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Values & Ethics in a Global Setting

In: Business and Management

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaboration in the Workplace
Teams and groups exist in all levels of industries and organizations. Groups can be small or large, local or remote, coached or self-directed. Teams are found at all levels of business, from a multi-billion dollar corporation that builds jets to a small waterpark employing lifeguards and clerks. Successful teams need some form of leadership, good communication, problem-solving skills, and a purpose. Successful groups can achieve tremendous results,. When teams work together, everyone is working toward one common goal and completing the project with successful results.
Average groups do just enough to achieve a goal, and then there are groups that are extraordinary. They achieve superior results and team members come away from the group experience with a newfound respect of what he or she helped accomplish. A study revealed eight performance indicators linking extraordinary groups and group members agreed. Each team member agreed teams must: have a compelling purpose, a shared leadership role, team structure, full engagement among members, embrace member differences, learn the unexpected, build trusting relationships, and achieve outstanding results. Whether the team is for-profit or not, volunteers or employees, face-to-face or virtual, these eight indicators emerged (Bellman & Ryan, 2010).
Athletics and businesses share many of the same qualities. The head coach sets goals for his team as does the business manager. Head coach and manager set out to accomplish a particular goal. The goal of the head coach may be winning the league championship. The goal of the manager may be to finish the fiscal year under budget. Dayton (2007) agrees sports and business are similar is many ways. Teamwork, excellent communication, creativity, time management, and good leadership are areas that can improve team performance.
Personal Experience
At Turning Technologies, LLC, the business has grown from a three-person, one office operation to almost 200 employees and an international office that opened in 2010. Collaboration has played a key role in the growth of the company, and technological advances play a critical role in the continuation of this collaborative environment.
Brad Gant, the VP of International Sales works in Amsterdam to develop the international sales division and increase market share in Europe. However, his presence at weekly sales meetings is valuable to keep the company informed of arising issues and challenges as well as successes. Traveling back to the United States weekly or monthly was an expensive and inefficient option. Turning decided to purchase a video conference solution Gant, traveling account executives as well customers and vendors. The video conference solution is much more personal than a telephone conference call, and provides true interaction and collaboration, and creates a true connection to others, as opposed to a voice on the phone.
Turning is responsible for the development of audience response systems. These small hand held units, called ResponseCards, are used to enable professors, teachers and trainers to engage their audience by asking questions or presenting ideas, and receiving input from the audience via a receiver that plugs into a USB port. This technology provides for collaboration with immediate feedback. Teachers can gauge how well students are grasping a concept; polls can be taken to identify interests, direction that a presentation should go, or making a selection. The ResponseCards aid in collaboration by allowing the audience to make sure their “voice” is heard and builds collaboration.
Collaboration is vital with or without technology. However, “The nature of teams has changed significantly because of changes in organization and the nature of the work they do….Most virtual teams operate in multiple modes including having face-to-face meetings when possible. Managing a virtual team means managing the whole spectrum of communication strategies” (Kimball, 1997). Intranets, websites, video conferencing and other technology help the teams function even from multiple sites.
The advantages of technology aren’t just localized. Computer software specialists in Europe and the United States work with programmers in India to write code and develop systems; bankers around the world trade stocks and bonds 24 hours a day 365 days a year; doctors in remote parts of the world connect with medical specialists to diagnose and treat rare conditions Benson-Armer & Stickel, 2000). As the world becomes more globalized, technology enables team members to collaborate anywhere in the world. However, special considerations are made when implementing technology internationally. “Setting up virtual teams within a single country is hard enough. But with a global economy, teams increasingly involve members from various parts of the world” (Robb, 2002, p. 108). Technology connected 1,700 computers in more than a dozen countries and helped Boeing design the 777 under budget in less time than originally projected. Technology saved almost two years compared to the paper-based method of designing a plane (Benson-Armer & Stickel, 2000, p. 25). One downside of virtual teams could occur when team members make changes to off-line documents without notifying others. If other members are unaware of the changes, this could cause extreme consequences, especially if the team is made of up 200 teams of 40 members each and 500 suppliers in several countries (Benson-Armer & Stickel, 2000).
People work from home, satellite offices are spread out nationally and internationally, and many employees are traveling or have varied work schedules. Technology plays a key role in improving collaboration and teamwork. Virtual teamwork is becoming more common, and technology is a necessity to enable the remote or virtual workplace. Tools such as e-mail, instant messaging, WebEx, and video conferencing enable “real-time” connections with coworkers, improving efficiency and, accuracy. Virtual teamwork uses these tools, and is a rapidly growing arena in technology.
Collaborative technology has changed drastically in the last few years. E-mail was one of the first technologies used to improve connectivity in the work environment and is a useful tool for one-on-one conversations. However, it can be very cumbersome to communicate and receive input from multiple sources, which slows down efficiency. Interpreting the “tone” of an e-mail can be difficult. To diffuse this, avoid using exclamation points or “all caps” unless the message is a “congratulations.”
Conference calls are a great way to connect people and get input immediately. Teleconference functions are available on most phone systems today. Team members can easily connect from his or her cell phone, land line, or computer. However, the telephone does not allow for face-to-face interaction and does not allow for viewing and sharing documents. Even if everyone has access to a hard copy of a document, it is more difficult to follow along and incorporate everyone’s suggestions and changes into a final document.
Web conferencing is becoming increasingly popular. Cisco WebEx and Citrix GotoMeeting are two of the most popular web conferencing and collaboration solutions. These tools allow for multiple people to use the Internet to connect to one location. A “host” can present documents and attendees can allow access to their computers. This collaborative environment allows for both auditory and visual stimulation and may encourage more participation. Cisco’s website promotes three WebEx features: “Communicate like you’re face-to-face with people across town, or across the world; share documents, make presentations, demonstrate products and services, and collaborate like never before; start a secure web meeting from the comfort of your desktop instantly, with just a click of the mouse” (Cisco WebEx, 2010).
Technological advances are advantageous for collaboration in many ways. One of the most recognized benefits is cost savings. Because face-to-face interaction can happen instantaneously via equipment and the Internet, this reduces travel expenses. With less travel, business insurance costs are also decreased. Time savings also have a huge impact on the company profit, via reduced hours and increased efficiency.
Business collaboration platforms, such as Microsoft SharePoint brings teams together. Documents can be accessed at the touch of a button, rather than waiting days for the postal service, or paying the expense of overnight delivery via UPS or FedEx. Multiple individuals located all around the world can share, “Check-out” and “Check-in” the same document or multiple documents.
Technological advances are useful in all setting, including government. For example, New York City uses technology to connect with constituents. Programs such as 311 Citizen Service Center enables citizens to call in with service requests and tracks user information. The city website displays a dashboard of statistics, and launched outreach websites to foster collaboration with citizens (Stringer, Whitehall, Kaier, Rottman, Stritch, & Hirst, 2009, p. 27).
Disadvantages
While technology offers many advantages, there are also disadvantages that must be taken into consideration. While cost savings can result from technology purchases, smaller companies often do not have the cash flow, or the personnel to justify a larger technology purchase, such as video conference equipment. Also the purchase of technology equipment requires paying someone to administer the equipment and service as needed.
Another disadvantage is the learning curve to use technology. While systems are becoming more “user-friendly” some people are still intimidated by technology. Training may be necessary, and some people may not know what technologies are available.
Different technologies present different negative factors. For example, during a conference call or web meeting, participants cannot see whom he or she is interacting. A commonly quoted statistic is that more than half of communication is nonverbal. Visual cues and body language are key factors in communication and can hinder accurate communication.
Another disadvantage of collaboration in a virtual setting is a lack of bonding by the team members. Part of the team building process is building relationships and finding commonalities with each other. This bonding builds trust, which allows the team to express their feelings and ideas. Without this trust, team members may not be willing to give valuable input or may think other team members are not listening to his or her opinion.
Other disadvantages of collaborative action are loss of control, loss of flexibility, loss of glory, and direct resource costs. Loss of control occurs “when a task identified by the collaboration is delegated to another organization” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 52). The inability to work on the task or correct any errors can be frustrating. “Potential security leaks arising through the need to share confidences may be another worry, especially in the private sector” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 52).
Collaborative settings prohibit individuals or individual organizations “to act opportunistically” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 52) when a change needs to be made. This gives the feeling of a loss of flexibility. In many project-based groups, there are individuals who will try to take over other tasks because they fear that lack of control. Team success depends on a team member knowing his or her role and it is up to the leader to assign roles based on individual skills.
Teams consist of individuals and no two are the same. Each member has a set of strengths and weaknesses and not all individuals are good “teammates.” Katzenberg and Smith (1994) agree “Not everyone has to be a member; the question is, who has the skills needed to meet each specific performance challenge.” Respecting the thoughts, concerns, differences, or beliefs of other members can lead to successful teams. If team members respect one another, trust is established and that can lead to good team chemistry.
“Loss of glory to individual organizations will occur because collaboration will mean having to share the credit for particular achievements, and even, on some occasions, letting another organization take all of it” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 52). The leader or other team members need to publicly praise individuals that contribute to group accomplishments or success. Individuals like recognition among peers, but if he or she thinks that his or her work is not appreciated, their morale could be affected.
Collaboration requires the need for more people. The resources required to accommodate the organization equates to direct resource costs that are more than if working individually. These resource costs stem “from travel, time, and telephone calls” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 52) that “must necessarily be incurred as part of the collaborative process” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 52).
PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
In 2005, I served as a quality assurance intern with Science Application International Corporation (SAIC). This company had a contract at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. While working in the aerospace industry, I participated in collaborative settings between individuals within a single organization and between different organizations.
Managers directed individuals within a single organization and assigned each member specific tasks depending on their skills. Meetings occurred multiple times a week so that the organization could remain up-to-date on everyone’s efforts. These meetings were mainly for addressing issues and brainstorming ideas. Sometimes, more resources were allocated or tasks divided between more individuals.
To complete a project, it was necessary for multiple organizations to complete a common goal together, but each organization had different methods to accomplish it. In some cases, it was necessary for an organization to pick up where another one ended. The issue of time management, cost management, and efficiency were always relevant. If the first organization had problems finishing the work on time or completing their part without error, then it put tighter deadlines and more constraints on the other organizations.
Disadvantages of Individualism
Every working environment consists of individual and collaborative tasks that have advantages and disadvantages. To create and maintain a collaborative environment, it is important to establish a “balance between the pitfalls that may occur through an organization acting individualistically and those which may occur through the very act of collaboration” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 51).
Huxham and Macdonald (1992) associated four disadvantages with individual action. They include repetition, omission, divergence, and counter production. “Repetition is where two or more organizations carry out an action or task which need only be done by one” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 51). For example, a loan company is divided into sectors that can handle different tasks, but sometimes those tasks overlap. I faxed in a document to a specific number, but when I called back to verify the information, they required me to send it to a different number that was also able to take the request. Repetition is ultimately ineffective and inefficient because it leads to confusion and enhances the loss of productivity.
One of the consequences of repetition is omission. “Omission is where activities which are regarded by more than one organization as important to the achievement of their objectives, fail to be carried out” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 51). In the attempt to avoid repetition with another individual or organization, one may omit the task assuming that the other will complete it. This exemplifies the need for strong organization and communication.
“Divergence occurs if the actions of the various organizations become diluted across a range of activities rather than used towards common goals” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 51). Dissipating time on tasks that will not help reach the ultimate goal is wasteful. In presidential political races, candidates tend to focus their efforts strongly on areas that they already have support in or have a chance of attaining more votes. If the other candidate already has a strong following in that area and it would be unlikely to persuade them to the other side, then it would be wasteful to exert too much effort in that area.
“Counter production is where organizations working in isolation take actions which conflict with those taken by others” (Huxham & Macdonald, 1992, p. 51). This is one of the more devastating disadvantages because it basically eliminates all work and effort conducted during that period. In this case, it is very important to establish methods to avoid counter production. It could mean creating some type of collaboration or understanding with the other organization or being more innovative to avoid it altogether.
Managing Disadvantages
The key to developing a collaborative environment is defining a balance between the disadvantages of individualism and collaboration. Every organization will be different, but managing any of the disadvantages does not mean omitting it completely. The organization has to decide which tasks would be wasteful to the completion of the project. This turns the coordinated disadvantages into useful actions beneficial to collaboration.
To develop a collaborative environment, individuals or individual organizations participating in collaboration must be flexible and understand the differences in any group dynamic (Mayeux, 1996). Whether the organization is led by a manager or is a self-directed group, it is important to develop “a written collaborative agreement to confirm what should be a long-term connection” (Mayeux, 1996, p. 52). This allows all individuals to be aware of the common goal, and assign tasks based on individual strengths and resources (Mayeux, 1996).
The advantages of collaboration outweigh the disadvantages because the working environment produced by it is more effective than individual work. These environments “include the role of innovation” (Chang, Cheng-Min, & Wen-Shiung, 1998, p. 246) and allow individuals to brainstorm. They can receive feedback or assistance if needed. “Collective competition” (Chang, Cheng-Min, & Wen-Shiung, 1998, p. 246) also helps create an innovative environment, pushing individuals to always strive for the best. Although the need for resources increases, it saves times versus one individual doing all the work.
A successful team commits to a common goal and everyone holds themselves mutually accountable (Katzenberg & Smith, 1994). Not everyone belongs on a team and picking the right individuals to coexist on a team is critical. Successful teams can save time, money, lives, and careers. Some teams need leadership; other teams rely on each other to carry out goals set by management. Either way, successful teams increase organizations bottom-line results. References
Bellman, G., & Ryan, K. (2010, Sep). Creating an Extraordinary Group. T + D, 64(9), 56-61.
Benson-Armer, R., & Stickel, D. (2000, May/June). Successful team leadership is built on trust. Ivey Business Journal, 64(5), 20-26.
Dayton, D. (2007, Sep). How Sport and Business Connect. Coach & Athletic Director, 77(2), 34-35.
Katzenbach, J. R., & Smith, D. K. (1994). Teams on the top. McKinsey Quarterly, (1), 71-79.
Cisco WebEx, W. C. (2010). Retrieved 10 10, 2010, from Webex.com: http://www.webex.com/lpintl/us/sem/web_conferencing2.htm?CPM=KNC-sem&trackID=1021381&semid=sWYmpndQV_4376760626
Kimball, L. (1997). Managing Virtual Teams. Toronto, Canada: Federated Press.
Robb, D. (2002, Jun). Virtual Workplace: The next generation of communications technology takes teamwork to a new frontier. HRMagazine, 47(6) 105-113.
Stringer, L., Whitehall, C., Kaier, R., Rottman, J., Stritch, P., & Hirst, M. (2009). The Collaborative Workplace. Contract, 50(7) 26-27.
Huxham, C., & Macdonald, D. (1992). Introducing Collaborative Advantage: Achieveing Interorganizational Effectiveness through Meta-strategy. Management Decision, 30(3) 50-56.
Chang, T. S., Cheng-Min, C., & Wen-Shiung, J. (1998, Fall). Institutional Normativity and the Evolution of Morals: A Behavioural Approach to Ethics. Journal of World Business, 33(3), 241-262
Mayeux, P. (1996, Dec). Local media collaboration: Possibilities, benefits, pitfalls. Editor & Publisher, 129(52) 48-51.…...

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