The key issue presented in this thesis is how and to what extent virtual teams can leverage transactive memory systems for performance. By doing so, I address an important dilemma for transactive memory systems theory: transactive memory systems reduce ambiguity and enhances team performance. At the same time, researchers do not predict the same benefits of transactive memory systems in virtual teams. Due to situation invisibility and characteristics of virtual teams, some of the requirements for transactive memory systems’ development, e.g. close relationships and joint training, are violated.
This thesis aims to shed light on this dilemma by focusing on the impact of role adjustments, task dependencies and division of labor on transactive memory system development and the transactive memory system’s performance relationship.
This dissertation includes one qualitative and two quantitative studies. The qualitative study explores the development of transactive memory systems regarding integration and differentiation in virtual teams. Integration refers to knowledge overlap. Differentiation refers to specialized knowledge held by a dyad. The results revealed three distinct developmental paths with varying degrees of integration and differentiation. Further, the findings suggest that enacted dependencies determine the process of integration and differentiation development in virtual teams. To further investigate transactive memory systems in virtual teams I examined factors underlying the transactive memory system’s performance relationship in virtual teams.
In two quantitative studies I explore the impact of both integration and dyadic differentiation on performance, task dependencies and routines in virtual teams. The findings suggest that, while team level integration is favorable for performance, whether dyadic differentiation is favorable depends on the task dependencies of team members.
Finally, both individual and team level routines mediated the transactive memory system performance relationship, indicating that coordination mechanisms are based on task action links instead of on expertise coordination. The theory is based on transactive memory systems theory, contingency theory and the organizational routine literature. The general discussion presents the overall findings and contribution to both theory and practice. Limitations and future directions for research are discussed.