Time Zone Dispersion vs. Peak Performance Alignment: The Role of Time Zones in GVTs
Geographic dispersion, and time-zone dispersion in particular, are traditionally perceived as a barrier to the effectiveness of GVTs. Presumably, the fact that team members are in different time zones makes it hard to collaborate, schedule live meetings, and communicate.
What research into the effects of time zone differences does not take into account is that different people are most productive at different times of the day.
These differences may be dictated by:
- Circadian rhythms: some people are most active and productive in the morning, while others at night), or
- Availability: team members are busy with other things (another project, family obligations) and may be available on the team project only for a few hours a day before or after taking care of other duties and responsibilities.
This way, time zone dispersion can hurt or help depending on when the team members are available and ready to work on the project in question.
For example, in a team of three where the team member in Asia is most active/available to work on the project at night, while the team member in Europe is normally available in the afternoon, and the team member in the U.S. usually can devote time to the project in the morning, the project peak performance of these team members aligns and they would have no problems scheduling a live meeting or synchronously co-edit a Google Docs document.
In contrast, if all three team members are in the same time zone, but one is most active/available for the project in morning, another one in the afternoon, and the third one in the evening, they will not be able to find time for a live meeting and will experience collaboration problems due to the misalignment of their project peak performance and availability.
The said above makes sense if we assume that the team is most productive if all team members are most productive and available at the same time and can hold a live meeting or collaborate in a synchronous manner.
However, some projects may actually benefit from a global relay approach. The progress can be greatly sped up if the team members worked on the task sequentially. For example, the team member in Asia works on the project during his/her business hours and hands over the task to the team member in Europe, who works on it for a few hours and then hands it over the American team member. This way, when the team member in Asia wakes up, he can pick up where the American team member left off, and the cycle continues.
Under this arrangement, the time zone differences and peak performance MISalightment can help, as this would aid the sequential global relay approach. The only way this system would work if all team members were in the same time zone if the work was done in three shifts and someone worked through the night.
The present study introduces and tests the Peak Alignment Performance theory. We argue that time zone dispersion by itself is meaningless. It only makes sense and is informative if we take into account when during the day the team members are most active and/or available to work on the project.
Time zone: The location of each team member and his/her time zone.
Personal Peak Performance: a series of questions to measure when each team member is most active during the day (circadian rhythm).
Availability: A series of questions to measure when each team member is available and normally works on the project in question. Please note, people may not be working on the project in question when they are most active, but instead spend those hours on other responsibilities and duties.
Norms: A series of questions when it is normally expected that a person be available to his/her team. That is, in some cultures it may be customary that a person “checks out” after certain hour and it is considered rude and unprofessional to expect a work team member to respond to calls or to be available outside the business hours. In other cultures, it may be customary and expected that if a work team needs you, you should respond and be available even late into the night.
Team dynamics and performance: A series of weekly measure related to communication frequency and mode, conflicts, satisfaction, progress, and quality of work produced by the team.
The analyses focus on the predictive power of time-zone dispersion vs. peak performance alignment.
Time Zone Dispersion is operationalized as the average inter-member distance in terms of time zones. For example, if all time members are in the same time zone, the time dispersion is 0. If for every possible pair of team member, the average distance is 4 hours, time dispersion is 4. This index can also be calculated as the SD of distances from Greenwich for the time zone of each team member. The math would be slightly different, but the concept is the same and the two measures would correlate nearly perfectly.
Peak Performance Alignment: calculated the same way as time zone dispersion but instead of the time zone of each team member, we use the hour when the team member is most active (most productive hour minus Greenwich standard time). The peak performance is originally assessed in 3-hour intervals and the middle our of each time interval is used.
Peak Performance Overlap: Same as peak performance alignment, but instead of calculating the distance between peak performance hours, the % overlap of the periods when each team member is more productive/available is calculated.
The predictive power (the relationship with team effectiveness metrics) of each time indicator is compared, namely: time zone dispersion vs. peak performance alignment vs. peak performance overlap.
The analyses are repeated for: (1) circadian rhythm, (2) availability, and (3) national norms.