The impact of cultural differences in temporal perception on global software development teams
Department of Information Systems
Doctor of Philosophy
Tremaine, Marilyn M.
Hiltz, Starr Roxanne
Widmeyer, George Robert
Milewski, Allen Eugene
Global software development
This dissertation investigated the impact of cultural differences in temporal perception on globally dispersed software development teams. Literature and anecdotal evidence suggest that these temporal differences affect individual communication quality, which in turn will affect individual satisfaction and trust within global teams. Additionally, the temporal dispersion of the team was expected to affect an individual's sense of temporal disruption which, in turn, was expected to affect individual satisfaction and trust. Differences in temporal perception were expected to moderate this impact on perceived temporal disruption. A Fortune 100 Company that carried out software testing in Ireland, the United States, China and India provided the respondent population which resulted in all testing teams having global membership.
The research used two methods for data collection: survey and interviews. The survey instrument's constructs were developed via pilot tests conducted on student software development teams and through a card sorting task. Four temporal perception constructs were used: Future Orientation, Lateness Attitude, Temporal Rigidity and Temporal Urgency. Team members answered the temporal perception questions twice; once for how they felt their remote team members would answer the questions and once for how they felt their local team members would answer the questions. A gap analysis was performed on this data yielding temporal perception difference scores. A Gap Magnitude that looked at the size of the gaps was also calculated to provide measures of the size of
the cultural differences. Semi-structured interviews were carried out on fifteen percent of the respondent population to explore the temporal perception differences in more detail. Survey results only partially supported the hypotheses that cultural differences in temporal perceptions affect Individual Communication Quality. Specifically, it was found that group differences in the temporal perceptions of Sense of Urgency and Lateness Attitude significantly impacted Individual Communication Quality. Sense of Urgency also impacted Individual Trust. Follow-up interviews suggested that differences were recognized, but other factors such as an orientation to a future benefit by working hard now, the prestige of working with people in the Company's home country and possibly a sense of being a professional, may have outweighed the examined temporal differences. It also was found that Temporal Distance affected an individual's Temporal Disruption, that Individual Communication Quality affected Individual Trust, and Individual Satisfaction.
Gap Magnitude helped identify areas of potential problems that corresponded to areas identified by management, and mentioned by the employees in their interviews. Overall, the research suggests that certain Temporal Perceptions affect Individual Communication Quality, which in turn affects Trust and Individual Satisfaction. Communication, itself, seemed to be a large cause of problems, in part, because of the language differences, in part, because of the need to convey complex problems requiring detailed solutions, and, in part, because of the extreme temporal disruptions that time zone differences caused in a global team members working life.
njit-etd2008-061 (297 pages ~ 19,716 KB pdf)
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Created August 19, 2008