Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Global Team Performance Improvements through the Development of Trust

Modified from Sarker, et. al (2011)
Business enhancement requires a level of thinking beyond the concrete efficiencies we have enhanced through statistical turnip twisting over the past few decades. Some have argued that future gains from efficiency will be much harder to realize. The next era may possibly be based on the use of virtual networks that enhance the fuzzy nature of human performance to new levels that not only create new layers of efficiency but also higher levels of output. Research conducted by Sarker, et. al (2011) indicates that trust within communication networks can increase team performance.

Trust is an important aspect of business success and social development. People are longing for more trust as a result of an extra emphasis on collaboration and changes in interconnectivity of technology (McEvily, et. al., 2003). As exchanges occur in a virtual world people are seeking higher levels of trust in their cultural exchanges. They want to be sure that people they are communicating with have some level of concern over their needs.

This trust is needed even more so when people do not have a shared history, are geographically separated, do not share a previous social context, and interact primarily through electronic media (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999). As such communication becomes more common across the world and through multinational corporations the development of the trust factor may lead to higher levels of performance.

The ability of trust to impact communication and performance is not well defined. Some believe that trust interacts with communication to enhance performance (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001). Other researchers have put forward the argument that it is more of an additive role alongside communication (Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1999). Whether trust enhances or simply adds to performance is a significant debate of performance. 

If trust enhances performance, it takes on a more useful role and can be considered a beneficial trait that further develops performance. If trust is more additive, it means that it is a supplemental additive to a communication strategy but is not necessarily a performance enhancer. It is something to use in addition to other activities but doesn’t change, influence, or enhance those factors. 

Performance is a level of motivation and effectiveness that relies in part on other group members. People do not act in isolation but do so in the context of other individuals within their social networks (Wellman, et. al., 2003). They seek to understand the implications of their behavior in relation to others. These implications are based upon cues and the meaning of the performance in relation patterns to others within their networks (Galaskiewicz & Wasserman, 1994). Trust is earned by the leader but also given by others.

The concept of trust in leadership and communication is an important one in order to create influence. Trust can be defined as the “willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party, based upon the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the other party” (Mayer & Davis, 1995).  The parties should feel that their leader will be consistent in his/her patterns and promises regardless of whether or not that leader is being watched.

A trust that they will do what they say they will do as well as what they have done in the past. It is a trust of the future. For example, if a leader has a particular pattern of behavior and people follow that leader based upon their actions they would expect that the leader will continue to do what they say they will do. When the leader professes something different than what they are doing the trust disappears and is slowly replaced by doubt. This doubt can lead to lower performance of team members who may no longer believe their efforts will be fruitful because of hijacked intentions.

Furthermore, such team trust is influenced by the perception that members will not be injured or be taken advantage of. Collective trust is based upon the belief that leaders will continue with commitments, be honest during discussions, and will avoid taking undue advantage of their members (Cummings & Bromiley, 1996). When such elements of trust are together they can influence a higher level of team performance (Dirks & Ferrin, 2001). Such team members do not have a problem putting forward effort if they are relatively sure of the results of such efforts.

The researchers Sarker et. al. (2011) sought to understand the effect of communication and trust on performance within globally distributed teams.  They used data from globally distributed teams working on systems analysis and development projects. The teams included U.S. with Norway and U.S. with Denmark to capture conceptual linkages between communication, trust, and individual performance.


-There were regional differences in performance. Scandinavians had higher performance than U.S. members. U.S. and Norway teams had higher performance than U.S. and Denmark teams.

-Gender had an influence on the success of teams with males performing at a higher level.  

-Trust had a significant impact on performance outcomes. 
-Communication centrality (importance in network) had an impact on trust centrality.

-Communication centrality (importance in communication network) had a significant effect on performance. 

-Trust centrality (center of trust) had an impact on overall performance.

Business Analysis:

Trust is a practical aspect of communication. It is difficult to encourage others to complete tasks and raise themselves to higher levels of performance unless there is a level of trust in relationships with leadership. The gaining of a leadership position rests in the ability to put oneself in the center of importance and information networks. Those leaders who achieve a level of power can either enhance team performance or lower its ability based upon the level of integrity and congruence between words and action. When people believe that these actions and words match together they will be more motivated to complete their work tasks with the knowledge that they are not being taken advantage of and their work is moving in the right direction. The study did not indicate this concept but the cultural factors that allow people to share a level of similarity in perception may influence performance. If the leaders and followers are unable to understand each others perspective that trust will be more difficult to gain and would require more communication, blending of networks, and congruence between action and words. To change patterns means to change perception.

Cummings, L. & Bromiley, P. (1996). The organizational trust inventory (OTI): Development and validation. In R. Kramer and T. Tyler (eds.), Trust in Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Dirks, K. & Ferrin, D. (2001). The role of trust in organizational settings. Organizational Science, 12 (4).

Galaskiewicz, J., & Wasserman, S. (1994).  Introduction advances in the social and behavioral
sciences from social network analysis. In S. Wasserman and J. Galaskiewicz (eds.), Advances in Social Network Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jarvenpass, S. & Leidner, D. (1999). Communication and trust in global virtual teams. Organizational Science, 10 (6).

Mayer, R.,  Davis, J., and Schoorman, D. (1995) An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review, 2, (3)

 McEvily, B., Perrone, V. & Zaheer, A. (2003). Introduction to special issue on trust in an organizational context, Organizational Science, 14 (1).

Wellman, B, et. al. (2003). The social affordances of the Internet for networked individualism. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 8 ( 3).

Sarker, S., Ahuja, M. Sarker, S. & Kirkeby, S. (2011). The Role of Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams: A Social Network Perspective. Journal of Management Information Systems, 28 (1).

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