Is communication with supervisor more important than other team members?

30 Aug 2011 Sandeep Mehta

The motivation and management of global or virtual R&D teams has been a constant theme on this blog .  Since direct in-person communication is always diminished in virtual teams, I have been trying to understand the impact on communication between R&D teams and with managers on performance.  I recently found an article in the R&D Management Journal describing The impact of team-member exchange, differentiation, team commitment, and knowledge sharing on R&D project team performance:

This paper integrates team-member exchange (TMX), affective commitment, and knowledge sharing to examine how work unit TMX influences employees’ R&D project team commitment and intention to share knowledge, and how team knowledge-sharing intention and TMX differentiation influences team performance.

It appears that Team Member Exchange (TMX) and Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) are well known concepts used to understand the impact of communications on team performance. A recent Ph.D. thesis from Hong Kong University (Thanks Google!) provides some background:

According to  Seers A. (1989),  TMX  defined as  “an individual’s  perception of his or herexchange relationship with the peer group as a whole”. It was developed as one way to measure the level of exchange quality among coworkers. The concept of TMX has been applied to both traditional work groups as well as to self-managing teams

Similarly LMX is defined as:

Graen (1976) defined Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) as “an interpersonal exchange
relationships between a subordinate and his or her leader”. Through researching and studying over a quarter century, LMX has evolved into a general assessment of a work relationship between leader and member, measured by the extent to which there is a mutual sense of trust, loyalty, understanding, and support (Keup, L.C., 2000).

It appears that manager communication (LMX) only impacts job satisfaction. While enhanced team communication improves performance and job satisfaction. Hence R&D managers need to focus on deploying processes and tools that enhance communication between team members – especially virtual or global teams. Back to the R&D management journal paper: increased interactions and communications between team members enhances knowledge sharing, team commitment and team performance.

The results support the relationships between work unit TMX and employees’ intention to share knowledge and team commitment. In addition, the results show that work unit TMX increases intention to share knowledge through increasing group members’ team commitment. At the group level, the results support the relationships between team knowledge-sharing intention and team performance. The results also show that TMX differentiation moderates the relationship between work unit TMX and team performance. That is, greater work unit TMX is more likely to achieve higher team performance in a team with low TMX differentiation as opposed to a team with high TMX differentiation.

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