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Bentley Professors Nab Best Paper for Their Work on the Value of Interpersonal Relationships for Successful Virtual Team Projects

Contact: Helen Henrichs, 781-891-2277, hhenrichs@bentley.edu

February 14, 2013

Interpersonal relationships prove to be critical to the success of projects for globally distributed virtual teams, according to Bentley University professors S. Balaji, Donald Chand and Gary David. Their research earned a Best Paper Award from the Global Business Development Institute, presented at the organization’s 17th International Conference in December 2012.

Findings reveal that proactive interpersonal relationship building is a critical success factor in virtual team projects and can eliminate an “us versus them” mindset among remote worksites. The paper — Interpersonal Relationship Building: An Additional Factor Necessary for the Success of Global Software Development Projects — specifically explored the factors responsible for the success of a software development project performed by a globally distributed team for Globalis, an information systems company with captive offshore centers in the U.S., Ireland and India.

“Existing research in project management has found that interpersonal relations may remove distrust and fear, and create a cohesive work environment among team members,” says Chand. “Our paper found that interpersonal relationships and group identity are critical to the final outcome, and outlines specific mechanisms through which they can be built among globally distributed team members.”

Proactive personal relationship building decreased the social distance between the team members and ultimately created a “we” relationship. Instead of bringing new team members from the satellite sites to the headquarters for training, we found that sending senior developers to the satellite sites for initial training results in:

  • Garnering a better understanding of working conditions;
  • Experiencing each other’s popular culture (music, books, and mass media, for example)  transcend geographic and cultural boundaries;
  • Building rapport among team members through informal talks and social activities that develops interpersonal and group-based trust.

“The interpersonal trust helped the trainers to easily transfer their positive experience d to their other team members upon return to their home teams,” Chand notes.

“Creating an environment that builds on-going rapport ultimately shielded teams from conflicts and the negative impacts of global work.” Gary David adds, “Ultimately it is not just about building interpersonal relations, but about developing a shared group identity. Through this, workers can move from an ‘Us/Them’ to a ‘We’ orientation in which trust is maximized and collaboration made more possible.”

S. Balaji is assistant professor of information and process management at Bentley University; Donald Chand is professor of information and process management at Bentley University; Gary David is associate professor of sociology at Bentley University.

BENTLEY UNIVERSITY is one of the nation’s leading business schools, dedicated to preparing a new kind of business leader – one with the deep technical skills, broad global perspective, and high ethical standards required to make a difference in an ever-changing world. Our rich, diverse arts and sciences program, combined with an advanced business curriculum, prepares informed professionals who make an impact in their chosen fields. Located on a classic New England campus minutes from Boston, Bentley is a dynamic community of leaders, scholars and creative thinkers. The Graduate School emphasizes the impact of technology on business practice, in offerings that include MBA and Master of Science programs, PhD programs in accountancy and in business, and customized executive education programs. The university enrolls approximately 4,100 full-time undergraduate, 140 adult part-time undergraduate, 1,430 graduate, and 43 doctoral students. Bentley is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges; AACSB International – The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business; and the European Quality Improvement System, which benchmarks quality in management and business education. For more information, please visit www.bentley.edu

Type: Latest Headlines | Tagged as: Best Paper | interpersonal relationships | virtual teams