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Hallowed Grounds: The Role of Cultural Values, Practices, and Institutions in TMS in an Offshored Complex Engineering Services Project

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2 Author(s)
Jarvenpaa, S.L. ; McCombs Sch. of Bus., Univ. of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA ; Keating, E.

The globalization of complex engineering services has resulted in physically dispersed teams that can no longer rely on the traditional and familiar oral transmission of engineering expertise nor can they assume knowledge of their team members' culture. Yet, such teams need to be able coordinate effectively the dispersed knowledge of team members. We know little about how cultural differences among engineering team members impact the coordination of dispersed knowledge, so called transactive memory systems (TMSs)-or “who knows what” and “who knows who knows what.” In this paper, we present a longitudinal case study of a dispersed, cross-cultural team involving U.S. and Romanian engineers. The cultural differences in values, practices, and institutions had a major impact on TMS indicators of specialization, coordination, and credibility. The paper demonstrates how the cultural differences impeded TMS development. The results provide insight into TMS as an implicit coordination mechanism in a global team. We provide advice in terms of interventions that can promote the development of TMS in a culturally diverse team.

Published in:

Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:58 ,  Issue: 4 )

Date of Publication:

Nov. 2011

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