Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Human Side of Group Support Systems: Influences on Satisfaction and Effectiveness

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Human Side of Group Support Systems: Influences on Satisfaction and Effectiveness

Article excerpt

The American workforce spends a substantial amount of their workday in meetings. One recent estimate suggests that approximately 11 million meetings take place each day in the United States alone (Hanke, 1998). These meetings account for approximately 100 million hours of professional and executive productivity. Meetings are deemed to be important because they result in discussion of issues, generation of ideas, dissemination of information, and attainment of decisions. Employees spend anywhere from 25 to 80% of their time in meetings, yet they perceive 53% of this time as unproductive, which if true results in billions of dollars in lost time each year (Clawson and Bostrom, 1996).

This stark realization of the need for more efficient and effective group meetings has sparked increased research on tools and processes that may improve meetings. One particular area of interest has been the use of Group Support Systems (GSS). GSS software facilitates the work of groups by expediting the processes of communication, coordination, problem solving, and negotiations. GSS speeds up the communication process by enabling participants to contribute ideas simultaneously without suffering from production blocking effects (e.g., they don't lose their train of thought because teammates are offering ideas verbally; Diehl and Stroebe, 1987). GSS encourages involvement from all members by allowing anonymity under certain conditions (Sosik, 1997). GSS software also allows participants to anonymously vote for their decision preferences as the group progresses through the meeting. GSS meetings are beneficial when speedy follow-up is needed became decisions and action items are recorded electronically (Nunamaker et al, 1997).

The initial wave of GSS research focused on several areas: (a) comparing GSS meetings to face-to-face meetings, (b) comparing the effectiveness of different decision-making tools within GSS, and (c) examining physical aspects of the meeting room that were influencing GSS effectiveness. The results of comparing the performance of GSS and non-GSS groups have been inconclusive. GSS has demonstrated both desirable effects (greater participation, better quality decisions) and undesirable effects (reduced consensus and confidence) in previous research (Fjermestad and Hiltz, 1999; Benbasat and Lim, 1993).

One common misperception is that GSS replaces the interpersonal aspects of meetings. Research has shown that to maximize the potential advantages of electronic meetings, GSS should not replace verbal interaction, but rather supplement it (Nunamaker et al, 1997). A facilitator typically leads GSS meetings. Because interpersonal processes influence the success of GSS, the GSS facilitator should play a pivotal role. Initial studies of facilitators have concentrated on: (a) the importance of proper facilitator preparation prior to a GSS session, and (b) the value of being able to explain how the Groupware will assist the group in achieving its goals (e.g., George et al., 1992). Comparatively little attention has been devoted to the influence of facilitator style (during the meeting) on GSS outcomes (for exceptions, see: Kahai el al., 1997; Sosik, 1997). A logical next step in this line of research is a systematic investigation of the human (i.e., interpersonal) side of GSS-mediated meetings. The first purpose of this study is to examine how facilitator style affects participants' perceptions of the processes and outcomes that occur within a GSS meeting. By facilitator style, we are referring to the extent to which the facilitator's behaviors are representative of a leader who places a priority on managing the relationships present within a group setting or of a leader who concentrates on the task at hand.

Participants also influence the interpersonal processes and outcomes that occur within a GSS environment. We expect participants' moods as they enter a GSS setting to impact how receptive they are to the meeting itself as well as the non-traditional format of the meeting, and consequently their satisfaction with what transpires in that meeting. …

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