People and Organisations Essay Example

  • Category:
  • Document type:
    Case Study
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:

People and Organizations


According to Katzenbach and Smith (1993) a team is a group of people with a set of skills which are required to perform a specific task, who are committed to a common goals, purpose and approach for which they are mutually accountable for. In team based-organizational structures members are set up in teams or groups that work together on projects and tasks. The purpose of this approach is to have shared responsibilities to improve idea generation, problem solving and bottom-line results. In our case study, James team comprised of 45- members to serve Sun’s customers across markets of operation.

This definition highlights some key aspects about teams that determine the nature, design and effectiveness of the teams.

  1. Complementary skills- in a team-based organizational structure, the teams are structured to exhibit a range of skills which cannot be found in one person (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993, p.47-48). For example, in our case study SUN company has opted to use global teams where choosing of the team members on the basis of talent across the globe to support implementation of new products and support customers.

  2. Commitment to goals and purpose- the purpose and goals of a team helps to define the limits within which the will operate. The goals which are specific and actionable define the purpose of the team according to Katzenbach and Smith (1993). Team members must work together towards achieving the goals and its purpose. For example, in 1995, Sun’s company implemented the open work program which was a combination of technologies, tools and processes to help employees have a flexible work program and enable them work from anywhere across multiple time zones. This program was introduced to improve response to customer needs.

  3. Mutual approach- accountability of the highest is a key element if a team must achieve its objectives. Team members should be individually and jointly accountable for the team’s purpose. Mutual accountability helps in improving commitment and trust among team members.

Advantages of team based organizational structures and cross- cultural teams

Effective use of cross-cultural teams in an organization has advantages as listed below;

They supplement normal work structures

Cross functional teams are composed of employees from various departments in an organization with an aim to carry out duties and tasks which the normal organization cannot undertake effectively (Cohen, 1993). The employees are professional from diverse fields, given the nature of their tasks and are given wide range of mandate to enable them make strategic decisions within the scope of their role defined by senior management. According to Cox (2001), the form of leadership for these teams is based on knowledge, managerial position and task expertise and may change depending on the project and customer requirements. In our case, the Sun’s team was drawn from different disciplines ranging from engineering, computer science and management for a special role of rolling out new products in the markets of operations. The team members of the organization were spread out the globe with the aim of being closer to their customers. According to Neil (2017), such teams also have a role to manage complex relationships ranging from customer relationships, other groups within the organization and other stakeholders.

Effective communication channels

According to Greenholtz (2000), cross-functional teams create lateral communication channels which make it easier to process information. By creating teams with specific roles and purpose, it becomes easier for members to communicate with other groups and departments within the organization. Sun’s company had established the team with keen focus on establishment of customer needs and management of their expectations. Though this was not the case, there was clear communication within the team.

Complementary skills

A team is made up of professionals with complementary skills from different disciplines. The members are interdependent to each other and are geared towards a common goal.

Challenges of team based organizational structures and cross- cultural teams

For teams to work effectively a lot of time is spent in designing the roles and coming up with a proper task objectives with respect to the scope and mandate of the team according to Neil (2017). As seen in our case study, Sun’s company had invested a lot of resources and time in coming up with the right blend of members to form the team. Also delay in the activities of the company can arise as a result of regular meeting which offer little progress towards achieving the objectives of the team. For example, Neeley and DeLong (2008) give the example of Greg James who spent a lot of time traveling to meet to be in touch with the customer implementation team spread across the markets. The purpose of this trip was as a result of the team failing to promptly responding to customer system outrage which otherwise it would have been sorted out with no formal meetings.

Perceived neglect

With teams which are spread across different locations, some of the team members may feel that they have been neglected by the team leader. Neeley and DeLong (2008) explain that multi-cultural and cross-cultural teams often operate from different locations with the leadership sitting at the headquarters of the organization. In this case, some sub-teams felt neglected and not offered equal opportunities. The UAE team felt that they didn’t have sufficient time with James, their team leader, and with time they were becoming a sub group of India which would have moved them far away from the leader. Also James was seen to favor the United States team. Members from other three sub-teams revealed that they received email threads showing ongoing conversations between James and the US team.

Compensation mismatch

Sometimes it is difficult to harmonize remuneration of cross-cultural teams because different locations are governed by different policies with respect to salaries. The French team had expressed displeasure about compensation between them and their counterparts in America. They could not understand why they were making 30 percent less than their counterparts in the US despite their technical training. The HR team should try to understand what motivates the employees according to Whetten and Cameron (2011).

Training and Support

Building a successful team doesn’t happen by accident since proper training and support from the top management is required. Training employees on how to effectively blend in a team and professionally handling conflicts in their teams is very critical in determining the success of the team. Offering support to the team especially when the team is drawn across different cultures is important (Neeley and DeLong 2008). Richard
(2016) mentions the importance of the approval of themanagement as a form of support.

Time zones and work

James was faced by the challenge of managing all the team members across the regions because of the differences in time zones. James thought that for him to keep every team member in on the same page was to conduct weekly calls. James had to decide on the timing of the conference calls considering everyone’s constraints.


Conflict may arise within cross cultural teams when they are working on several projects and reporting to different managers which create expectations, confusion and conflicts. All these make it difficult to manage these kinds of teams. In our case, when James was explaining to Lawry about the protocol procedures, it was clear that there was a problem with how information was relayed from one station to the other and James recalled a time when he was speaking to Devilal it came out that Nick, one of their team members insulted Praveen in the past. This was one of the pointers as to why the team had challenges in passing critical information for decision making. Also during the conversation it came out that the crisis at hand was as a result of a queue which was programmed wrongly and the appropriate team was not notified in time to correct the queue.


As a consultant for Greg James and Sun micro systems I would make below recommendations to solve the existing problem and proving a roadmap of the team.

Compensation is one of the crucial areas in HR especially when dealing with cross-cultural structure. With the current issue of mismatch in compensation, some sub-teams felt that they were making way less than other counterparts in other locations. Tsedal (2015) makes it clear that in most countries salaries policy follow specific policies in that country and global standards. From the case study it is not specific on how the compensation for the members was negotiated. The company has come up with a flexible working plan for the team members but for some member this is not enough compared to the US counterpart who make so much more. For the company to effectively deal with this challenge a comprehensive job analysis and design should be done so as to correctly match the roles with sufficient staff. This would eliminate the aspect of the members feeling that they are over worked and have a work life balance. Also a proper compensation management plan should be put in place in line with the company policy to ensure that all the team members across all the locations are fairly compensated depending with the roles.

The issue of vacation raised by the US team when the French team went on vacation can be cured by the company adopting a universal holiday management approach within the organization. This can be achieved by the company publishing holiday calendar for every country in advance to avoid conflict. Also the organization should establish a relieve hub to handle work load when some of the members are on vacation. The company should establish a compensation plan for the team members who take extra work as a result some members going on holiday.

The team experienced delays in communication critical information to other team members for proper decision making which resulted customer complaints and lawsuit threats. As a result the company was at the verge of incurring losses. This would have been avoided by the top management establishing proper communication channels alongside the establishment of the teams. Success of cross functional teams to a large extend rely on seamless flow of information from either side of the company. This would be an appropriate approach to dealing with this challenge currently facing the company.

According to Hosking and Gardiner, (1993) people are essential assets in a company and therefore they must be carefully and tactfully managed. The role of an organization structure should be to enhance the people and allow them to contribute their ideas and talent to the company. In our case the HR system is lacking and an overhaul is required to redeem the true essence of having the systems in place. The system doesn’t demonstrate a people centered approach right from hiring, conflict management, compensation and proper role design and vacation management. All these are aspects are critical in ensuring satisfied and motivated employees who will in turn serve the customers well. The HR department should establish proper employee management strategies.

The company can achieve this by developing a shared approach for managing people and establishing systems and tools to implement the philosophy, establishing proper reward and promotion mechanisms, investing in training and encouraging job rotation, providing support and developing the culture of accountability across all the locations of operation (Neeley).


Team-based and cross-cultural structures have become a common feature in most multi-national companies. Sun Company has established this kind of a team to help the company in serving the customers better. It is clear that the company has faced more challenges in ensuring the team is successful than the benefits it has enjoyed. Based on the case, the company can do more to ensure the team is more responsive by establishing ways of dealing with the challenges and adopting the recommendations provided above.


Cohen, S.G. (1993). ‘New approaches to teams and teamwork’, in J.R. Galbraith, E.E. Lawler III

and Associates, Organizing for the future: the new logic for managing complex organizations.

Cox, T., Jr. (2001). Creating the multicultural organization: A strategy for capturing the power of


Greenholtz, J. (2000). Assessing cross-cultural competence in transnational education.

The Intercultural Development Inventory. Higher Education in Europe

Hosking, B., and Gardiner, I. (1993). Organisations, Management, Managers and Society

Katzenbach, J.R. and D.K. Smith (1993). The Wisdom of Teams, Boston. Harvard Business

School Press

Neeley, T., & DeLong, T. J. (2008). Managing a global team: Greg James at Sun Microsystems, inc. (a), Harvard Business School Case 409-003. Retrieved from Harvard Business School:

Neil, K. (2017). The Disadvantages of Team-Based Organizational Structure. Retrieved from

Richard, B. (2016). Committee for Public Management Research. Team-Based Working Discussion Paper 4. Retrieved from

Tsedal, N. (2015). Global Teams That Work. Retrieved from

Whetten, D.A. and Cameron, K.S. (2011). Developing management skills, 8th edn,

Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs.