Time in Groups: Volume 6


Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Conference presentations covered a broad range of topics. For example, Brett, Weingart and Olekans presented work that examines patterns in how group negotiations unfold over time; while Chen, Blount and Sanchez-Burks explored how group status structures influence how members align the pace of their tasks within a group. Zellmer-Bruhn, Waller and Ancona initiated the study of how groups can use pauses in work cycles to break out of embedded routines; while Medvec, Berger, Liljenquist and Neale sought to examine how organizational work groups can avoid the pitfalls of short-term time pressure in decision making.

Early efforts in the study of groups had an inherently temporal dimension, notably work on group dynamics and the related study of phases in group problem solving. Not surprisingly, the majority of work linking time to groups has focused on team development. By contrast, work on team performance has tended to take the form Input-Process-Output, in which the passage of time is implied. There is rarely a discussion of how processes might be affected by timing. We suggest ways in which the two literatures might be brought together. We review models of group development and group performance, propose ways in which temporal issues can be integrated into performance models, and conclude by raising questions for future theory and empirical investigation.

Understanding how dyadic negotiations and group decision processes evolve over time requires specifying the basic elements of process, modeling the configuration of those elements over time, and providing a theoretical explanation for that configuration. We propose a bead metaphor for conceptualizing the basic elements of the group negotiation process and then “string” the beads of behavior in a helix framework to model the process by which group negotiations evolve. Our theorizing draws on the group decision development literature (e.g. Bales, 1953; Poole, 1981, 1983a, b; Poole & Roth, 1989a, b) as well as on the negotiation process literature (e.g. Gulliver, 1979; Morley & Stephenson, 1977). Our examples are from our Towers Market studies of negotiating groups.

This chapter addresses how project teams achieve coordinated action, given the diversity in how team members may perceive and value time. Although synchronization of task activities may occur spontaneously through the nonconscious process of entrainment, some work conditions demand that team members pay greater conscious attention to time to coordinate their efforts. We propose that shared cognitions on time – the agreement among team members on the appropriate temporal approach to their collective task – will contribute to the coordination of team members’ actions, particularly in circumstances where nonconscious synchronization of action patterns is unlikely. We suggest that project teams may establish shared cognitions on time through goal setting, temporal planning, and temporal reflexivity.

Achieving temporal synchronization may require that work groups develop shared cognitions about the time-related demands they face. We investigated the extent to which group members developed shared cognitions with respect to the three temporal perceptions: time orientation (present vs. future), time compression, and time management (scheduling and time management). We argue that group members are more likely to align their perceptions to temporal characteristics of the group or organizational context (e.g. time compression, scheduling, proper time allocation) rather than to each other’s individual time orientations. Survey data collected from 104 work groups are largely consistent with these expectations. The implications of shared cognitions on time for work group functioning and performance are discussed.

Drawing from findings in sociology and anthropology on time as a symbol of status, this paper examines the role that status differentials affect how group members internally align the pace of their activities over time (group synchronization). We examine the psychological process of group synchronization from the perspective of the individual, the nature of status differentials in work groups, and how one’s status within a group affects a person’s willingness to adjust the timing of his/her activities to match other people’s timing. We then identify three types of status structures within work groups and analyze how each affects the group’s ability to synchronize. We close by considering the implications of our approach for better understanding temporal dynamics in work groups.

This chapter examines the relationship between team routines and temporal entrainment. While the process of entrainment generally reinforces the routines that teams follow temporal entrainment also creates opportunities for externally focused teams to change their routines. Entrainment creates team rhythms that include pauses in activity that can act as triggers to change. These pauses alone are not enough to impel teams to change; managers must also employ temporal design to make use of these opportunities for change. Both the rhythms of temporal entrainment and the pauses that accompany them are part of a team’s task environment. By uncovering key rhythms, as well as by managing the pauses, managers can both reinforce desired routines and change problematic ones.

The temporal imagination is the understanding of the intersection of one entity’s timescape with the larger timescapes of which that entity is a part. We examine in detail what the temporal imagination is, complemented with a discussion of the related timescape idea, and why the temporal imagination is necessary to function in any timescape. We also discuss group attributes that will likely affect the development of the temporal imagination and its use and how its use in group boundary spanning efforts affect both the groups and the larger organization.

Despite the potentially vital implications of time pressure for group performance in general and team effectiveness in particular, research has traditionally neglected the study of time limits and group effectiveness. We examine the small, but growing, body of research addressing the effect of time pressure on group performance and introduce our Attentional Focus Model of group effectiveness (Karau & Kelly, 1992). We examine recent research on the utility of the model and identify selected implications of the model for how time pressure may interact with other factors such as task type, group structure, and personality to influence team performance. Finally, we discuss methodological issues of studying attention, interaction processes, and team performance.

Time pressure impacts the information that emerges in a group discussion. Executives need help managing the challenges posed by time pressure to arrive at the best decisions. In particular, we address two common biases that impact the group decision making process: the confirmation bias and the common information effect. Strategies are presented for overcoming these two biases, particularly the advantage of privately collecting information from group members within a meeting to surface unique information and disconfirming information. We also acknowledge that an executive’s goal may not always be to surface information; rather, an individual may be attempting to use a group meeting to push through a particular decision. We discuss the role of time in accomplishing this objective as well.

During the conference in which this volume’s chapters were presented and discussed, an important topic arose: the proliferation of terms used to describe the temporal aspects of groups and teams. Recognition of this proliferation is not new (cf. Ancona, Okhuysen & Perlow, 2001). While it is partly a reflection of the increased interest in things temporal, it is also a reflection of how we conduct work in the area of groups and organization studies for at least three reasons.

I was surprised and delighted to be asked to write the final chapter of a book on groups. I certainly thought of myself as a “groups person,” but I was never quite sure that anyone else did. My research image is much more tied to organization theory and strategy. But the reality is that much of my work – from strategic decision making and product development to acquisitions and cross-business synergies – often does deal with groups. Although these more macro-level topics are in the foreground, groups are very often the backdrop.

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Book series
Research on Managing Groups and Teams
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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