INFLUENCE OF TEAM DESCRIPTIVE NORMS

This section identifies descriptive norms within self-managing teams to describe the strength of the descriptive norm-intention relation and to examine potential moderators and antecedents to the descriptive norm intention relation to explain why team members individually embrace a weak self-regulated learning strategy. By intentions we mean individual motivation to act in a specific manner and demonstrate the individual’s level of commitment and the time and effort devoted to performing a behavior.

The above approach originates in an understanding of the experience of team members within their teams, and proposes a broad range of attributes associated with innovation in teams in order to capture relevant social factors related to innovation in self-managing teams. Since we want to identify the dimensionality of the descriptive norms related to innovation, we provide some quotes from team members and other organizational functions that interact with the teams which might result in informally created standards that might influence innovation in the teams. Following a thorough review of the quotes, we identified a few items that were representative of the full range of items mentioned that were frequently described by the groups of team members and organizational roles involved. These items reflect the behavior of others, by reporting information on the “normal” way to behave within the team. Perceptions of others’ behavior may be particularly influential for motivating behavior among team members. Indeed, several researchers show that the social influence of peers is the most important predictor of behavior (Kandel, 1980; Oetting and Beauvais, 1986, 1987). Social learning theory (e.g., Bandura, 1977) informs us that this effect is due to imitation of the behaviors of those who have lived the environment before them since “people guide their actions by prior notions rather than by relying on outcomes to tell them what they must do” (Bandura, 1977, p. 35). Thus, all learning encompassed by the team may be based on watching others’ behaviors and their results (Bandura, 1986; Rosenthal and Zimmerman, 1978).

The following items represent perceptions of organizational phenomena and implementation of internal policies, as well as clear normative statements. These data were collected from interviews with team members engaged in completing various assignments including development of component-testing programs, development of systems-level integration projects, design of engineering audit procedures, and failure analyzes.

I can see no innovation within my team. We don’t produce any ideas. [Team member]

They focus a lot on the features they are implementing and not too much on learning and expending their competence. [Team member]

It is acceptable to spend time in learning, stop working, but no one is doing it (at least it happens in a very limited way). [Team member]

Teams don t spend time on digging the product, people are just making features. [Team member]

To assess the relationship between description norms and the individual intention to innovate and to devote time to learning, the following items were sampled to report on the individual intention to embrace learning and innovation activity. These results provide strong support for the relationship among the descriptive norms for creativity and group innovation.

Hence, I feel there is not that much space or possibilities for innovation, because you have to know a concept really good to understand its limitation. If you are new to an area, then you cannot see the limitations. To know where you want to go, you have first to realize where you have been. [Team member]

I think as we work, it’s hard to have innovation opportunities. [Team member]

I don’t think I have thought about innovation but I think at least that we have a little bit more freedom to do innovation now, if the team find something it would like to do, for small improvements, we can just do them without asking. For bigger improvements it still has to be agreed as before by others, there has to be discussion and decision by manager and project leader, as we did in the previous way of working. [Team member].

In line with Astrom and Rise (2001), who show that group norms influence adult intentions only among those who identify strongly with the salient reference group, the strong individual identification with team concepts and goals seems to favor the influence of group norms on team members’ intentions.

We are usually under a lot of stress to handle tasks. Thus, we have never had time to develop our competence as individuals. [Team member].

I think it is tough, all people work on features and features, and it is hard to come up with innovation. We don’t have time to be innovative; previously people had time especially if you were responsible for one or two block. Pressure about the deadline is the barrier to innovation. [Team member]

Hence, we can stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 1: The team’s descriptive norms for creativity and group innovation are positively related to the intention to trigger innovative initiatives inside the team.

Since behavior may also be guided by a desire to do the “right” thing, we need to know more about the influence of injunctive norms on individual intention. The following extracts show the underlying effects of injunctive norms on descriptive norms.

I don’t think we have managed to incorporate innovation in our way of working yet. There is lot of talk about that, a lot of focus on that. We are trying to find a way that allows the teams to be able to innovate and work on improvements and new ideas and so on. I don’t think we are mature enough, we have to learn and figure out how to do, teams don’t have instructions to have innovation incorporated in their way of working. It’s a little bit early I think, but it’s something that we really try to address. [Line manager]

The systems we work with are very complex, it takes a lot of time to learn new areas. A team member competent in one area may find themselves taken up with work in that area, meaning they have no time to learn other areas and no time to teach their area to others. If the company wants people to gain new competence this needs to be planned, time needs to be set aside for mentoring, otherwise it won’t happen in any big amount. [Team member]

I think you have to do innovation in everything you do. It’s hard to say that we should work 30% with innovation, it should be talked that we do it on daily bases, it could small things or the way of working, in some cases it could be larger impact, but it’s very hard to say what innovation is. [Team member]

We learn only what it is needed for completing the task. [Team member]

So they are trying to build the competence, at least based on what they want to understand to be able to do the work for this feature. During this time, they study the feature, they pick some user stories to be able to implement them. If they understand the whole things, they don’t need to have this spike to do some investigation. But if they don’t know, for instance, about ROAM, the RNCpart of an impact, they do want to have some competence build up to be able to do the next user story, because they are preparing to understand what to do in the next user stories. So if the team doesn’t have that competence, then they plan to have competence build up, at least one sprint before the actual work should be done. [Team leader]

Hence, we stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 2: Descriptive norms about group innovation are positively related to individual intentions within the team and the magnitude of this association increases as injunctive norms increase

However, Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) suggest that the threat of social sanction is not considered necessary for norms to influence individual behavior. Norms are indicated as enacting influence because individuals use important referents to guide their actions (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980). Thus, from the perspective of social norms, team members may perform an action because they think that relevant others expect them to do so (subjective norms), or because failure to do so could result in social sanctions (injunctive norms). The common element in these types of influences is that behavior is driven by expectations about others’ beliefs. Individuals often have clear knowledge about what others want them to do, and consequently they can elaborate their perception about injunctive norms using experience of others’ reactions to their behaviors.

The daily stand-up meetings used in the Scrum methodology can act as a relevant enforcing mechanism for the establishment of social norms for several reasons. First, in these stand-up meetings, team members and relevant team stakeholder and managers are invited to attend, although team stakeholder and managers can only listen, and are not allowed to speak. During the meetings, team members describe the results achieved the previous day, set out plans for the current day including potential obstacles, which provide a plan and guidance for the whole team. The presence of stakeholders and managers legitimizes the team’s work and gives team members the perception that they are acting in response to current organization goals.

However, team members’ acknowledgment of legitimacy reflect individuals’ beliefs that important referents recognize a correspondence between the team’s behavior and “and [their] shared (or assumedly shared) beliefs” (Suchman, 1995, p. 574)

Hence we stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 3: Within the Agile Scrum routines of daily standup, descriptive and injunctive norms are enacted having as important referents the team’s manager and stakeholders

Research Proposition 4: The magnitude of the relationship between descriptive norms related to group innovation and behavioral intention grows as outcome expectations become stronger.

Additionally, making the team’s activities and planning public known to managers and stakeholders, constitutes an important mechanism to improve individual identification with the organization. Dutton et al. (1994) suggest that the visibility of the affiliation with an organization is a moderating factor in the relationship between attractiveness of a perceived organizational identity and organizational identification, since this visibility underlines individual affiliation within the organization. On the other hand, the visibility of team’s participation in the realization of stakeholders’ objectives, generates an enhanced cognitive elaboration of the organizational social identity of the stakeholders.

Elaboration of the team’s social identity favors and becomes the prerequisite for the formation and the enactment of peer control which is a form of normative control (injunctive) enacted by peers. In fact, there is a robust link between the microtechnique of discipline and employees’ identification with the organization. In line with this, Barker and Cheney (1994: 30) argue that disciplinary mechanisms are more powerful when “they are grounded in highly motivating values that appeal to the organization ’s actors.” Knoke and Wood (1981) provide similar evidence that an employee’s commitment can be best understood by narrowing the focus to the extent to which he or she internalizes organizational norms and values. A high level of team identification allows for higher norm consensus which is helpful in clarification of what the context demands. Expectations about team members’ behaviors are made more explicit, and their salience increases. The negative consequences of not engaging in productive team work acquire more impacts by the team members. This process prevents any autonomous decisions about putting effort into the team task, thereby eliminating any motivational barriers that could lead team members not to participate in productive and collaborative team work (Cooper and Withey, 2009).

In addition, as Foucault (1977) notes, when team members identify so strongly with organizational values, they do not have the critical distance necessary to judge the fairness of the microtechniques they have generated collectively or in which they have been involved. Specifically, team members who identify strongly with their teams should feel better about themselves when they accomplish identity-relevant norms compared to when they violate these norms. On the other hand, individuals with no identification with the group will exhibit emotional responses to conformity versus violation (Christensen et al., 2004).

Hence, injunctive norms, having a moral aspect, and define what people should do, acting as self-standards that determine whom the individual would like to be or whom they ought to be (Higgins, 1987; Moretti and Higgins, 1999; Schwartz, 1977; Schwartz and Fleishman, 1978).

Hence we stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 5: Greater group identification increases the use of team injunctive norms as behavioral standards for group members.

Consistent with our discussion, we stipulate the following:

Research Proposition 6: Descriptive norms about group innovation are positively related to individual intentions inside the team and the magnitude of this association increases as group identification increases.

 
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