The Development of Capabilities in Globally Distributed Teams

Carli, Giacomo; Mattarelli, Elisa; Tagliaventi, Maria Rita and Gupta, Amar (2015). The Development of Capabilities in Globally Distributed Teams. In: Academy of Management Proceedings, Academy of Management, 2015(1), article no. 17373.



As organizations increasingly rely on globally distributed teams (GDTs) to carry out knowledge intensive activities, the understanding of how GDTs develop capabilities is still limited. In this study we investigate how GDTs adapt routines and build up capabilities and the interplay between team and organizational capabilities. We collected qualitative data through documents and interviews with fourteen GDTs operating in IT consulting companies, with subgroups located in North America, Europe, India, and South America and we built a grounded model that highlights the role of brokers in the development of team capabilities. While brokers help in the creation of mutual knowledge, their activity reduces the accuracy of perceptions about distant coworkers. Mutual knowledge, combined with a limited accuracy of perceptions, reduces the need to adapt team routines over time. The negative effect of brokers on the creation of team capabilities is reduced when individual professional identities, characterized by values such as visibility and autonomy, trigger the search for more accurate perceptions of distant colleagues and clients with the objective of adapting team routines and gaining more stimulating work, especially when based in locations distant from team clients. Finally, we identified a continuous interplay between team routines and organizational routines in organizations characterized by innovativeness and flexibility as core attributes of their identity. We conclude with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications.

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