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Selection of communication channel in multi-organizational project teams : a case study on teleconferencing and F2F communication in group meetings at Witteveen+Bos

Buuren, Wilco ten (2019) Selection of communication channel in multi-organizational project teams : a case study on teleconferencing and F2F communication in group meetings at Witteveen+Bos.

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Abstract:Project teams that exploit the practice of telecommunicating can reduce their travel time and save money by overcoming geographical disparity. However, the use of teleconferencing in meetings within the construction industry often fails to meet its expectations as it is not used the way it was intended. In this study, three civil engineering projects were studied and compared to theorized best practices concerning the use of teleconferencing and Face-to-Face (F2F) communication within multi-organizational project teams. This was done with a framework comprising key elements to match a communication activity with a communication channel, based on Media Richness Theory (MRT) and Social Presence Theory (SPT). The findings of the case studies endorse current literature that teams meet in person to develop their interpersonal relationship to become a well-developed team. F2F communication establishes the necessary level of trust, to overcome relational conflicts and creates commitment within a team. Teams also meet in person to negotiate widely varying opinions into a common understanding, e.g. when determining the scope of the planning, even though theory suggests this could be done with video conferencing. The results suggest that teams met in person because of the unique work settings of the construction industry resulting in the need for more real-time interaction to ensure consistency for the present-day complex projects. The case study results insinuate that audio conferencing is the leanest communication channel in situations that are highly task-focused, to not overcomplicate the processing of information. Video conferencing is used to discuss proceedings of a project and to clarify specific uncertainties in which both factual data and opinions were shared. Current literature did not suggest the leanest form of communication for the latter situation but this research has provided empirical material. However, teams still often used other means of communication than the theorized leanest communication form. It is found that people’s subjective motivation to use teleconferencing over F2F interaction influences the choice of channel. This motivation seems to be influenced by other situational factors that change through time, not covered by MRT or SPT. The conditions of the construction industry appear to negatively influence this motivation, and therefore the potential of telecommunication. Teleconferencing is seen as a last resort, and not as a viable option. To improve this state of mind it is recommended to at least have a coherent reliable teleconferencing system and to enhance the conditions how people are involved in a meeting, and that promotes the culture of teleconferencing that is currently lacking. These recommendations could contribute to the normalization of teleconferencing. Lastly, this study confirms the validity of MRT and SPT as the starting point to decide on which channel to use. The addition of this research is to combine this with the other situational factors that influence a members’ subjective perception to possibly make a more in-depth constructed choice of channel.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:56 civil engineering
Programme:Construction Management and Engineering MSc (60337)
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