Sofia M Westerberg , pp. 48. MAM/Sektionen för Management, 2007.
Title: How Diversity Influences the Work Process in Cooperation Projects
Author: Sofia M Westerberg
Supervisors: Marie Aurell, Marie Hemming
Department: School of Management, Blekinge Institute of Technology
Course: Master’s thesis in Business Administration, 10 credits
Background: Cooperation beyond organizational boundaries becomes more necessary because of the changing nature of the business environment. The project as a form of organization is very well suited to carry out difficult tasks, not only within organizations but also between them. This means that the traditional view of looking at projects needs rethinking; there is a growing spectrum of projects with wider objectives and a broader scope, which leads to a higher degree of complexity and uncertainty.
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to get a better understanding of how diversity influences the work process in a cooperation project. Because the cooperation project is becoming a more common phenomenon, it is interesting to learn more about how diversity has an impact on its work processes and characteristics. Hopefully this study can be one input to managers in making decisions about if a task shall be carried out in a cooperation project group or not, and if that should be the case, what implications this can have on the project and its outcomes.
The research question is:
How can diversity influence the work process in a cooperation project?
Method: The thesis focuses on the development of the work process in a cooperation project, where the participants come from different organizations, and where there is a high degree of diversity. This is done through a literature review, observations and interviews.
Theory: The theories are about cooperation projects, negotiation in small groups, uncertainty and complexity in projects and factors of diversity that influence the process; interests, conflicting interest, objectives, motivational orientation and trust. The FIRO-theory of group development (Fundamental Interpersonal Relationship Motivational orientation, Schutz 1989) is also used.
Analysis: First a literature study was carried out and then methodologies were chosen.
The analysis was made from observations and interviews and carried out on three levels; the individual level, the group level and the organizational level. First I looked at each individual’s own role and behaviour in the group, secondly and thirdly, the organizations´ own interests, objectives as well as the group’s interests, etc, were considered. The factors of diversity (interests, objectives, orientation and trust) were systemized and analyzed in relation to the three levels of analysis and then discussed in connection to the literature. The findings were combined with the work process and development phases of groups to see how this is influenced by the diversity.
The diversity which exists in a cooperation project influences the work process in a number of ways. The findings in this study point to a number of issues. The diversity makes the group development phases more complex than in a traditional project. The two first phases of group development in the work process will probably take longer time. The work process is also more sensitive and steps back in development phases are more common than in a traditional project. Either development of trust takes longer time or only so called “swift trust” will develop. There are more environmental factors that influence the project. Because of the diversity, the formal positions of the representatives in the group become more important. Possible ways of handling the diversity are a general group assignment instead of a concrete objective and a delegated responsibility from the management to the project group.
Two new forms of motivational orientation of group members were observed during this study. One form I have called “Changing motivational orientation”. The other form of motivational orientation I have named “More than cooperative”. In “Changing motivational orientation”, some of the members in the group turned from one motivational orientation to another one during the scope of the project. In being “More than cooperative” the members see the group’s assignment as the most important task.
The study also shows that the so called “claiming-creation dilemma” (Schei and Rognes, 2005) is not always applicable. Not all the participants saw the balancing between the interests and objectives of their own organization on the one hand and the assignment of the project group on the other. Some of them looked only at their organizations interests and some of them focused totally on the group assignment.
The study also shows that the FIRO-model for group development is relevant also for cooperation projects, but with some adjustments, because the development phases takes longer time due to the issue of diversity.