City Research Online

An insight into the evolution of mutual understanding in teamwork - Volume 2

Patel, S. (2007). An insight into the evolution of mutual understanding in teamwork - Volume 2. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The topic of this research is characterising and monitoring mutual understanding in multidisciplinary teamwork. Existing literature has not drawn these two themes together in great detail. This research brings together literature from these two themes. This thesis explores the nature of mutual understanding in teams, monitors its evolution in one multidisciplinary team and proposes a set of guidelines for enhancing and promoting mutual understanding in teams that communicate face-to-face and by electronic-mail (e-mail).

The term ‘mutual understanding’ although commonly referred to in literature, remains a term which is not well defined. For this reason a more precise definition is necessary to identity and establish what this term actually means. In addition, the theoretical work on mutual understanding, and aspects related to mutual understanding are often limited to dyadic interactions, involving just two persons. As teams can be more than two persons more attention needs to be paid to extend existing research. Further, the process of how mutual understanding can be monitored has not been well defined, and attempts which have been made also focus on dyadic interactions. This identifies and establishes the need to characterise a method to monitor the evolution of mutual understanding in a team.
In the context of teamwork, understanding and supporting team members and their tasks is necessary to work towards shared goals and objectives. Sharing information is also important and can contribute towards the progress that the team makes. Including team members who have first-hand experiences to share can also benefit the make-up of the team. However, sometimes changes need to be made to accommodate team members’ individual needs, especially when the team member in question has a disability. Additional challenges can also be encountered when the team in question is multidisciplinary due to differences in disciplinary backgrounds, practices, professional languages, understanding, cultures (disciplinary, institutional, and cultural), and assumptions in communication. Such challenges can make it harder for mutual understanding to evolve in this type of team.

This thesis presents a definition for mutual understanding that can be applied to a team and a method to monitor the evolution of mutual understanding. Detailed empirical analysis of a case study looking at how mutual understanding evolves in a large multidisciplinary team that communicates as a group face- to-face once every 3- months and uses e-mail messages to stay in touch with the team at all other times is also presented. Furthermore the analysis identifies how categories or aspects of mutual understanding appear over time. This analysis can provide an insight to developers and designers in computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) to show them in detail, how a team communicates together face-to-face and by e-mail, but in the context of mutual understanding. Also based on the empirical analysis, guidelines are proposed to promote the evolution of mutual understanding in other types of teamwork. Guidelines are aimed at team members and not just the manager or leader and focus on the two forms of interactions which are the focus of this investigation, face-to-face and e-mail communication. To assess the value of the proposed guidelines a validation exercise using a separate multidisciplinary team was performed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science > Human Computer Interaction Design
School of Science & Technology > School of Science & Technology Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Patel thesis 2007 Vol 2 PDF-A.pdf]
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