CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Computing and Engineering


Souren Paul

Committee Member

Amon Seagull

Committee Member

Ling Wang


shared understanding, team performance, virtual teams


Modern organizations face many significant challenges because of turbulent environments and a competitive global economy. These competitive demands have forced many organizations to increase levels of flexibility and adaptability through the use of virtual environments, and global teams are prevalent in business organizations. Although significant research has been conducted on virtual teams, the development of shared understanding among the members of these teams has not been studied adequately. Time/space barriers, communication complexities, and team diversity hinder the development of shared understanding in these teams.

Based on the Media Synchronicity Theory (MST), a new theoretical model was created that used the constructs use of communication media, mode of interaction and team diversity to ascertain the influence shared understanding in global virtual teams. Additionally, the research model examined the relationship between shared understanding and team performance.

The developed, web-based survey measured the participants’ use of communication media, mode of interaction, diversity, shared understanding, and team performance in virtual environments. The survey was administered through SurveyMonkey and distributed to a pool of opt-in respondents from firms with virtual teams. A total of 118 respondents participated in the study.

The findings of this study indicate that use of communication and familiarity with systems are strong determinants of shared understanding, and subsequently shared understanding is a strong predictor of team performance. The study also indicates that mode of interaction is less of a predictor of shared understanding, and that cultural diversity, modified diversity construct, did not influence shared understanding.

As virtual teams continue to proliferate, executive leaders and managers must ensure that teams and environments are designed for collaboration through use of communication technologies that promote synchronicity, and that its members are familiar with systems which subsequently promotes shared understanding.