Create a Discussion Section
BTM 8108, Assignment 4
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Craig Martin
12 August 2018
Qualitative research is a type of research utilized by researchers seeking to understand how events impact actors and how actors interpret such events (Suddaby, 2006). In accomplishing these objectives, four methods of data collection are used for gathering qualitative information: interviews, observations, documents, and audio-visual materials (Creswell & Poth, 2018). Each of these four methods can be utilized within five different types of qualitative studies. These five qualitative studies are narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnography, and case studies (Creswell & Poth, 2018). This proposal will be for a qualitative study designed utilizing case study research.
Grounded theory research
Grounded theory research was first developed by Glaser & Strauss (1967) and was formulated as a response to “the extreme positivism that had permeated most social research” (Suddaby, 2006). Grounded theory research is a holistic examination of individual interpretations of truth. Grounded theory research argues that “scientific truth results from both the act of observation and the emerging consensus within a community of observers as they make sense of what they have observed” (Suddaby, 2006). The aim of grounded theory research is to discover such scientific truth by observation, interviews, and other means of data collection and subsequently translating such data into statements about causal relationships between actors (Suddaby, 2006). Mertens (2015) noted that qualitative research utilizes the researcher as the primary means of data collection, whereas quantitative methodology utilizes other means (survey, interview, questionnaire) for data collection. In this proposal, the researcher will serve as the primary means of data collection to discover these causal relationships. These causal relationships will then form the basis of theory-generation which contribute to the field of study (Hussein et al, 2014).
Unlike other methodologies, grounded theory research does not start with a hypothesis which is being examined and tested. Rather, the researcher begins with a problem and question, collects data from participants, and, lastly, generates a hypothesis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). As Creswell & Poth (2018) noted, qualitative research should conclude with an “action agenda for reform that may change the lives of participants” once the research problem has been examined, participants have been observed and interacted with, and a conclusion has been reached.
E-leadership of virtual teams
The phenomena under investigation in this mini-proposal deals with e-leadership of virtual teams. E-leadership is an academic field of study that has emerged since the turn of the millennium (Savolainen, 2014) which involves organizational leadership of highly technological structures stretched over different cultures and geographic regions (Avolio, 2014). These widely dispersed organizational structures led to the advent and implementation of virtual teams (Lilian, 2014). With this growing organizational structure of dispersed virtual team members comes new, unique, and difficult leadership challenges which are addressed by the e-leader (Hoch and Kozlowski, 2016).
Liao (2017) defined virtual teams as “a collection of individuals who work on tasks that share varying degrees of interdependence and mutual accountability to accomplish a common goal.” While virtual teams are dynamic and take many forms, research has highlighted several commons factors which impact how these teams should be led. For example, Cheshin et al. (2013) found that most teams are partially, rather than exclusively, virtual. In studying the nature of dispersion amongst virtual teams, Krumm et al. (2013) identified cultural dispersion as the most common dimension of virtual teams. The organizational e-leader, then, is likely to lead a culturally diverse, partially virtual team.
In their study of virtual teams, Gilson et al. (2015) identified leadership as one of the most pressing themes in research on virtual teams and considered e-leadership of virtual teams an opportunity for future research. Hill & Bartol (2016) found that effective e-leadership of virtual teams empowers team members by providing collaboration between e-leader and team member as well as collaboration between fellow team members. Hill & Bartol (2016) also found that virtual collaboration contributes to team performance, and that team performance is also enhanced when e-leaders interact with individual team members. Writing about collaboration between e-leader and virtual team members, Liao (2017) notes that current literature does not address the process by which the e-leader interacts with individual virtual team members in a way that builds and maintains relationships.
Research proposal and purpose
This mini-proposal will examine e-leadership of virtual teams in the context of a regional district of a Christian denomination within the United States. This district is led by a District Superintendent and is comprised of thirty-nine churches spread out over a four-state area in the midwestern United States. The leadership challenge presented here is direct responsibility and oversight for thirty-nine individual churches distributed over an area of more than 400,000 square miles. These thirty-nine churches are grouped into six “teams”, each of which has a virtual team leader.
This qualitative study is an examination of e-leader/individual virtual team leader interaction and the perceived effect on virtual team cohesion and performance. In this study, the researcher will observe virtual interactions between the e-leader and virtual team leaders under his supervision. These virtual meetings consist of regularly scheduled video conferences between e-leader and virtual team leaders. Observations will be made by the researcher during virtual meetings between the e-leader and virtual team leaders. Furthermore, individual face-to-face interviews will be established between the researcher and virtual team leaders as a follow-up to these meetings. These meetings will be digitally recorded with audio-visual equipment and accompanied by copious written notes and observations on the part of the researcher. This is all accomplished in an effort to understand the perceived impact of virtual meetings between the e-leader and virtual team leaders. By studying these virtual professional development and coaching sessions between the e-leader and individual virtual team leaders, this study will provide e-leaders with research to positively improve their virtual team performance and effective e-leadership of virtual teams.
Discussion of research
This narrative study on virtual team e-leadership produced several outcomes for consideration. Communicating outcomes of research findings is an important responsibility of the researcher, as is communicating the process of data analysis and categorization. Orb (2001) commented that the burden of research is to persuade readers that research methodology, conceptualization, and justification are in competent hands. Goldberg (2015) noted that researchers must provide sufficient details to readers regarding qualitative data analysis when communicating their analysis process. There are, however, multiple considerations which researchers must take into account when communicating research findings and outcomes to readers.
Denzin (2009) addressed the issue of subjective interpretation of qualitative research findings by readers, noting that narrative research is always open to interpretation by the researcher, and narrative research should be this way. Therefore, in communicating research findings and outcomes, the narrative should be interesting, memorable, and grab the attention of the reader (Gilgun, 2005). One method of communicating with an interesting and memorable narrative is to use quotations often in communicating the study to “bring in the voice of the participants” (Creswell and Poth, 2018). This also helps address and fulfill the purpose of the research.
Researchers, then, must be keenly aware of the way they communicate. This is true not only from the perspective of narrative, but also from the internal perspective of the writer. Creswell and Poth (2018) noted that researchers should constantly engage in reflexivity where “the writer is conscious of the biases, values, and experiences that he or she brings to a qualitative research study.” These interactions with oneself, the research process, and research participants create other tensions which enter into the communications process. Any research including people requires awareness by the researcher of ethical issues that may be derived from interactions with participants (Orb, 2001). Orb (2001) also noted that “the research process creates tension between the aims of research to make generalizations for the good of others, and the rights of participants to maintain privacy.”
Research outcomes of this study included the discovery that e-leadership of virtual teams is most effective when a “meaningful” connection exists and is fostered between e-leader and virtual team leaders. Within the context of this study, this “meaningful” connection surfaced in several ways. One team leader expressed a meaningful connection with the e-leader because, “we are both living our life toward the same purpose”. This deeply meaningful connection between this virtual team leader and the e-leader led to a greater sense of team cohesion, trust, and productivity. Another outcome was that virtual team members feel more supported, and are thus more effective, when regular face-to-face interactions supplement virtual interactions. These meetings may be infrequent in occurrence but must be consistently planned and regularly scheduled. All virtual team leaders expressed this thought regarding the impact of regular face-to-face meeting with the e-leader and its positive effect on their work. One virtual team leader remarked that, “our monthly meetings give me a chance to speak directly and personally with [the e-leader]. Afterwards, I feel better about situations that cause me anxiety.” This sentiment was expressed similarly by other virtual team members as well.
These primary outcomes highlight the underlying discovery of the research: e-leadership of virtual teams is most effective when e-leaders prioritize regular and personal interactions with virtual team leaders which reinforce their deeply meaningful connection with one another. During these meetings, the opportunity for personal interaction not only reinforces this deeply meaningful connection, but it also allows them to seek counsel and guidance for practical problems.
Communicating research outcomes and findings is one of the most important tasks facing researchers. Consideration of ethics, interpretation, research design and process, researcher bias and values, and instilling confidence in the researcher and their abilities must not be neglected. In communicating the outcomes and findings from this research study, the researcher quoted directly from the participants for their voice to be heard. The researcher also disclosed the major findings of the research as well as a major categorization which emerged from the data collection and analysis process. Each of these steps were taken for three purposes: aiding the research participants in their context, contributing to the scholarly field of e-leadership, and instilling confidence in the reader about the research study and findings.
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