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Narrowing the communication gap in internationally distributed teams: the case of software-development teams in Sri Lanka and Japan

Abstract

Communication between geographically separated subgroups in internationally distributed teams (IDTs) is quite challenging because their communication is relatively sparse and relies heavily on electronic media. In the current study, we employed a grounded theory approach and conducted an in-depth case study of two IDTs with subgroups in Sri Lanka and Japan to investigate why communication problems occur between the subgroups and how these can be solved. The findings indicated that although language fluency did not pose a serious threat, the teams encountered communication problems because they did not develop a well-shared team mental model (TMM). Our study further revealed that project process models (PPMs) play a key role in developing well-shared TMMs in IDTs, and the underlying process is facilitated by bridge individuals. Our findings extend the knowledge-sharing perspective of IDTs by focusing on the role of PPM, TMM, and bridge individuals in the communication process in IDTs.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists B (17K13780) of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

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Correspondence to Azusa Ebisuya.

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Ebisuya, A., Sekiguchi, T. & Hettiarachchi, G.P. Narrowing the communication gap in internationally distributed teams: the case of software-development teams in Sri Lanka and Japan. Asian Bus Manage (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41291-021-00169-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41291-021-00169-9

Keywords

  • Bridge individuals
  • Internationally distributed teams
  • Language use
  • Project process models
  • Software development
  • Team mental models