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Management Assignment

Question

Focus of the Final Paper

In Week One, you will choose a generic organization (manufacturing plant, hospital, etc.). Assume that you are a hired consultant for this organization. You have been asked by the president of the organization to prepare a background paper on the results of your research and to make recommendations to improve group productivity in the organization.

Your research has identified the following problems:

Role conflicts within groups
Communication problems among group members
Lack of cohesiveness in groups with diverse members
Excessive intergroup conflict
In an eight to ten-page paper, include the following:

Introduction – clear explanation of the type of organization
Explanation of how each problem could impact a group’s productivity (use examples to illustrate points)
Recommendations to resolve each problem
Suggestions, based on your knowledge of group dynamics, for a company-wide training program on best practices for group productivity
Conclusion/Summary
Writing the Final Paper
The Final Paper:

Must be eight to ten double-spaced pages in length, and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
Must include a title page with the following:
Title of paper
Student’s name
Course name and number
Instructor’s name
Date submitted
Must begin with an introductory paragraph that has a succinct thesis statement.
Must address the topic of the paper with critical thought.
Must end with a conclusion that reaffirms your thesis.
Must use at least six scholarly sources.
Must document all sources in APA style, as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
Must include a separate reference page, formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.

Answer

Research roles in organizations

Name of Student:

Institutional Affiliation:

Contents

Introduction. 2

Role Conflicts within Groups. 2

Recommended Solutions for Role Conflicts within Groups. 4

Communication Problems among Group Members. 4

Recommended Solutions for Communication Problems. 5

Lack of Cohesiveness in Groups with Diverse Members. 6

Recommended Solutions for Lack of Cohesiveness in Groups with Diverse Members. 7

Excessive Intergroup Conflict. 8

Recommended Solutions for Excessive Intergroup Conflict. 9

Suggestions for a Company-Wide Training Program on Best Practices for Group Productivity. 9

Conclusion. 10

References. 12

Introduction

The generic organization that forms the basis of this background paper is a Japanese automobile manufacturing plant. It has employed over 5,000 employees, who are involved in the operations of various offices and factories across Japan. The manufacturing plant has adopted the concept of lean manufacturing in the production of original parts for automobile companies both in Japan and overseas, which enables it to generate sales worth over $5 billion. Moreover, the manufacturing company relies heavily on connections with major automobile companies across Japan and in foreign countries to expand its share of the market.

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            The aim of this paper is to highlight various problems affecting group productivity and to provide recommendations for resolving them. The four main problems identified in the paper include role conflicts within groups, communication problems among group members, lack of cohesiveness in groups with diverse members, and excessive intergroup conflict. The recommendations and suggestions that this paper makes are based on the consultant’s knowledge of group dynamics. This knowledge also forms the basis of suggestions for a company-wide training program on best practices for group productivity. The thesis of this paper is that lack of cross-cultural communication skills among employees is the main cause of role conflicts, communication problems lack of cohesiveness, and excessive conflict among groups within the automobile manufacturing organization.

Role Conflicts within Groups

            Role conflicts were also common within the automobile manufacturing organization. These conflicts arose mainly because of cultural differences, although the organizational structure of the company as well as the management styles of individual senior and middle-level managers also contributed to the phenomenon. In terms of culture, a major distinction emerged between the approaches adopted by Western-trained engineers and their Japanese-educated counterparts. Many subordinate, less experienced, American-trained engineers often had no qualms about questioning the wisdom of the viewpoints expressed by their superior, highly experienced, Japanese-trained counterparts, much to the chagrin of the latter. In other words, Japanese-trained group members discussed technology in a very different way compared to that of their American-trained counterparts. For this reason, role conflicts tended to arise quite frequently.

            During discussions about ways of improving technology, some group members preferred to start by discussing the most basic ideas while others insisted on going straight into concrete details. This means that some members were willing to dismiss an entire design simply because of a small mistake while others viewed this as failure by those members to appreciate the efforts that were made before the entire design came into being. These contrasting opinions led to the emergence of two camps, one that focused on abstract concepts and another that was specifically interested in examining the details. The ensuing tug of war created a situation whereby it was extremely difficult for group members to move from one stage to the other in the process of developing a new technology.

            Another challenge was that perceptions did not always match with reality as far as the roles of group members were concerned. In such a situation, role conflicts are likely to emerge because each group member handles the task assigned to him based on his idiosyncratic perceptions and expectations (Eschbach, Parker & Stoeberl, 2001). Incidentally, the roles were always situational, meaning that he tasks that members were being assigned would vary from time to time. The manager in charge of a department could reassign roles at will, and this greatly contributed to confusion among group members. This problem was exacerbated by variations in the employees’ perceptions as to how group-related tasks needed to be performed.

Recommended Solutions for Role Conflicts within Groups

To begin with, a cultural diversity program should be introduced at the company. Such a program should entail employee training with specific focus on cross-cultural communication skills. Secondly, group members should be encouraged to interact with each other through informal sessions both within and outside the organization. Thirdly, senior and middle-level managers need to reorient to their management styles to suit the operational needs of specific groups (Jehn & Mannix, 2001). Managers should avoid making decisions that create the impression that they are favoring one group over another. Fourthly, a standard operating procedure should be introduced to all groups as part of wide-reaching efforts to create unity of purpose during all problem-solving activities.

Communication Problems among Group Members

            A major communication problem within work groups is that the Japanese culture abhors public criticism of colleagues. The management culture is rigidly tied to this culture, meaning that there is little or no room for individuals to express their creative ideas within their respective groups and teams. In this context, a culture of deep technical skill is promoted but ideas rarely flow freely among group members. The culture of the company discourages open discussion among team members, meaning that true team collaboration is lacking. By extension, there is always a dearth of information on how the contributions of an individual fit into the entire production process. These communication problems lead to narrowness of experience, whereby groups rigidly follow one path, which they adhere to strictly under the supervision of their supervisors and managers. For this reason, members of the group are unable to think about innovative ways of solving problems within the production process.

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Moreover, rigidity in paths and structures of communication whose objective is to develop deep technical skill has greatly contributed to a situation where members of various work groups become stuck in only one career path within the company. Their skills become so highly specialized that they cannot be applied in a different organizational context. This means that even with poor working conditions, the team members are not motivated to move to a new company.

The problem of industrial espionage also contributed greatly to communication problems among team members. The members tended to disagree with one another quite often on the details of the production process that they should discuss openly during weekly meetings and which ones they could not. This strictness arose because the company was extremely about protecting its technology from competitors who might want to steal it. In a situation where team members were never sure about which information they should share freely and which one they should withhold, communication problems were common.

Recommended Solutions for Communication Problems

            To address communicating problems arising from the Japanese culture’s abhorrence to public criticism of colleagues, the company’s top managers must work towards a change of corporate culture. The corporate culture must be changed to be in tandem with the communication needs of the culturally diverse workplace of the twenty-first century, whereby criticism of one’s opinion, both public and private, is part of the problem solving process. In light of the view that a certain degree of influence by national culture is inevitable, the managers need to devise ways of ensuring that such cultural influences do not act as a hindrance to the free flow of information within and between teams. For instance, the managers may encourage team members to present their public criticisms in a manner that does not cause offense or embarrassment, particularly when it is directed towards a senior member of the company.

This paper recommends that the company should come up with a clear categories of information in order to enable team members to make a distinction between the kind of information that can be shared freely within the company and the kind that must be protected at all costs from industrial espionage. Leaving everything to the top managers to make the ultimate decision on whether a specific technological development should be shared with the public easily slows down the production process because of the resulting communication breakdown. The best solution is to delegate this decision-making process to team leaders.

Lack of Cohesiveness in Groups with Diverse Members

Lack of cohesiveness was also a major problem for group productivity within the company, and this had far-reaching consequences for problem-solving outcomes. In situations where team members came from diverse cultural backgrounds, the quality of their interactions tended to be poor. This was mainly because of the difficulties that the members encountered in promoting mutuality of exchanges. Moreover, team members who originated from different cultural backgrounds tended to take longer to align their goals to the process of problem solving. In other words, a collaborative learning environment was lacking in groups that were characterized by cultural diversity.

The problem of lack of cohesiveness also arose because of the tendency by some team members to take instructions from the manager and subsequently working independently of other members of the team without collaborating with or consulting them. This situation was an integral part of a wider problem that was characterized by failure by teams to share information freely throughout the production process. Thus, a new dimension of diversity-related problems emerged, whereby engineers who did not hold managerial positions tended not to share the same understanding of the production process with their managers. Instead, those engineers only focused on improving their specific roles without really understanding how it contributed to the entire production process.

Recommended Solutions for Lack of Cohesiveness in Groups with Diverse Members

Firstly, team members should promote frequent social exchange (Lawler, Thye & Yoon, 2000). Frequent social exchange brings about positive emotions that are critical in the strengthening of person-to-group bonds, thereby bringing about cohesiveness. It also contributes to the reduction of uncertainty, thereby rendering group members capable of relating freely with each other. This approach leads to psychological group formation as well as an increase in acts that demonstrate commitment. It also creates a situation whereby teams are more inclined towards getting assent from every member before embracing a course of action within the production process.

Secondly, the company should consider hiring transformation leaders who are capable of increasing the effectiveness of groups by empowering group leaders to enable them to operate independently from managers. Such transformational leaders should also be capable of promoting cooperation in the performance of all collective tasks as well as realigning the values of group members in order to increase group cohesiveness (Jung & Sosik, 2002).

Excessive Intergroup Conflict

            The company also encountered the problem of intergroup conflict that has greatly reduced the level of collaboration across teams. Communication between research teams and their design counterparts had literally broken down. Both teams looked up to directions from their seniors instead of communicating with each other in order to share ideas on the best way forward. A member of one team could only get information from a member of another team if the two individuals knew each other personally. Incidentally, it seems that this is how the senior managers wanted the production process to be executed. This is because intergroup discussions were being implicitly discouraged during intergroup meetings organized by senior managers. Moreover, the company’s social structure was designed in such a way that it was difficult for informal interactions at the intergroup level to occur.

            Intergroup conflict occurred because each group worked on a project that was of little relevance to that of any other group, yet all groups were working towards producing the same product. Even in the case of engineers who worked in the same group, the tasks being undertaken by one group member tended to differ from that of other group members in terms of the procedures involved. The only situations where group activity was evident included meetings, safety drills, and intergroup competitions.

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            Of all these situations, intergroup competitions emerged as the main cause of excessive intergroup conflict. Indeed, the company’s organizational culture overemphasized the philosophy of competition. For example, the research department had been embroiled in a long-running competition with the design department. Moreover, there was extreme hostility between these two groups, which initially used to operate as one department. Rivalry began when funding problems arose after the department had been restructured to form the research and design sections. During the ensuing struggle for power and access to funding, the two departments morphed into archrivals, such that their members communicated with each other less often in the pursuit of technological improvements.

Recommended Solutions for Excessive Intergroup Conflict

Firstly, the need for intergroup collaboration and information sharing should be encouraged during meetings with senior managers. Such a change of operational procedures would entail changing the organizational culture of the company with a view to deemphasize the importance of competition vis-à-vis collaboration for the purpose of achieving the mutual objective of improving technology. Secondly, the rival departments (research and design) should be merged in order to end the ongoing competition for power, elite status, and funding. 

Suggestions for a Company-Wide Training Program on Best Practices for Group Productivity

            In light of the challenges being experienced at the company under analysis, a number of suggestions should be examined. These suggestions have a strong bearing on current discourse on group dynamics. One of them entails the establishment of a company-wide training program that places a lot of emphasis on cross-cultural communication skills (Chevrier, 2003). For example, managers and team members who have been influenced by the Japanese culture should be trained on how to handle public criticism in good stead. Every employee should be made to understand that there is nothing to be embarrassed about in the wake of public criticism by a subordinate or superior group member. Once every group member acquires the requisite skills for cross-communication, he or she can excel in the task of conveying messages effectively as well as interpreting other group members’ messages appropriately.

            Moreover, team-building activities should constitute an integral part of the company-wide training program. During those activities, employees should pursue excellence in a number of areas, including intergroup communication, collaboration among teams, and frequent social exchange (Barron, 2000). Moreover, they should seek to address the problem of rigidity in the existing paths and structures of communication. The team-building activities should also be geared towards promoting cohesiveness among group members with diverse career interests, cultural backgrounds, hobbies, skills, and educational qualifications. Such cohesiveness can go a long way in optimizing group productivity and problem-solving outcomes.

Lastly, the training program should address the issue of managing perceptions and expectations regarding the roles that each employee should play within a group. Group members’ unmet expectations can easily lead to conflict and in some cases even seemingly irreconcilable differences. The objective of the manager in charge of the company-wide training program should be to guide all employees through the process of reorienting their expectations with a view to bring them at par with the day-to-day realities of working at the automobile manufacturing facility.

Conclusion

This paper has investigated the problems affecting group productivity under study. The main areas where conflict manifests itself include allocation of roles within groups, lack of proper communication, lack of cohesiveness, and intergroup conflict. A number of recommendations have been made on how the company can deal with these conflicts. For example, a cultural diversity program has been identified as an ideal solution to role conflicts within groups. On the other hand, communication problems can be addressed through a cross-cultural communication training program. On the other and, intergroup conflict can be dealt with through intergroup collaboration during meetings with senior managers.

Moreover, it may be necessary to change the existing operational procedures with a view to create greater opportunities for collaboration and information sharing at the intergroup level. In conclusion, this paper confirms the thesis that the main cause of role conflicts, communication problems, and intergroup conflict is lack of cross-cultural communication skills among employees. If successfully implemented, a company-wide training program that addresses these problems from the perspective of best practices for group productivity can go a long way in enhancing overall productivity at the company.

References

Barron, B. (2000). Achieving Coordination in Collaborative Problem-Solving Groups. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(4), 403-436.

Chevrier, S. (2003). Cross-cultural management in multinational project groups. Journal of World Business, 38(2), 141–149.

Eschbach, D., Parker, G. & Stoeberl, P. (2001). American repatriate employees’ retrospective assessments of the effects of cross-cultural training on their adaptation to international assignments. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 12(2), 270-287.

Jehn, K. & Mannix, E. (2001). The Dynamic Nature of Conflict: A Longitudinal Study of Intragroup Conflict and Group Performance. Academy of Management Journal, 44(2), 238-251.

Jung, D. & Sosik, J. (2002). Transformational Leadership in Work Groups: The Role of Empowerment, Cohesiveness, and Collective-Efficacy on Perceived Group Performance. Small Group Research, 33(3), 313-336.

Lawler, E., Thye, S. & Yoon, J. (2000). Emotion and Group Cohesion in Productive Exchange. American Journal of Sociology, 106(3), 616-657.

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