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Leading a Diverse Team: Implementing a Project Management Team

Info: 2675 words (11 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in Project Management

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Introduction

Due to concerns regarding inefficiencies in manufacturing operations and a lack of coordination with sales operations for North American Manufacturing for XYZ Fixture company, a project management team of 20 representatives from our various regions of operations will be assembled. The goal is that a successful project management team will create a more horizontal model of operations. However, in order to create a team that is successful, it is essential to recognize potential challenges and possible solutions for those challenges. Given that we have sales operation employees not just in North America, but also in Europe, China, Japan, and North Korea; a strategy must be implemented to assess and deal with obvious and less obvious issues. It is advisable to involve a team together to recognize and address challenges now while providing a culture with open communication and the tools to do so in the future.

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There are many possible hurdles that will require attention, but at this time, there are five challenges that stand out. As mentioned, this team will include members from many different cultures, geographies, and time zones. First major challenge is addressing cultural diversity and our ability to communicate appropriately with one another. 

The inclusion of cultural diversity as a dimension of team virtuality is based on the idea that virtual teams are not restricted by location and, thus, are likely to consist of team members from different cultural backgrounds.” (Krum, S., Tewiel, K. & Hertel, G., 2013, p. 34). Considering, much of communication between team members will require virtual communication, this team will require learning to operate as a virtual team. Which leads us to another challenge. Communication and ensuring team members are proficient and comfortable working together virtually. Although, most people operate on social media platforms of one sort of another, not all are completely comfortable communicating only through a virtual platform. This leads to another challenge with communication. Cultural diversity is mentioned. Technological proficiency is mentioned. Both of these tie into the next challenge of the fact that many employees operate in significantly different time zones and may be unintentionally ignorant of different holidays, customs, and languages. As one may notice, this is a system and although different challenges may have different solutions, many of them overlap and depend on one another for continuously successful implementation. The technical and cultural aspects of communication lead to how team members and employees across the organization operate. Another challenge that ties in to the others, is ensuring all employees are supported in order to feel comfortable in their work environment and are given the tools and opportunities they need to feel they are valued as well as confident in their growth potential. Finally, possibly the most difficult challenge is keeping the momentum. A good start is one thing, but keeping an inclusive culture that empowers all employees to participate in the process of finding new challenges, ideas and opportunities that is measurable, is what determines the long-term success of the company. 

Cultural Diversity

As mentioned previously, this organization faces geographical, cultural, language, and communication challenges related to the fact that our company operates in Japan as well as on four different continents. This can lead to misunderstandings and difficulty in understanding between personnel. Creating and project management team is a good start to addressing these challenges. It is advisable to provide a face to face opportunity for team members to get to know one another. “Global team members should always meet in person at the beginning of the team’s formation” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 115).  Even if many team members are comfortable communicating remotely, face-to-face interaction at first develops a sense of trust and feeling that they know each other. In other words, most people find it difficult to deal with people they feel are strangers. “Global teams need more time to get aquatinted to develop trust” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 114). Therefore, it is proposed to begin with a week to two week retreat for chosen team members for their initial meeting. This should include non-business related interaction, as well as some scheduled training allowing representative from our various regions to provide half-day presentations. As members feel less like strangers and get to know more about their various cultures, a network of trust begins to form creating a comfortable environment for sharing information. “Sharing information among users or groups working to accomplish collaborative tasks is a fundamental requirement” (Malik, A. K. & Dustdar, S., 2012, p. 61). Another important item to address at this time is gathering information from the team. “Data collection from team members reveals the gaps that existed between high-performance vision and reality” (Guttman, H.M., 2013, p. 6). Questions at this time pursuing a better understanding of, “What’s not working, why, and how can we fix it?” (Guttman, H.M., 2013, p. 6), must be addressed. In order to better facilitate this question and answer exercise, it is necessary to clarify what the company’s ultimate goal or vision is. Together, the team needs to determine if their projects maintain a path towards the company’s ultimate vision. This vision may need to change or improved inviting the team to participate “to create “our” vision and shift the culture and team behaviors to the high-performance, horizontal model” (Guttman, H.M., 2013, p. 5). Give the team the platform to compare current projects to the corporate goals to determine which ones are in line with the company’s goals (Guttman, 2013). Additionally, this is an opportunity to, “clarify the roles and responsibilities not only of the team, but of the subteams throughout the regions” (Guttman, H.M., 2013, p. 6). During these discussions and determinations, it is important for all participants to recognize that “Global team members don’t necessarily recognize the impact their different attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions may have on their teamwork” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 114). The team must also keep in mind and respect that,“Each team member’s style of thinking and communicating is significantly affected by his or her cultural upbringing” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 114).  Finally, it is crucial for the team to work together and provide support for others if their, “roles and accountability were agreed upon, along with protocols for making decisions and how team members would engage one another” (Guttman, H.M., 2013, p. 7). Providing the opportunity for team members to help develop and understand the “vision” while learning from one another with consideration for their differences while finding common ground to discover knew ideas and potential will create a more constructive foundation as the team is brought together.

Virtual Team Building and Concerns

As mentioned earlier, not everyone is comfortable with a virtual communication platform. “In such environment, users are reluctant to share their information with other users whom they do not know” (Malik, A. K. & Dustdar, S., 2012, p. 61). Which is why a beginning with a face-to-face meeting, both social and business is important to reduce the feeling of team members feeling like strangers. “Building and managing communication and information management systems that facilitate connectivity, remove perception of distance, and facilitate the organization and accessibility of information can reduce feelings of lack of trust, anonymity, deindividualization, and perceptions of low social control” (Hoch, J. E. & Kozlowski, S. W. J., 2014, p. 393). Aside from reducing the feeling of distance and de-individualization, trust is an issue. A major concern today which is growing is the trust in the system of virtual communication with consideration for privacy. Everyday, a new story or article comes out reporting on privacy violation, improper use, and compromised information. “Privacy concerns keep users from sharing required information in a collaborative environment” (Malik, A. K. & Dustdar, S., 2012, p. 61). However, virtual communication is an absolute must as, “It enables individual users to carry out their tasks efficiently and effectively to contribute to a collective work done more than the sum of the individual” (Malik, A. K. & Dustdar, S., 2012, p. 61). Providing a secure inter-agency network with strict policy regarding company intellectual property, inclusive language use, and no tolerance for that“ Global clearly defined will provide a platform for people to feel comfortable communicating with their colleagues. 

Time Zone and Scheduling Management

Time zone with regard to scheduling and setting achievable goal dates is another challenge that is addressed with a couple of recommendations. First, “Create a team communication plan that includes a global calendar” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 115). This should include time zone translation relative to those participating whether it be two people or the whole team. Creating meetings or putting out notices that may inter agency a religious holiday or schedule at unrealistic times for one or more members of the team will hamper productivity, waste time, and create frustration. Creating a global calendar for one firm resulted in, “the number of people not attending the team’s achievable meetings dropped significantly since everyone was now aware of each team member’s holidays” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 115). Finally, providing easily available and user friendly software inherent in the company virtual network that enables language translation to mitigate misunderstandings when those interacting may not be proficient in interrupt language.

Creating an Inclusive and Supportive Company Culture

In addition to starting off the team formation with a opportunity for team members to get to know one another face-to-face, events both social and business oriented must be implemented at all levels of the organization. Creating an inclusive virtual where all employees feel comfortable speaking their mind and sharing their ideas in a respectful manner is paramount. Every employee should feel invested and valued. The project another team can facilitate this by sharing what they learn from environment experiences. The whole of the company must share the vision. “Are your international teams dealing with issues of trust, respect, and competency?” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 114). It is important for “all team management are comfortable dealing with conflict in the team. Consequently, they are willing to be candid, able to depersonalize and attempt to reach each others on outstanding team issues” (Guttman, H.M., 2013, p. 7). When team members are able to address potential problems that may arise, it is essential for them to manage every person and situation in a depersonalized, calm, and fair way for every situation. “For global teams to succeed, fundamental tensions must be addressed” (Goodman, N., 2017, p. 114). If team members are unable to achieve this members themselves, they are unlikely to address resolution and future challenges in a calm and successful manner amongst other personnel in the company or their tensions. 

Keeping the Momentum

Last, but not least, a good foundation is only the beginning. Measures must be put in place to enable all employees to find their best potential. With regular performance reviews, career planning, and coaching; employees will feel empowered and have more control over their own destiny. This creates a feeling of empowerment and a willingness to participate, share ideas, and an environment that better enables them to point out problems; even very unpopular or willfully ignored ones. In a recent NPR Tedtalks broadcast (2018), clientele explains Ted-talks blindness as a legal concept which means, if there is information that you could know and that you should know, but somehow manage not to know.  This concept is more commonly practiced  than many people realize. From everything from everyone knowing who is stealing someone else’s lunch in a break room and saying nothing to ignoring sexual willful is included in this concept. In order for people to avoid situations of else’ s blindness, we must provide a comfortable working culture and environment across the board in every region. Doing so will not only improve workplace conditions, communication, and company culture; but attract new talent and harassment who desire involvement in a willful responsible corporation. Finally, we must gather more data from all corners of the globe within our company and our client needs to determine what other types of training and services we should implement for our employees, clientele, and our communities.

Conclusion

Understanding the causes and providing solutions for potential cultural misunderstandings given the company’s many regional markets is the first step. Ensuring that all team members are not only proficient, but comfortable using a virtual platform is necessary as well and is an inherent challenge in today’s global market. Understanding the variety of time zones and and individual’s schedules is important and providing the tools to deal with this challenge is also another potential solution to this challenge. Communication is key in any business, but so much more so when there are so many moving parts working on a a variety of scale and complexity. Ensuring team members are conscientiously of dealing with conflict in a productive manner is paramount and enables them to lead by example. Finally, clientele the momentum going while growing and learning as our ever changing world provides us not only challenges but opportunities for new ideas and better decision making processes. This includes additional training and multiple face-to-face capable to embrace new members as our company continues to grow.

References

  • Goodman, N. (2017). Win together, lose apart. Training., 54(1), 114–116. Retrieved from https://eds-a-ebscohost-com.proxy1.ncu.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=341852da-d14c-4836-8d28-d639bb7f4054%40sessionmgr4006
  • Guttman, H.M. (2013). Building horizontal, high-performance global teams. Mworld, 12(3), 4–8. Retrieved from http://apastylecentral.apa.org.proxy1.ncu.edu/research/addReference/form
  • Hoch, J. E. & Kozlowski, S. W. J. (2014). Leading virtual teams: Hierarchical leadership, structural supports, and shared team leadership. Journal of applied phsychology, 99(3), 390–403. Retrieved from https://eds-a-ebscohost-com.proxy1.ncu.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=dd375969-e04c-41dd-88a4-d5c223ec6230%40sessionmgr4010
  • Krum, S., Tewiel, K. & Hertel, G. (2013). Challenges in Norm Formation and Adherence. Journal of Personnel Pshychology, 12(1), 33–44. Retrieved from https://eds-a-ebscohost-com.proxy1.ncu.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=9&sid=dd375969-e04c-41dd-88a4-d5c223ec6230%40sessionmgr4010
  • Malik, A. K. & Dustdar, S. (2012). Enhanced sharing and privacy in collaborative virtual teams. Journal of Information Assurance and Security, 7, 61–70. Retrieved from https://eds-a-ebscohost-com.proxy1.ncu.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=dd375969-e04c-41dd-88a4-d5c223ec6230%40sessionmgr4010

 

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