Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Team Learning and Effectiveness in Virtual Project Teams: The Role of Beliefs about Interpersonal Context

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Team Learning and Effectiveness in Virtual Project Teams: The Role of Beliefs about Interpersonal Context

Article excerpt

There has been increasing interest in team learning processes in recent years. Researchers have investigated the impact of team learning on team effectiveness and analyzed the enabling conditions for the process, but team learning in virtual teams has been largely ignored. This study examined the relationship between team learning and effectiveness in virtual teams, as well as the role of team beliefs about interpersonal context. Data from 48 teams performing a virtual consulting project over 4 weeks indicate a mediating effect of team learning on the relationship between beliefs about the interpersonal context (psychological safety, task interdependence) and team effectiveness (satisfaction, viability). These findings suggest the importance of team learning for developing effective virtual teams.

Keywords: team learning, beliefs about the interpersonal context, team effectiveness, virtual teams

En los últimos años, se ha producido un creciente interés por los procesos de aprendizaje grupal en equipos de trabajo. Se ha investigado la influencia del aprendizaje de equipo en la efectividad grupal, así como las condiciones que facilitan dicho aprendizaje. Sin embargo, pocos trabajos han analizado los procesos de aprendizaje en equipos virtuales. Este estudio examina la relación entre aprendizaje de equipo y efectividad en equipos virtuales, así como el papel de las creencias compartidas sobre el contexto interpersonal en esta relación. 48 equipos desarrollaron un proyecto de consultoría de manera virtual durante cuatro semanas. Los resultados mostraron un efecto de mediación del aprendizaje de equipo en la relación entre las creencias sobre el contexto interpersonal (seguridad psicológica, interdependencia de tarea) y la efectividad grupal (satisfacción, viabilidad). Estos hallazgos sugieren la importancia del aprendizaje de equipo para desarrollar equipos virtuales efectivos.

Palabras clave: aprendizaje de equipo, creencias sobre el contexto interpersonal, efectividad de equipo, equipos virtuales

Contemporary organizations operate in fast-changing environments. Given these conditions, the learning that takes place in project teams is essential because it represents a cognitive precursor to adaptation by the organization (Ilgen, Hollenbeck, Johnson & Jundt, 2005). In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of studies conducted in the area of team learning. Project teams create valuable knowledge and understandings for organizations through team learning, and at the same time their members' professional development is enhanced (Huber, 1991; Senge, 1994).

In particular, researchers have sought to identify the conditions that enable team learning (e.g. psychological safety; Edmondson, 1999), as well as the resulting benefits for the team effectiveness (e.g. team performance; Van den Bossche, Gijselaers, Segers & Kirschner, 2006), which has traditionally been defined in terms of outcomes, including criteria such as productivity, innovation, satisfaction and viability (Hackman, 1990; Mathieu, Maynard, Rapp & Gilson, 2008). Nevertheless, most studies about team learning have been conducted on teams whose members can interact and cooperate in person (referred to as "face-to-face teams" in this paper). As a result, little is known about how team learning is produced in virtual project teams (VPTs) and what its effects may be. Virtual teams have become a basic unit of work in many organizations in response to the pressure to innovate, to foster inter-organizational alliances, and also to respond to the globalization of business and the adoption of new information technologies. VPTs allow companies to reduce the geographic, time-related and functional barriers to doing business, making them more efficient (Kayworth & Leidner, 2001-2002; Martins, Wilson & Maynard, 2004; Montoya-Weiss, Massey & Song, 2001; Schiller & Mandviwalla, 2007). Recently, it has been recognized that project teams can carry on their tasks at many different levels of virtuality (Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005), as they tend to alternate between virtual and face-to-face working. …

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