Extending the Contextual and Organizational Elements of Adaptive Structuration Theory in GSS Research *
Niederman, Fred, Briggs, Robert O., de Vreede, Gert-Jan, Kolfschoten, Gwendolyn L., Journal of the Association for Information Systems
This paper addresses the variance in findings across Group Support Systems (GSS) studies by suggesting an expanded consideration of organizational and contextual elements in Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST). We propose a model of structuring tactics at three levels of abstraction: the meeting level, activity level, and real time intervention level. We illustrate this model with three specific purposeful structuring tactics - agendas, design patterns, and micro-processes -and present related propositions. In addition to reviewing the more familiar tactics of agenda setting and group facilitation, we illustrate an approach to creating GSS value based on invoking particular social structures. We accomplish this through consideration of a design pattern language for collaboration processes drawn from the Collaboration Engineering literature. We conclude by discussing how this model of structuring tactics advances theory and practice in the GSS domain.
Keywords: Adaptive Structuration Theory, Groups Support Systems, Facilitation, Collaboration, Agenda, Collaboration Process Design
Group Support Systems (GSS) has been a major stream of MIS research for more than two decades, but has been characterized by a wide range of mixed results (See Fjermestad and Hiltz, 1999; 2001 for a compendium of GSS research). This research shows that, under some conditions, the use of GSS tools can be very helpful, indeed, while under other conditions the same GSS tools may be less useful. Therefore, it is difficult to draw systematic conclusions about the conditions that must be present for positive results to occur, particularly when extrapolating to tasks or technologies differing from those reported in the research (Munkvold and Zigurs, 2005). Thus, advice regarding best practices for adopting GSS remains tentative.
Much of the research on GSS concentrates on one-off meetings, with measures of success focused on meeting efficiency and effectiveness, idea generation and creativity, and participant satisfaction with process and outcomes (Fjermestad and Hiltz, 1999, 2001). While such a focus recognizes the importance of meetings as organizational communication mechanisms, it underestimates both the subservience of meeting effectiveness to broader organizational forces and the heavy influence of micro-processes on meeting outcomes.
Much of the GSS research published to date does not report the configuration specifics of GSS: the exact instructions given to the group, the guidelines, constraints, and ground rules by which they worked; and the step-by-step mechanics of how their work proceeded (Briggs, Vreede, and Nunamaker, 2003; Santanen, 2005). However, subtle variation in any of these factors can create substantial differences in group dynamics. Connolly, Jessup, and Valacich (1990), for example, demonstrated that GSS users who make identified contributions to a brainstorming session under ground rules that allow only positive feedback are significantly more satisfied but significantly less productive than users who make anonymous contributions under ground rules that allow for both positive and negative feedback. In like manner, Reinig et al. (1995) reported that GSS users brainstorm more ideas of higher novelty and feasibility when the facilitator's script invokes a salient social comparison than when the facilitator uses a slightly modified script that does not invoke a social comparison. Thus, a study reporting only that facilitator interventions had a positive influence on group outcomes does not provide sufficient detail to allow others to replicate such interventions effectively and methodically. There is also a need for details of the specific GSS features and configurations, the particulars of the tasks addressed, the specifics of facilitator instructions to GSS users, the ground rules and constraints under which GSS users act, and the mechanics and logistics of user actions. …