About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dissertation: Analysis of the Impact of the Environment on the Group

In order to understand the interaction between the distributed group, individual group members, and the organization and its departments within this study, it is important to understand the various working environments and perceived power structures.

There were numerous environments that an individual might have to work with as a member of the project under study. In addition, there were multiple layers of authority and vested interests (share-holders) that influenced individual members and the group itself at any given time.

From an ethnomethological stand point, this group influenced and was influenced by the complex environment that a distributed group creates. Distributed groups create multi-layered power structures, multiple cultures which workers need to traverse, and intricate social relationships, both internal and external to the group. These complexities are both created through the new power structures, work processes, and cultures that are established when bringing together group members from various departments and locations. However, distributed groups also create complexity for the departments and organizations where they are located as group members try to align goals, work processes, priorities, and even the image of the group and departments where they work. As a result, a distributed group may be working within a much more dynamic environment than that of a single department within a common location.

In looking at this group, some conclusions about the impact of this more complex environment on the group could be drawn:

• There were differing interpretations of perceived authority within the group, the departments, the project, and the organization especially when there was no clear authority structure imposed on the group.

• According to the group, there was very little perceived cultural change within departments and the professions that group members identified with. However, the group’s culture appeared to fluctuate to align with the perceived power structure’s culture. Some group members were able to adapt; but for others, they either left the organization or tried to change the culture within the perceived power structure to meet their own comfort level. This was dependent upon their perception of their own empowerment and importance within the group, their department, and the training and home organizations.

• The greater percentage of the group member’s time that was dedicated to the project, the greater perception that they had a vested interest in the project and its outcome. This also lead to those with a vested interest feeling more entitled to contribute to the project, which then lead to them having a greater role with in the group’s power structure. In other words, those that did not have additional duties outside of the project, believed that they should have the greatest influence on the project direction and decisions.

• The complexity of the environment made it difficult for group members and the management team to determine who exactly was part of the group (intragroup identification) and what an individual member’s role was within the group. Related to the previous point, those with the greater percentage of time dedicated to the project were closely identified with the Healthcare Counseling group. However, other factors such as acceptance by the group members, recognition by the management team and departmental power structure, and perceived expertise within an area the group and individual members identified as important also had an impact on whether others within the group recognized someone as a member or not. Those that individual members recognized as being part of the group, were included in project work processes and communications. Although, not everyone recognized by individual members was recognized by the group as a whole as being part of the group.

• The power structures, both internal and external to the group, were dynamic and not static. As a result, there was continuous realignment of goals, work processes, perceptions and expectations to maintain balance both within and outside the group. This sometimes required changes in the group culture, channels of communication, project formats and tools, and management (power) structures.

• The writing projects were both informed by and influenced communication, work processes group identity and member roles, and project goals and standards. The formats, physical layout, and virtual tools created both physical and psychological boundaries within which the group functioned. At times, these boundaries had to be renegotiated, either intragroup or between external power structures (stakeholders, departments, management). There were four strategies that were used: 1) accept a boundary (process, expectations, format, standard, etc…) as it was imposed on the group without any changes or comment, 2) adopt a process or format from one of the departments as is or making minimal changes to align with the group’s beliefs and processes, 3) maintain multiple processes or formats as long as they could be compatible with boundaries imposed externally, modifying those that were outside of the imposed boundaries, or 4) create new formats and processes from scratch to fit within the boundaries imposed externally. The strategy used depended on time constraints, the degree of perceived difference outside of the group, the level of ownership both to the project and the work task/product, the support (or lack) by the group members and/or power structure, the affect on personal, professional, or departmental image, and level of personal investment to certain aspects of the project.

• Related to this was the consistent tension between work processes established at the various levels of the power structures within the work environment. These tensions were often resolved either by 1) collaboration, 2) compromise, 3) subversion, or 4) withdrawal from the organization or project.

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