June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.257.1 - 11.257.17
Asynchronous collaboration: achieving shared understanding beyond the first 100 meters
Abstract Motivated by a real-world example from the domain of software product development, we discuss some of the key factors that impact shared understanding among collaborating teams in general, along with specific implications of those factors for asynchronous collaboration in particular. Shared understanding is viewed through the lens of Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory, a powerful framework for understanding problem solving that provides insights on the creative behavior of individuals and the convergence and divergence of collaborating teams. Proposed research directions are suggested for the future, and implications of this work for engineering education are discussed as well.
1. Introduction It is well known that effective communication plays a key role in the performance of product development teams1, 2, 24, 32. Researchers have shown, for example, that well-coordinated teams demonstrate a higher level of overall performance, especially when their tasks are interrelated and compactly situated18, 21. Achieving the desired levels of coordination among geographically distributed teams can be extremely challenging, however, due to the negative impact that increased distance has on communication8. Research shows that a mere 100 meters of separation results in a significant drop in communication between team personnel1. Beyond this point, it becomes almost irrelevant whether collaborators are located in two different buildings, cities, countries, or continents: communication is greatly degraded and team performance suffers serious setbacks in all these contexts.
These negative effects are even more pronounced when the teams are located several time zones apart with minimal overlap in working hours32. Under these conditions, collaborators must rely heavily on asynchronous interactions (i.e., different individuals providing input to the task at different times); if the work is closely related, and the teams are not communicating well, problems can escalate quickly. This paper will concentrate on the role that shared understanding plays within this wider context, with a special focus on some of the cognitive factors related to the successful resolution of differences in shared understanding and suggestions for ways in which these factors might best be managed when collaborators are far apart.
In response to the many critical issues involved in asynchronous collaboration, project managers often attempt to minimize cross-site communication by allocating relatively independent assignments to different sites. While this is a reasonable approach, the aim is difficult to achieve, especially in the case of software product development. Creating loosely coupled software components that can be developed independently by separate teams is challenging due to the complex nature of the dependencies that exist among the components of a software product; in this context, a “dependency” is defined as any aspect of a component that relies on or provides something to another component or aspect of the system. That “something” could be a particular data construct, a semantic behavior, a timing behavior, or a resource behavior, among others. To manage these many dependencies effectively, the technical teams involved must collaborate, no
Sangwan, R., & Jablokow, K., & Bass, M., & Paulish, D. (2006, June), Asynchronous Collaboration: Achieving Shared Understanding Beyond The First 100 Meters Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--326
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