Virtual Technical Teams Term Paper

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Globalization and Management

All people are global citizens now. But what does this mean? What is this process of globalization that has quite literally swept over our globe? And what will be the effects of globalization during our lifetime on the ways in which business will be done and especially in how information will be managed? Not only does each person have to consider the implications of such questions on an individual bases (as workers, and consumers as well as citizens) but each business must determine for itself how best to incorporate itself into this global environment while considering the needs and potential of its own company as well as the values that it wishes to project. This dissertation examines some of the current and potential future effects of globalizations, exploring in particular the ways in which businesses are now more integrated with each other than before as they take advantage of such issues as economies of scale and the global integration of supply chains even as they seek to maintain competitive independence (Bartlett and Ghosal 1998). In particular, this research examines the ways in which work teams can be essential part of a company's transnational strategy.

Before looking at the specific effects of globalization on the ways in which particular companies are, we should perhaps begin with an attempt to define globalization, which is often used as a synonym for "transnationalism." Globalization in general refers to the ways in which capital, people, information and images and culture now flow back and forth across national borders with a greater ease and greater rapidity than they had before. It is important to remember this inclusive definition of globalization. It is not simply an economic phenomenon but refers also to ways in which information is exchanged and processed.

People around the globe are more connected to each other than ever before. Information and money flow more quickly than ever. Goods and services produced in one part of the world are increasingly available in all parts of the world. International travel is more frequent. International communication is commonplace. This phenomenon has been titled "globalization."

While some people think of globalization as primarily a synonym for global business, it is much more than that. The same forces that allow businesses to operate as if national borders did not exist also allow social activists, labor organizers, journalists, academics, and many others to work on a global stage (

As Kegley and Wittcoff (2000) note, the focus of the effects of globalization tends to shift with the speaker's or writer's own sphere of interest. Within the arena of economics, globalization tends to refer to two different types of activities. The first of these is the ever-increasing concentration of capital in financial markets that has come about through the increasing amalgamation of firms as they acquire divisions in a variety of countries. The second and related economic aspect of globalization is seen in the ever-increasing tendency of countries to affiliate themselves into multi-national economic blocs such as the European Community and the tri-country state defined by NAFTA. All of these structural aspects of globalization have consequences for the ways in which companies organize themselves (Hartman and Guss, 1996).

The kinds of economic mergers and alliances that are typical of globalization are of course not something unique to the turn of this century - one can assume that trade agreements (which are both political and business arrangements after all) have been at the heart of human interpersonal relations for centuries. What marks them as being fundamentally different now - what defines them as a form of globalization rather than merely old-fashioned business-as-usual is the degree to which such cross-national alliances occur (Munch 2001).

A number of other transnational phenomenon flow from these types of economic mergers. Workers are now linked across national borders through the globalization of production. Workers in poorer countries are now called upon by corporations headquartered in the richest countries to provide the cheap labor that is essential to production in our age, fundamentally changing the relationship between manager and workers in a variety of industries. These new links between the First World and other nations via the conduits of everyday business affect political relationships on a global scale as countries find themselves placed in a subservient position to the interests of transnational corporations (Smith & Guarnizo, 1998; (

This very brief overview of globalization provides economic and political background to the specific questions that we are examining here: Given the changes that businesses of all size are experiencing as a result of the globalization of the economy (and the polity), how should particular businesses respond? And (in particular) how (if at all) are work teams likely to be a part of this response to what is almost certain to be an ever-increasingly globalized world (Marquardt and Berger, 2000)?

Problem Statement and Goal

This dissertation asks how globalization and the use of work teams are related. But simply because the world has been economically connected by globalization does not (as noted above) mean that all companies have responded to globalization in the same ways. To demonstrate the range of differences in the ways that companies have used work teams to respond to the challenges and opportunities of globalization, this section examines two different companies that lie at the ends of the spectrum of responses to transnationalism. The first is a small Middle Eastern company, the second IBM. Both companies rely on work teams to organize both supply and distribution lines; even more importantly they use the concept of work teams to assemble and organize knowledge. But they do so in different ways. This research is focused on untangling the ways in which type of business, company size, management philosophy and cultural influence have on the ways in which companies use work teams, especially in the arena of information management, to adapt to globalization.

Relevance and Significance

The relevance and significance of these questions can best be determined by the examining how they are played out in actual companies from the small to the giant. This analysis begins with the small, with Istanbul-based Turkish Emporium, which sells belly-dancing costumes around the world, is atypical of most global concerns in its size: Such a small company is not most people's idea of a company that can compete in the global economy. However, there are of course different economic strategies that can be used to compete successfully. Middle Eastern models of economic competitiveness can be seen as being more similar to Asian ones than either American or Western European ones and allow for smaller scale companies (relying on a spirit of cooperation with other companies in the same country or region) to compete successfully on a world-wide level - although the form of this competition will look in most cases different from the strategies used by companies in other regions (Mention etal., 1996). In other words, small companies in Asia, the Middle East and African may be more capable of using work teams to their advantage than are comparable sized companies in the West.

While certainly there are economic and cultural links among all parts of the world today, there are fewer between the Middle East and Western Europe and the United States than between the latter two. If the degree and kind of competitiveness is in fact linked to cultural values at least as much as it is linked to market conditions, then we would expect there to be even greater differences between American models of competitiveness and Middle Eastern ones than between American and Western European models (Porter, 1998).

This is in fact the case, as the above citation suggests. Models of competitiveness tend to be highly individuated in the United States: The individual entrepreneur is the model of the archetypal competitor. In Western Europe, the model is more the independent entrepreneur joined with other independent entrepreneurs whenever such a joint venture proves to be profitable to all concerned. But for Middle Easterners, Asians and Africanssuch a model seems both unworkable and indeed in many ways unethical: This model of competitiveness sees the individual not as independent and efficient but as isolated and inefficient - as well as morally questionable since one has an obligation always to support one's family. East Asian models of competitiveness tend to be directed outward at other nations and even more at other regions of the world; this allows for work teams to be organized not only within individual companies but across company lines and sometimes even across industry lines (, result in terms company organization in terms of information technologies can be profound (O'Hara, Devereaux & Johansen, 1994).

This fact has allowed many Middle Eastern companies countries to become highly efficient exporters because exporting goods is an excellent way of increasing wealth and economic competitiveness while at the same time preserving traditional values and intra- and inter-familial ties that are expressed in the modern workforce through group or team effort that display a much higher degree or organic solidarity and…[continue]

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