empowerment but have a shared belief and experience among the team members.

A closely related concept is that of Team Participation which entails greater engagement of team members in the processes contributing to team success.  There are three key processes; transition processes, how team task strategies, goals and plans are generated; action processes, how the team coordinate and regulate effort to achieve team goals; interpersonal processes, how teams manage conflict and morale in the team.

Both empowerment and participation assumes that involving team members in core team functions would lead to improved team effectiveness and improve team outcomes.  This would prove satisfying for team members and would further motivate and engage the team further in their work.  Thus capturing important aspects of engagement.   However, team empowerment captures the psychological engagement among team members whereas team participation involves collective behavioural engagement of team members.  The interconnectedness between empowerment and participation across both individual-level and team-level reflect both a bottom up and a top down process through which individual members influence their team, and the team influences individual members.

Key Terminology

Empowerment – an employee’s actual (subjective) sense of being empowered determined by a set of believes or states; autonomy, meaning, competence and impact

Autonomy –  An employee’s sense that they have latitude to choose how and where to get their job done

Team Participation – A process of information exchange and knowledge transfer.  The extent to which team members collectively and actively engage in transition, action and interpersonal processes.

In Brief

Job Characteristics Model (Hackman & Oldham, 1976) – The key to employee motivation  is the task itself.  Monotony stifles motivation to perform well, whereas challenge enhances motivation. Variety, autonomy and the ability to make decisions are three ways of adding challenge to a job. Job enrichment and job rotation are the two ways of adding variety and challenge.

Self-determination theory (Deci, Connell, & Ryan, 1989) is concerned with supporting our natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways.  Thereby capturing the belief that employees possess the competence to perform effectively work tasks and roles and the belief they can make an impact on the workplace.

Participation in Decision Making (Locke and Schweiger, 1979, Locke et al., 1997) assumes that encouraging and allowing employees to be involved in decision making processes motivates employees and promotes decision quality and outcomes.  Perceived fairness, nature of task and employee knowledge contribute to understanding how participation in decision making is related to performance and motivation outcomes.

Proactive and Citizenship Behaviours Personal Initiative (Frese & Fay, 2001), Voice (Van Dyne & LePine, 1998) and Citizenship Behaviours (Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Paine & Bachrach, 2000) directly consider employees’ active and proactive engagement in work.  Employee choose, and are encouraged, to actively participate in and contribute to organizational work.

Self-Managed and Autonomous Work Teams (Cohen & Bailey, 1997) is where members of self-managed work teams are encouraged to be involved and participate in making decisions that previously were made by supervisors and managers.  Self managed teams are reliant on team design and structural empowerment.

What does this mean for Organisation Development?

The OD practitioner must recognise that teams consist of a social system of interdependent individual members – that is, individual team members cannot accomplish their roles effectively, and the team as a whole cannot function effectively, unless members work together in a coordinated fashion.  In this respect individual and team empowerment are positively related.

At an individual level developing individual employees in respect to positive self-views, including self-esteem and general self-efficacy are positively related to psychological empowerment.

Supporting individuals to interpret work experience more positively, as well as enabling individuals to be more proactive at work will enhance the likelihood of an individual being more empowered.  Working with individual’s through coaching and self-awareness can help develop motivational attributes; increase awareness of cultural differences; develop an understanding of employee expertise and highlight the quality of leader-employee relationships.

Other areas to focus on through Management Development is for Managers to support the individuals need for achievement and openness and emotional stability.  This can be achieved through review job characteristics to ensure that job tasks are less ambiguous; there is access to more information; greater skill variety; autonomy; team based rewards, role expectations; task significance and job feedback.  The quality of relationship between employees and their supervisor and co-worker must also be developed through social support structures.

Social-orientated inputs also need tackling, specifically leadership behaviours and climate which exert social influences on teams, and play a major role in allowing, encouraging and enabling team empowerment.  Developing empowering leadership behaviours will help team members to set their own goals, delegate responsibility, enhance the teams’ sense of control and autonomy and raise team members’ expectations regarding team outcomes.

An empowerment climate and participative leadership can be developed through making use of organisational structures, encouraging information sharing, team accountability, policies and practices which support employee empowerment.

References

  • Cohen, S. G., & Bailey, D. E. (1997). What makes teams work: Group effectiveness research from the shop floor to the executive suite. Journal of management, 23(3), 239-290.
  • Deci, E. L., Connell, J. P., & Ryan, R. M. (1989). Self-determination in a work organization. Journal of applied psychology, 74(4), 580.
  • Frese, M., & Fay, D. (2001). 4. Personal initiative: An active performance concept for work in the 21st century. Research in organizational behavior, 23, 133-187.
  • Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1976). Motivation through the design of work: Test of a theory. Organizational behavior and human performance, 16(2), 250-279.
  • Kozlowski, S. W. J., (2012) The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Psyhcology Volume 2, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Pg. 767 – Pg. 788
  • Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1999). Beyond self-management: Antecedents and consequences of team empowerment. Academy of Management journal, 42(1), 58-74.
  • Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1997) A model  of work team empowerment. Research in Organizational Change and Development, 10, 131 – 167
  • Locke, E. A.,Alavi, M., & Wagner, J. A. (1997) Participation in decision making: An information exchange perspective. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 15, 293-331
  • Locke, E. A., & Schweiger, D. M. (1979). Participation in decision-making: One more look. Research in organizational behavior, 1(10), 265-339.
  • Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Paine, J. B., & Bachrach, D. G. (2000). Organizational citizenship behaviors: A critical review of the theoretical and empirical literature and suggestions for future research. Journal of management, 26(3), 513-563.
  • Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra-role behaviors: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108-119.
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The Nature of Organisational Psychology

What question does it answer?

How does the science of psychology apply to work and organizations?

How it Began

Organizational Psychology developed from Industrial Psychology as a field of inquiry which endeavours to understand how people working together in organizations.  Since work is central to societal functioning, giving us both material benefits, identity, psychological well-being and a structure to our time and activity, organizational psychology necessitates an understanding of work as a fact of life.

organisation-psychology-3b-300x193

The nature of work has changed as our society has evolved.  Moving from basic subsistence to a modern understanding of work which seeks to be more meaningful to the individuals.  Work and organizations are not fixed, they are socially constructed and they change and evolve alongside our society and cultural changes.

Key Terminology

Industrial Psychology – Testing, selection and Training applicable to industry

Employee Well Being – That part of an employee’s overall well-being that they perceive to be determined primarily by work and can be influenced by workplace interventions.

Organizational Effectiveness – how effective an organization is in achieving the outcomes the organization intends to produce

In Brief

The purpose of organizational psychology is to “understand the psychology of organizations and people, and to apply that basic psychological science to help people become more fulfilled and to help organizations become more effective.” (Kozlowski, 2012)

There are different approaches to Organizational Psychology which demonstrate the complexities and challenges of studying organizations and the behaviours that occurs within them.

Industrial and Organzational Psychology – Not an either or, but an and.  Industrial and Organizational psychology represent domains of research and application that have evolved historically, focusing on areas such a human characteristics, behaviour and organizational performance.

Employee Wellbeing and Organizational Effectiveness – Applying psychological principles to improve the experience of workers and the effectiveness of the organization and how this work in tandem to improve organizational performance.

Basic and Applied Science – Developmental, Social or Neuroscience.  The fields are vast but the goal is the same – to discover generalized principles of human behaviour that cut across a wide range of situations

Science and Practice – Explaining important phenomena through the development of meta-theories, systematic research, investigation, codification of knowledge and the development of tools – applied by practitioners in the workplace.

What does this Mean for Organization Development?

Organisation Development is a field of knowledge that concentrates on the development of organisation effectiveness, especially during change. It uses group and human dynamic processes from applied behavioural science methods, research and theories to facilitate movement of groups and organisations.  This includes drawing from Organizational Psychology.

Organisation Development is based on research, including that from the field of organizational psychology, which demonstrates that every part of an organisation is integral to a system that relies on and impacts other elements of the internal and external environment in which the organisation operates.  Key areas of research include (although this is not an exhaustive list);

  • Human Characteristics and differences and their impact of individual/team/organizational functioning
  • Assessment, tests and technology used in people activities; including employee performance assessment, job design, training, selection etc.
  • Assessment of individual differences in abilities
  • Organizational systems theory, Organizational Behaviour and change and effectiveness
  • Leadership and Motivation
  • Leveraging synergies across the micro and macro divide e.g. understanding how Organizational strategy shapes the needs of employees
  • Human capital and its impact on strategy, capability and effectiveness
  • Application of psychological principles on well-being e.g. impact of organizational restructuring and business reengineering, including stress and survival anxiety of employees
  • Cognitive neuroscience and brain function – impact on decision making, mood and disorders
  • Personality, attitudes, values and interpersonal interactions
  • Motivation from achievement, power and renumeration
  • Influences on leadership and group processes
  • Behaviour outcomes on job performance, attitudes and other reactions
  • Principles for understanding important classes of work bheaviour
  • Tools to influence, shape and enhance human performance
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Book Review – Leadership Meta-Competencies

It’s rare that a book comes along that covers the topic of leadership in a way which makes me sit up and take notice but that is exactly what Leadership Meta-Competencies by Dimitris Bourantas and Vasia Agapitou has done.

I am very naughty with books and journals, and anything that sparks my interest gets highlighted or I write notes to myself in the margin.  This book is covered in my scrawling meme’s.  I was hooked from the first page and by the time I had read Chapter 1 I had discovered the most succinct yet thorough overview of leadership theories I have ever read – and I have to many books to count on leadership theories.

9781472420688

Most delightfully, for an academic practitioner was the presentation of theories from a critical perspective.  It didn’t just describe the theories but evaluated their usefulness in the ongoing debate.

But the delights of the book don’t stop there.  You might be put off by some of the academic language – phronsis, existential thinking and meta-competence might not be the language of business, but what is contained within is useful, practice… intelligible.

If you are looking for a book that bridges the gap (the gulf) between academic thinking and research and what to do with it in the real world, then this book does that in buckets.  It takes the theory and does something with it that is rare but so important.  Makes sense of it so that you can apply the thinking in your day to day.

The blurb says “it contains no check lists or recipes for success and it presents no theoretically-based models” and that is true.  But what it does do, is gets you thinking and surely that is the point of any literature.

Whether you are an academic or a practitioner.  Studying or working in the real world.  If you want to understand Leadership competencies in the work place – start here.


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