Friday, November 20, 2009

Collaboration and Diversity

Teams “tend to perform better when members exchange knowledge freely among themselves and outsiders." (Hyashi, 2004) Diversity among team members leads to better performance because of the range of viewpoints and experience of the different individuals.

The importance of information exchange on teams and the importance of diversity was highlighted by Cummings (2004). Diversity comes from geographic locations, functional assignments, reporting managers, and business units.

Diversity has its drawbacks, and these need to be managed to mitigate the impact on the team. Geographic dispersion can greatly complicate team communication and work coordination (Hyashi, 2004).

Project Managers need to be explicit about the importance of knowledge sharing. What are some ways to improve collaboration and sharing? Here is a brief list of the highlights:

  • Cross-functional workshops and requirement/development sessions
  • Hold “Knowledge fairs” or information sharing sessions. Have key knowledge holders run a "brown-bag" lunch seminars
  • Tie sharing of information to the team and the rest of the organization to performance evaluations based on how well team members exchange knowledge
  • Ideally co-location of the team, or regular face-to-face checkpoints to build trust and connections
  • Use of team collaboration tools such as shared databases, email, instant messaging, conference calls, web meetings to breakdown the geographic barriers
  • Building corporate knowledge assets such as wikis, centrally stored lessons learned, guides, best practices, templates

How else can we support diversity on our teams, and knowledge sharing inter-team and within the organization?

Hayashi, A. (2004). Building better teams. MIT Sloan Management Review, 45(2), 5.

Cummings, J. N. (2004). Work groups, structural diversity, and knowledge sharing in a global organization. Management Science, 50(3), 352.